Nevada Senate Democrats Offer Access In Exchange For PAC Contributions, GOP Criticizes ‘Pay To Play’
CARSON CITY – Money may not buy happiness but a sizable five-figure donation to Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford’s political action committee will get you some serious face time with Democratic leadership.
Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is seeking financial support for Senate Democrats in an effort to build a veto-proof 14-seat majority in the 21-member upper house for the 2011 legislative session. Democrats have a 12-9 edge now with the potential to pick up two more seats.
In an effort to achieve his goal, Horsford has sent out an email to potential contributors offering access to himself and the Senate leadership in exchange for cash.
Donations can get contributors into the Victory Leadership Circle for $25,000 or more, or into the Chairman’s Leadership Circle for between $10,000 and $25,000, or into the Caucus Leadership Circle for between $5,000 and $10,000, or into the Friends of Nevada Senate Democrats for between $1,000 and $5,000.
State Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei criticized the “pay to play” email and said everyone should have access to Nevada’s citizen Legislature.
Past practice has been to provide access to all, he said.
“Who do you think you are,” Amodei said. “You are supposed to be a citizen Legislature.”
Amodei, a former state Senator from Carson City, says he is well aware of what is at stake in November and that both parties are working hard to win their races. But Republicans, who controlled the Senate from 1993 until 2009, never tied access to political contributions, he said.
The latest approach by Democrats is an unfortunate development in Nevada, Amodei said.
“It’s too bad we have to import this full time professional Legislature view for access to leadership in the Nevada Senate,” he said.
Horsford did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Horsford’s email is quite specific about what type of access will be available for each level of support:
“Organizations or individuals that contribute $25,000 or more will receive a private dinner with the Senate majority leader and chairs of all the standing committees,” the email solicitation says. “The dinner will permit up to 10 invited guests to accompany the Victory Leadership Circle Member.
“Organizations or individuals that contribute between $10,000 – $25,000 will receive a private dinner with the Senate majority leader and a chair of a standing committee of their choice. The dinner permits up to seven invited guests to accompany the chairman’s leaders member.
“Organizations or individuals that contribute between $5,000 – $10,000 will be entitled to a private reception with the Senate majority leader and Nevada Senate Democrats.
“Organizations or individuals that contribute between $1,000 – $5,000 will be entitled to a luncheon with the Senate majority leader,” the email says.
In a letter accompanying the contribution information, Horsford says Democrats are poised to do well in November, particularly with the primary loss by long-term Republican incumbent Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, to a political newcomer in Clark District 9.
“This game changer provides a direct path for Benny Yerushalmi, a life-long Nevadan and small business owner, to increase the majority in the state Senate come November,” he said.
Senate Democrats are also looking for an upset of Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and holding on to the seat now held by Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, who is in her first re-election campaign.
“In this election cycle, the stakes have never been higher,” Horsford says in the email. “Reapportionment, the budget and major policy issues affecting the working families and small businesses of Nevada are too important to be held hostage by the Republicans who will now be controlled by an even more conservative membership moving forward.
“Growing the majority and obtaining at least 14 votes will be critical in ensuring that we are able to put Nevada back on the path to prosperity,” he said.
Horsford’s PAC didn’t see much financial support up to the June primary. The contribution and expense report for Victory 2010 showed only one major contribution of $10,000 from the AFSCME labor union in Washington, DC.
Copy of mailer signed by Senator Horsford here: