Under Fire, State Senate Majority Leader Pulls Plug On ‘Pay To Play’

CARSON CITY – Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, today criticized a fund-raising “pay to play” letter sent out recently by Majority Leader Steven Horsford, saying it borders on an ethics violation.

“I have always avoided that kind of a fundraiser,” he said. “I think it is inappropriate. The perception is that to have access to a leader or chairman you have to pay. I think that sends a terrible message.”

The Nevada News Bureau first reported Tuesday the existence of the letter sent by Horsford, D-Las Vegas, seeking as much as $25,000 in contributions to his political action committee in exchange for access to himself and committee chairmen and women.

Horsford did not return a call seeking comment on the email solicitation. But in a statement released to KRNV Channel 4 in Reno in response to the story, Horsford said he will pull the plug on the fund-raising plan.

“This really was a poor action,” Horsford said. “I take full responsibility for it. I have directed my staff to discontinue the program. It was never our intent to send a message that in order to gain access to our chairs that people needed to make donations, but clearly the optics show that, and at a time when we need confidence and responsibility among our elected officials, I pulled the plug.”

“I just thought it was inappropriate, offensive,” Raggio said. “It’s a very poor way to campaign. This is really strong-arming.”

Raggio said he has also been told by Republican candidates that their efforts to raise money for their campaigns are being hampered by intimidation tactics aimed at lobbyists.

“I’m told there is a lot of intimidation out there,” he said. “My GOP candidates are being told by lobbyists that if they contribute to their campaigns, they won’t get anything done in the session.”

The Nevada News Bureau has been unable to confirm with any lobbyists directly that such tactics are being employed by Democratic legislative leadership.

Neither Horsford or Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, returned calls seeking comment on the claims.

Horsford has a 12-9 majority in the Senate but is seeking a veto-proof 14-seat majority.

Oceguera is seeking to hold on to his current 28-14 veto proof majority. The Assembly 40 seat is a key race in that effort. Incumbent Democrat Bonnie Parnell is not seeking re-election.

Both Pete Livermore, a Republican candidate for the Assembly 40 seat in Carson City, and Michael Roberson, the Republican candidate challenging Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in Clark District 5, say they have been told the same story by lobbyists.

“The bulk of the lobbyists I talk to tell me the same thing,” Roberson said. “He (Horsford) is definitely playing hardball.”

Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei said he too is aware of the effort by Democrats to prevent campaign donations to GOP candidates.

“It’s not even an if or a maybe,” Amodei said. “Lobbyists have been told that if you contribute against my candidate, don’t bother showing up. I absolutely believe it to be true.”

Amodei, a former state Senator from Carson City, said in an interview Tuesday that such an edict borders on an infringement of constitutionally protected free speech rights.

“I don’t know if it is illegal or not but it sends a clear message about the ability of people to participate in the process,” he said.

No such edicts came from Republicans when they were the majority in the Senate, Amodei said.

“I think it falls under the category of a sad state of affairs for Nevada politics,” he said.

  • NVRepub

    Vote the Democrats out! They are so desperate to hold on to their majority that they sink to new lows everyday.

    Nevada voters, please do the right thing and vote the Democrats out. The Nevada economy is in dire straits and we all need to do what we can to help bring it back in the black. Think before you vote!

  • http://nvnewsbureau michael

    So there is NOTHING wrong with selling access; what a bunch of dung;
    Nevada politicians like Reid are wh0res and liars. According to the PEW report our neighbors California are in better shape to deal with unfunded pensions and New York is in EVEN BETTER SHAPE than Nevada, We are facing 57% shortfall and that DOES NOT EVEN INCLUDE THE 9.1 BILLION (June 09)
    Unfunded pensions.
    Now put this in perspective; Orange County in CA filed bankruptcy and their unfunded liability is 3 billion or 1/3 or ours AND WE HAVE THE SAME POPULATION, so we are 3 Xs worse than a huge government that has already went BANKRUPT
    SOLUTION SIMPLE; BUT THE UP-COMING PROBLEM IS THAT AS BARBARA BUCKLEY LEAVES AS SPEAKER IN CARSON CITY, she is expected to be replaced as speaker by John Ocequera, 42, assistant fire chief for North Las Vegas who made in total compensation in 2009 $151,772. He has been a legislator and double dipper since 2000. IS JOHN GOING TO DO WHAT IS NEEDED?
    The real solution is SIMPLE; file BANKRUPTCY, ADMIT we are BROKE, FIRE all public personnel and RE-HIRE any who wish to work for the NATIONAL AVERAGE OF PRIVATE SECTOR (NV cost-of-living is 100 or exactly national average) GIVE same benefits , pay, pensions or- lack- there- of;; that are paid in the private sector. AND for those who whine say “thanks 4 your service and BYE- BYE” and get rid of the wh0res called politicians who put the citizens in this place by selling themselves for the public union’s votes to keep them in office!
    THIS is 1st STEP= PUT AN END TO OVERPAYMENTS. There are thousands of workers willing to take the private sector national average wage and benefits.

  • http://NewsLincolnCounty.com Dave Morgan

    The democrats don’t need to resort to such tactics. All they have to say is that if the Republicans get their way Nevada will run a 3rd rate K-12 school system, shut down its universities and colleges, and turn 80% of prison inmates loose to savage Nevada residents. Retirees will see their retirement checks all but evaporate and if you want to complain about that you’ll have to stand in line because state offices will be open only one day a week staffed by high school volunteers between the hours of 2:45 pm and 7pm. But be careful heading down there because there will no longer be any speed limits because there will be no police to enforce them. And you know that out of town rock contractor? He’s putting in a gravel pit right next to your retirement dream home. FREEEEEEDOM!!! LIBERT-TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!