Posts Tagged ‘Montandon’

Candidates for Governor Disclose Supporters in Campaign Contribution Reports

By Sean Whaley | 1:19 pm June 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Campaign contribution reports for the front-running Republican and Democrat candidates for governor show they are about even in the money-raising and expenditure game.

Republican Brian Sandoval raised just over $900,000 in the first reporting period from Jan. 1 to May 27, but also reported spending nearly $1.1 million in the three-way primary race that includes former North Las Vegas mayor Mike Montandon and incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who faces only token opposition in his Democrat primary, reported $983,000 in contributions in the same period, and expenses of $982,000.

Gibbons reported only $179,000 in contributions and $184,000 in expenses. Montandon reported $80,000 in contributions and expenses of $114,000.

A review of contributions to the candidates show support from mostly traditional sources. Fellow Republicans and business enterprises donated to Sandoval, fellow Democrats and business entities and labor unions gave to Reid. Both received contributions from different Nevada gaming operators and dozens of individuals.

The primary election is Tuesday.

Sandoval’s report shows that virtually all of his contributions have come from Nevada residents, including $500 from GOP attorney general candidate Jacob Hafter, $2,000 from the Friends of Heidi Gansert, a Reno assemblywoman in her last term, and $1,000 from Nevada state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora.

The Sen. Bill Raggio Senate Campaign donated $500, as did Raggio, R-Reno, personally.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Sandoval, contributed $10,000.

The Las Vegas Hilton and the Boyd Gaming Corp. both donated $10,000 to Sandoval.

Reid too received most of his contributions from within Nevada.

He received four $10,000 contributions from television stations owned by Jim Rogers and the Sunbelt Communications Co., including his Reno and Las Vegas stations. He received another $5,000 contribution from Don King Productions based in Florida.

The Barbara Buckley Campaign donated $2,500. Buckley, D-Las Vegas, is the outgoing speaker of the Nevada Assembly. Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, donated $9,999. Friends for Steven Horsford donated $5,000. Sen. Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is the Senate majority leader.

Former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Richard Bryan donated $1,000. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-SD, donated $2,500.

Contributions have also come from several labor unions, including the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 169 PAC in Reno, totaling $3,000. Another $5,000 came from the Laborers Political League based in Las Vegas. The Nevada Service Employees Union SEIU Local 1107 in Las Vegas donated $5,000.

A number of casinos owned by MGM Mirage also donated $5,000 each to Reid’s campaign, including the Luxor, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

Gibbons received $600 from former GOP Rep. Barbara Vucanovich and $1,000 from Bruce James, a former U.S. Public Printer and chairman of Gibbons’ SAGE Commission. Wynn Resorts contributed $10,000. He also received four $5,000 contributions from companies owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Public Employee Retirement Board Authorizes Study to Look at Impact of Reform

By Sean Whaley | 4:25 pm May 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers agree the 2011 legislative session will likely see a debate about the future of Nevada’s public employee pension program, but differences remain over whether radical change is needed to protect the state from a multi-billion long-term unfunded liability.

The $9 billion question is whether the Public Employees Retirement System should be converted to a “defined contribution” program for new hires, or whether the “defined benefit” plan now in place for state and local government employees, including teachers, should be preserved.

In anticipation that the future of Nevada’s public pension program will be a topic of discussion in 2011, the board that oversees the program voted last week to undertake an analysis of what a conversion to a defined contribution would mean in terms of cost and required regulatory changes, said Tina Leiss, operations officer for PERS.

“It is not something the board is proposing,” she said. “They want to be prepared to provide facts.”

The study is expected to come to the board for review this fall, Leiss said. It is being performed by the system’s current actuary at no additional cost.

PERS officials argue that major changes to the plan are unnecessary because the contributions flowing into the plan from government and public employees, combined with an estimated 8 percent rate of return on investments over time, will see the plan fully funded in the next 30 years. The contribution rates are recommended by an actuary, approved by the seven-member PERS board and the Legislature every two years.

The Nevada Legislature has always endorsed the contribution rate approved by the PERS board, and those contributions have not been diverted to other uses as has occurred in some others states.

The state retirement plan was estimated to have a long-term unfunded liability of $9.1 billion on June 30, 2009. At its high point the state public pension plan was 85 percent fully funded. It now stands at 72.5 percent.

A recent study of state and local government pension funds by the Pew Center on the States identified Nevada as one of 19 states where “serious concerns” exist about the long-term health of the retirement plan.

The question of what state and local governments should do to resolve the long-term financial uncertainty of their public pension plans is a concern nationally. A number of independent reviews have shown that many of the plans are underfunded and not likely to remain solvent over the long term.

