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New nonprofit running social media ads, mailers touting Sisolak response to COVID-19

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Election 2020
Front of the Nevada Legislature building at night

A politically oriented nonprofit has spent several thousand dollars in recent days on social media ads to promote Gov. Steve Sisolak’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Facebook’s Ad Library, the nonprofit New Day Nevada has run $11,502 in advertisements on Facebook and Instagram in the past two months, including one touting the governor’s decision to waive certain requirements for unemployment insurance during the pandemic. 

Although the group’s messaging has recently shifted to one more focused on COVID-19 response, its overall messaging — as well as ties to Democratic Party officials and staff — align it closely with Sisolak and legislative Democrats as the party seeks to hold on to legislative majorities heading into the 2020 election, and provide a boost as political spending and fundraising for legislative candidates screeched to a halt amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, New Day Nevada has produced a video ad and several mailers touting Sisolak and state lawmakers “strengthening unemployment insurance” as well as Democratic bills and priorities from the 2019 Legislature, including required paid time off for large private employers, higher wages and lower medical costs. It’s also created a legislative “scorecard” grading lawmakers’ votes on certain Democratic-priority bills.

Unlike a political action committee, which under Nevada’s campaign finance law is required to regulatory report campaign donors and expenses, nonprofits are not required to file quarterly reports and instead file that information through a federal Internal Revenue Service form that’s only required on a yearly basis.

However, nonprofits are required to avoid using “magic words” that expressly advocate for a particular candidate or tell voters to vote a certain way. The Nevada Supreme Court upheld that standard in 2015, ruling against the state’s attempt to require a conservative nonprofit to reveal donors who paid for political fliers attacking an Assembly member because they did not contain explicit and direct advocacy.

That’s reflected in materials created by the nonprofit, which typically either refer back to the organization’s website or link to phone numbers or state websites for unemployment insurance, and do not include any direct advocacy for a particular candidate.

But the group has links to individuals tied to the Democratic Party. According to records filed with the Nevada secretary of state, the group was founded in September of 2019 and lists a longtime clean energy lobbyist, MGM Resorts executive and former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Rose McKinney-James, as its president.

Other executives listed with the nonprofit include Nora Luna, a University of Nevada, Reno - Cooperative Extension faculty member, and Katie Rozner, the current chief of staff for retired U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s office.

The group has also hired an executive director; Martin Fitzgerald, a former aide to legislative Democrats and more recently an adviser to former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign in Nevada.

“New Day Nevada was founded to be a resource for Nevada’s hard working families. We will focus on informing Nevadans about the work of their elected officials and how decisions made in Carson City affect their lives,” Fitzgerald said in an emailed statement.

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