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The Nevada Independent

New Laxalt ads slam Sisolak for 'enabling' Occupy Las Vegas, upside-down flag, road-widening contract

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Election 2018

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt has unveiled two new attack ads seeking to portray his Democratic opponent Steve Sisolak as corrupt and associated with far-left ideologies.

The attorney general’s campaign spokesman said the two 30-second ads would be broadcast on TV, but didn’t answer how much would be spent and which markets would carry the commercials. The campaign of Sisolak, the chairman of the Clark County Commission, didn’t comment on the record about the ads.

One ad titled “Dark” features images of upside-down American flags, fire, logos of “Antifa” (a leftist “anti-fascist” movement) and police in riot gear, saying “the radical left has become unhinged.” It says Sisolak “enabled the radical Occupy Las Vegas, joined the fanatical resistance movement and addressed an event that desecrated our American flag.”

“That might work in California, Mr. Sisolak, but not in Nevada,” says the voice of an older male narrator, echoing a familiar Laxalt refrain about Nevada’s western neighbor.

Sisolak has described himself in the past as a moderate Democrat, although he sought to paint himself as more progressive in a primary against a more liberal opponent, fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.

The second ad, “Friends,” highlights a 2014 Review-Journal headline’s characterization of Sisolak as a “political bulldozer” and suggests he uses his powerful position on the commission to benefit himself at the expense of taxpayers. It cites a county contract with a paving company that a federal judge overruled, saying that the commission was acting “corruptly” by granting a contract for a road-widening project to a more expensive unionized company over a cheaper, non-union company.

The unionized company, Las Vegas Paving Corporation, has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Sisolak’s campaigns over the years. But Sisolak pushed back against the judge’s decision at the time.

"It’s surprising that a judge would go that far in mischaracterizing an elected official," Sisolak said after the ruling, which the newspaper reported in early 2010.

Occupy Las Vegas

For the line about Occupy Las Vegas, Laxalt’s campaign pointed to a Las Vegas Sun story from 2011 indicating that Sisolak had “helped the group work with Metro to find” a place for its open-air encampment. During “Occupy Wall Street,” a leaderless movement that generally opposed large corporate profits while many Americans suffered the effects of the foreclosure crisis, a small offshoot called Occupy Las Vegas emerged.

The Las Vegas group had an unusually high level of cooperation with authorities. Police and the commission eventually found a site near the Thomas & Mack Center where a group of several dozen people involved in Occupy Las Vegas could camp out on a semi-permanent basis.

Sisolak initially commiserated with the group and its message against greed and the influence of money in politics. He’s quoted as agreeing there needed to be campaign finance overhauls and telling them during a visit to the site that “a lot of reform needs to be done,” although he also pointed out that modern campaigns are expensive.

But his patience appeared to wear thin as the group continued its activities weeks down the road, including stopping traffic outside of the federal courthouse. Unlike in other locales when Occupy protestors clashed with police, the protest ended with a mass arrest that The Associated Press likened to a carefully choreographed stage play: “The group ignored a police order to disperse and, minutes later, began standing one by one to let officers place zip ties on their wrists and walk them in custody to a police detention bus.”

But the protest irked commissioners including Sisolak and came up when the group sought a three-month extension of the county permit that allowed the encampment.

"I was really disappointed at the civil disobedience part," Sisolak said at a commission meeting in November 2011, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "They absolutely told me that wasn’t going to occur, which is why I was supportive of the idea.”

Reports from the time indicated the permit for the encampment was not renewed past Feb. 20, 2012.


In this undated photo provided by the Adam Laxalt for Governor campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak is seen with protesters outside of the Las Vegas federal courthouse. Photo via Adam Laxalt campaign.

As evidence of his involvement in the “fanatical resistance movement,” the Laxalt campaign provided an undated photo of Sisolak posing with protesters outside of the federal courthouse in Las Vegas. Others in the photo are holding up a rainbow flag with the word “RESIST” and the equal sign symbol that’s a logo for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.

Sisolak is holding a small placard that reads “We Deserve Better.” The sign appears to be one produced and sold by Organizing for Action, a 501(4)c political advocacy group that evolved from former President Barack Obama’s campaign committee, Obama for America.

“Resist” is a rallying cry of groups that generally oppose President Donald Trump and his agenda.

Upside-down flag

Republicans have criticized Sisolak for speaking at an event where an upside-down American flag was flown.

Sisolak was photographed outside of Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s office on July 10 during a news conference organized by pro-abortion rights group NARAL and the Nevada Democratic Party. The event was meant to oppose Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court — an pick NARAL fears could lead to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the seminal 1973 decision that provided for legal abortion.

In one photo, a protester behind Sisolak had lifted up an upside-down American flag — a symbol of distress. The Republican Governors Association, which is supporting Laxalt, has decried the situation and chided Sisolak for not commenting on it.

“As the photo shows, Sisolak appears to be proudly grandstanding in front of a flagrant act of disrespect toward our nation, as flying the flag upside down is a form of desecration,” the RGA wrote in a statement to the press. “If Sisolak can’t be counted on to stand up for America’s most treasured symbol, he can’t be counted on to stand up for Nevada’s veterans and families.”

Some activists are encouraging people purposely fly the flag upside down “as a collective signal of our national distress” under Trump’s leadership. But the move is not unique to the resistance against Trump — it was also used by activists in the conservative Tea Party movement during the Obama administration.

Disclosure: Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani have donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.

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