Casino mogul Steve Wynn has found few open critics in his home state of Nevada after allegations that he engaged in a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct with hotel workers surfaced last week.
Wynn, 76, had not only positioned himself at the center of national Republican fundraising through his former position as the fundraising chair of the Republican National Committee, but is a critical donor in statewide races, giving hundreds of contributions to both Republicans and Democrats alike over the past decade.
A Nevada Independent analysis found that Wynn, his wife and his associated businesses have given nearly $2.4 million to state-level candidates since 2006, including $41,900 in 2017.
Wynn has contributed to broad swath of candidates over the years — from gubernatorial hopefuls and state lawmakers to regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education, school board trustees and judges. Republicans have received more than $1.026 million from Wynn properties and family members over the past 12 years, while Democrats have taken in nearly $748,000.
A Wall Street Journal story published Friday detailed allegations of repeated sexual misconduct by Wynn, the chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts, against several of his employees, including details of a $7.5 million settlement with a woman who claimed Wynn forced her to have sex in 2005. Wynn strongly denied any wrongdoing, but the Wynn Resorts board announced late Friday that it was forming a “special committee” to investigate the allegations.
Wynn is one of the most powerful people in Nevada, with a net worth estimated to exceed $3 billion and a 12 percent stake in Wynn Resorts worth approximately $2.4 billion. His namesake company is in the process of building its sixth property, and employs more than 24,000 people.
Unlike prominent Republican and Democratic politicians accused of sexual harassment or assault, Wynn has so far faced little public criticism — and few returned campaign contributions — from Nevada politicians and the business community. Almost all of the pressure he has faced has come from Democrats, even though he donated to several of their campaigns in the past.
Wynn has been a major donor to some of the state’s most powerful office-holders — he’s given more than $335,000 to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and his associated PACs, and has donated to four of the six state constitutional officers as well as to dozens of legislators. Three of the top candidates to replace Sandoval as governor — Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Democrats Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani — have also received campaign donations from Wynn.
Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, a Democrat who is running for attorney general, tweeted out a statement Friday calling the Wynn allegations “disturbing and unacceptable.” Wynn Resorts donated $12,000 directly to Ford over the last three election cycles and $2,500 to his political action committee, Nevada’s Future PAC, in 2017.
“It once again proves that sexual harassment and assault in the workplace is a systemic problem and it’s on all of us to address,” Ford said.
Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, another Democrat who is running for secretary of state, tweeted on Friday that he was “disgusted” by what he described as “horrific” allegations against Wynn. Araujo received $3,000 from Wynn Resorts during the last two election cycles.
“Thousands of hospitality and culinary workers, like my mom, deserve a safe workplace free of intimidation by those in power. Hardworking Nevadans should never be threatened, harassed or assaulted. Ever. The victims have my full support,” Araujo said in the tweet.
Kate Marshall, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor who also called on Wynn to step down as the RNC’s finance chair on Friday, took $10,000 from Wynn Resorts during her 2014 run for secretary of state.
Congressional candidates Victoria Seaman and Susie Lee, neither of whom have ever received Wynn contributions, also addressed the allegations on Twitter, with Seaman calling on one of her Republican primary opponents Michelle Mortensen to donate a Wynn campaign contribution to charity and Lee calling the allegations “disturbing.”
A spokesman for Mortensen said Monday that she would be donating the $5,400 Wynn gave to her campaign to three pro-life organizations — Women’s Resource Center, First Choice Pregnancy Center and Living Grace Homes. Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s campaign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that it would donate the money received from Wynn to a charity.
Outside of the two federal candidates, no Nevada politicians have said they plan to give back or donate money contributed to their campaigns by the company or Wynn himself.
Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sens. Rob Portman and Jeff Flake and Reps. Karen Handel, Greg Gianforte, Gus Bilirakis and Kevin McCarthy have said they will return donations received from Wynn to charity.
The Republican Governors Association said it will return a $100,000 donation from Wynn received in September and will cancel its plans to hold a 2020 conference at the Wynn Las Vegas. The organization has said that it cannot return $2.5 million in prior contributions from Wynn Resorts donated over the last 18 years.
In a statement, Nevada State Democratic Party spokeswoman Helen Kalla said the party “stands with the victims of Steve Wynn’s actions,” but that the most recent donations were made by Wynn properties during the 2014 election cycle and have already been spent by the party.
“Sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace, is never acceptable,” she said in an email. “This issue is bigger than partisan politics, and Nevada Republicans should join us in believing the women and denouncing this inappropriate behavior.”
A Nevada Republican Party spokesman didn’t return an email request for comment.
