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Follow the Money: Unions spent nearly $1.4 million on state lawmakers during 2018 election cycle

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
State Government
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Unions have long been reliable Democratic boosters, and the 2018 election cycle was no different. Nevada unions, labor groups and their Political Action Committees (PACs) continued to invest heavily in legislative Democrats, spending a sum eclipsed only by casinos and inter-candidate contributions.

PACs and political funds for 81 Nevada unions across dozens of industries contributed almost $1.4 million to 50 of 63 state legislators, good for roughly 13.2 percent of legislative donations in the 2018 campaign cycle.

The total was about $300,000 less than the almost-$1.7 million unions and labor groups spent during the 2016 presidential cycle, a decrease of about 22 percent.

Spending was dominated by four unions: the Nevada State Education Association ($154,500), public employee union AFSCME ($153,000), Las Vegas Police Protective Association ($112,000) and the Nevada Service Employees Union ($106,000).

Other large donors include the plumbers and pipefitters union ($82,000), the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters ($61,000), the teamsters-linked DRIVE Committee PAC ($59,000) and the Nevada State AFL-CIO ($56,000).

Nearly all of that money — more than $1.3 million across roughly 900 individual contributions, or about 97.8 percent of the union total — went to 40 Democratic lawmakers. The only exceptions were a number of police, fire and construction unions that donated to both parties, giving 10 legislative Republicans a little more than $30,000 in total.

Broken down by the average amount per contribution, Democrats received $1,563 to the Republican’s $888 — a difference of roughly 43 percent and the greatest single fundraising disparity between the two parties across all industries.

In all, 13 legislators received no money from union contributors and all but two— appointed Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen and Sen. Dallas Harris — were Republicans.

Predictably, all top individual recipients of union contributions were Democrats. Reno-area Assemblyman Skip Daly received the most of all legislators ($117,050), with Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson ($75,003), Sen. Melanie Scheible ($74,757), Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop ($73,757) and Sen. Yvanna Cancela ($56,507) rounding out the top five.

The top-receiving Republican, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler, took in just $10,250 in total, all from police-related unions.

And while members of the Assembly received nearly twice as much in total as members of the Senate — $939,000 to $457,000, respectively — members of the upper chamber took in more on average — $1,780 per donation to the Assembly’s $1,443.

As always, we’ve triple-checked the math. But if anything seems off, feel free to contact us at [email protected].

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