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Congress | State Government

Reid-connected lobbying firm tapped to lead Nevada’s D.C. presence

East front U.S. Capitol Nov. 28, 2018. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

A prominent Washington D.C. lobbying firm led by a former top staffer to former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid is being tapped to take over Nevada’s federal lobbying efforts.

The $504,000, two-year lobbying contract with Cassidy & Associates is up for approval at the Tuesday meeting of the state’s Board of Examiners, which is composed of the governor and other top-ranking elected state officials.

The new lobbying contract will keep level what the state currently spends on lobbying, and also marks the first time in 12 years that Nevada will contract with a new government relations firm to represent its interests in Washington, D.C.

Like Nevada, states and local governments routinely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire professional lobbyists in the nation’s capitol — a 2010 OpenSecrets report estimated that local governments spent more $83.5 million in 2009 on lobbying executive agencies and lawmakers. 

Nevada was ranked high on that 2009 list of top government spenders on federal lobbying efforts, and the state is poised to remain a top lobbying spender under the new contract. In total, the state has expended more than $2.6 million to lobby the federal government since 2007.

The contract comes as the state’s previous D.C. lobbyist, Tyler Klimas, is leaving the role after being appointed by Gov. Steve Sisolak to head the new Cannabis Compliance Board, a new marijuana regulatory state agency created in the 2019 Legislature. Previously, Klimas was a press secretary and legislative director for Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Klimas and his predecessor Ryan McGinness have long represented the state through a small lobbying firm called District Strategies, which has contracted with Nevada since 2007. Payments to the firm for lobbying have gone down over time — $280,000 a year between 2007 and 2009, $240,000 a year between 2010 and 2014 and $120,000 a year since 2015 (actual spending totals are higher, as some of the money is spent to run the office versus straight lobbying costs).

In addition to the state government of Nevada, District Strategies maintained a small list of other clients; the city of Corona, California, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, fire hydrant manufacturer AVK American and a subsidiary of Genting Group (a Malaysian Company that is constructing the 59-story Resorts World Las Vegas resort on the Las Vegas Strip). 

Comparatively, Cassidy & Associates has a well-established presence on Capitol Hill. According to data from OpenSecrets, in 2019 the lobbying firm was retained by 102 clients and paid nearly $11 million. 

Some of its top clients with stakes in Nevada include Newmont Gold, geothermal producer Ormat Nevada, Charter Communications, PG&E, MGM Resorts, Barrick Gold, Pahrump-based Valley Electric Association, Friends of Nevada Wildnerness, Lander County and Fulcrum Bioenergy.

The CEO of Cassidy & Associates is Kai Anderson, who spent six years working in Reid’s office and eventually rising to become his Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, before leaving to enter the lobbying world in 2013. A spokeswoman for the agency did not return a request for comment on the proposed contract.

According to OpenSecrets, the firm lobbied primarily on defense issues in 2019 (39 clients) but also had a significant amount of lobbying activity reported in the energy and nuclear power sector (24 clients). That expertise is likely to come in handy, given Nevada’s tempestuous relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy, especially given recently renewed efforts to kickstart a federal nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and an undisclosed plutonium shipment into the state last year. 

According to contract details submitted to the Board of Examiners, other firms that bid to become the state’s D.C. lobbyist included Van Scoyoc, Inc., the Porter Group (run by former Nevada Rep. Jon Porter) and Perkins, Inc. (the firm of former Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins). Contract details state that the winning vendor was “the highest scoring proposer as determined by an independently appointed evaluation committee.”

Updated at 9:20 a.m. to correct and clarify several spending figures reported by District Strategies for lobbying on behalf of the state.

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