The Nevada Independent reviewed all campaign finance reports on the Nevada secretary of state’s website that included contributions from Steve Wynn, his wife Andrea Wynn or Wynn Resorts and its subsidiaries. However, some older contributions filed on paper prior to 2010 may be missing from the list, and the website only includes contributions dating back to 2006.
Read on for some key takeaways of Wynn’s contributions to state-level candidates over the past decade and view a table of his contributions below.
Top 10 Republican recipients of Wynn money:
- $335,000 to Governor Brian Sandoval, including $80,000 directly and $255,000 to his New Nevada PAC
- $230,000 Nevada Republican Party Central Committee
- $70,000 to Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison
- $55,000 to the Growth and Opportunity PAC
- $50,000 to Silver State Jobs PAC, former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers’ PAC
- $50,000 to Attorney General Adam Laxalt, including $10,000 directly and $40,000 to his Morning in Nevada PAC
- $30,000 to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. The sheriff’s office
- $22,000 to state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson
- $20,000 to state Sen. Heidi Gansert
- $13,000 to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske
- $13,000 to former Assemblyman Pat Hickey
Top 10 Democratic recipients of Wynn money:
- $250,000 to the Nevada State Democratic Party
- $80,000 to former Secretary of State Ross Miller
- $35,000 to Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager
- $27,500 to Clark County Commissioner and former Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick
- $25,000 to Nevada Senate Democrats
- $25,000 to the Assembly Democratic Caucus
- $25,000 to Clark County Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak
- $20,000 to 2014 candidate for Clark County Sheriff Larry Burns
- $20,000 to Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly
- $20,000 to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson
Top nine advocacy groups that received Wynn money:
- $186,000 to the Nevada Resort Association, which represents the gaming industry
- $50,000 to Nevadans for Background Checks, the group that advocated for passing the universal background check ballot question in 2016
- $40,000 to Nevadans for Mining Fairness, a PAC started by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada to take mining taxation out of the Constitution in 2014
- $38,000 to Coalition for Nevada’s Future, the PAC opposing a repeal of the commerce tax in 2016
- $30,000 to Nevadans for a Court of Appeals, a PAC that advocated for the passage of a ballot measure to create a court of appeals in 2014
- $30,000 to Nevadans for Qualified Judges, a PAC that advocated for the passage of a ballot measure to make Supreme Court and district judges be governor-appointed positions during the 2010 election
- $17,900 to BizPAC, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s PAC
- $15,000 to the School Improvement Committee, a PAC formed to advocate for the passage of a ballot question to increase property taxes for schools
- $10,000 to the Committee to Protect Jobs, a group that advocated for the passage of the margins tax in 2014
Big donations, multiple entities
Nevada law caps contributions to candidates at $10,000 per person or organization ($5,000 for primary elections, $5,000 for general elections), but well-funded major businesses are usually able to circumvent those caps through spreading the donation around several different affiliated businesses or LLCs.
Wynn has done the same thing in Nevada — using at least 9 business entities to give campaign donations since 2006. They include:
- Worldwide Wynn LLC
- Wynn Design & Development
- Wynn Golf LLC
- Wynn Las Vegas
- Wynn Resorts
- Wynn Resorts Development
- Wynn Show Performers
- Wynn Sunrise LLC
Donations by year
- 2010: $55,000
- 2011: $63,500
- 2012: $185,981.01
- 2013: $227,500
- 2014: $1,007,000
- 2015: $160,000
- 2016: $602,000
- 2017: $41,900
Although Wynn’s various businesses and properties have donated close to $2 million over the past decade to various candidates and political organizations, Wynn himself has only opened up his checkbook a handful of times to personally donate to candidates and political parties.
Driven primarily by $180,000 in contributions to the Nevada Republican Party, Wynn and his wife have donated $234,000 since 2011 to a variety of state candidates and political groups, including:
- $20,000 to former Secretary of State and attorney general candidate Ross Miller (D) in 2014
- $15,000 to former state Senator Becky Harris (R) in 2014. Harris was appointed as chair of the Gaming Control Board earlier in January.
- $10,000 to Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt (R) in 2016
- $5,000 to former Clark County Sheriff candidate Larry Burns in 2014
- $2,500 to Searchlight Leadership Fund, a PAC associated with former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2012
- $1,500 to Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett in 2016
Disclosure: The Nevada Independent has taken donations from Wynn Resorts ($75,000) and several others listed in this story. See our full list of donors here. The board of The Nevada Independent had a meeting on 1/29/18 to discuss whether to return the $75,000 2017 donation from Wynn Resorts. The vote was unanimous in favor of keeping the contribution. Editor Jon Ralston explained the decision here.