A new report suggests the federal government and taxpayers nationally could end up bailing out the underfunded plans.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he believes the time has come to change the plan to defined contribution, which would provide new public employees a contribution to their retirement that they would then invest on their own behalf.

“It’s going to be tough enough to keep it afloat as it is,” he said.

The current plan called defined benefit, where public employees are guaranteed a specified retirement income upon retirement based on salary and number of years of service, cannot be continued, Goicoechea said.

While employee recruitment and retention would likely be a problem going forward, the pension plan needs to change to bring it more into line with what is offered in the private sector, he said.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said an estimated $3 billion general fund budget shortfall for the next two-year state budget means all issues have to be debated in the session, including the public employee retirement system.

“I think, when you are $3 billion short, you have to look at the basic structure,” she said. “So we have to look at structural changes, both on the expense side and the revenue side. So I am not willing to exclude anything.”

But Leslie said at this point she believes the defined benefit plan should be continued.

Requiring public employees to make their own investment choices could jeopardize their retirement if the stock market suffers downturns as it is doing right now, she said. The result could be retirees with inadequate retirement income, which could then lead the state to deal with the problem, Leslie said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, acknowledges that the public pension program, and whether it needs reform, will be one of the top issues in front of lawmakers next session.

But the Legislature has acted to keep the retirement plan funded by adjusting contribution rates paid both by public employers and their employees, he said. There seems to be an assumption by some that if everyone retired today that a $9 billion bill would come due, but that is not how retirement plans work, Horsford said.

The potential for a change to a defined contribution plan is not the only reform proposal on the table. The SAGE Commission has also recommended a number of changes to the current defined benefit plan to bring pension costs down. The Spending and Government Efficiency panel appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons to review government operations did not recommend a change to a defined contribution plan, however.

SAGE commission recommendations include setting a minimum retirement age of 60 before benefits can be paid out. Regular employees in the plan can now retire at any age with 30 years of service.

Other recommendations include calculating the retirement benefit over five years of pay, not the current three highest pay years and imposing a moratorium on any benefit enhancements until the plan is fully funded.

All three Republican candidates for governor advocate a change to a defined contribution plan, saying such a program would be more in line with what is offered in the private sector.

The expected Democrat candidate, Rory Reid, has not yet come to any conclusion on what changes, if any, are needed to the plan, saying those who hold opposing views need to first come to some consensus on the issue.

The 2009 Legislature did make some modest changes to the retirement plan for new hires starting Jan. 1, 2010, including increasing the retirement age after 10 years of service to age 62 from 60.

Any changes to the plan would affect only new hires. The pension plan has been determined to be a vested property right for current employees that cannot be changed.

Audio files:

052810Goicoechea1 :16 is defined contribution.”

052810Leslie1 :10 the current system.”

052810Horsford1 :23 it’s an issue.”

Montandon: 4 out of 10 Nevadans ask, “Mike Who…?

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:17 am May 14th, 2010

The latest M-D poll has guberanatorial hopeful Montandon polling at just 6% with only 60% name recognition statewide.

But to hear his campaign tell it, you’d think Mayor Mike is going to send shock waves through the universe with a surprise primary win on June 8 (although he needs your help with phone calls just to make sure):

Good Morning Elizabeth,

A straw poll of Tea Party activists taken at the Action is Brewing debate showed me winning with an astounding 48.3% of the vote!

Combine the straw poll victory with my recent endorsements below, and we are picking up momentum from influential grassroots conservatives!

* Nevada Concerned Citizens

* Clark County Conservative Grassroots Coalition

* Positions on Issues PAC

* KXNT radio show host Casey Hendrickson

* Young Conservatives of Nevada

* UNLV College Republicans

I need your help to continue the momentum. Please sign up to make phone calls from our office or your home.

Over the past several weeks, my campaign tag line has become “the only electable conservative.” The reason is simple. Brian Sandoval’s record of supporting tax increases and open pro-choice stance label him as a liberal Republican. Governor Gibbons is the only Republican running who Rory Reid beats in head-to-head match ups. I am a real conservative who consistently defeats Rory Reid in the polls.

I need your help to win. Please sign up to make phone calls.

Sincerely,

Mike Montandon

As a spectator, I admit I’d enjoy seeing an upset of this magnitude on primary night.  As as realist, I can’t say I think it’s very likely.

Montandon has to find the money to get up on TV or some way to get his name in the headlines, right quick, if he hopes to even come in second in the three-way gub-off.

Voters to Remain in Dark About Campaign Contributions

By Sean Whaley | 6:05 am April 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevadans who intend to vote early in the primary and general elections this year will likely find themselves in the dark on the question of who has contributed to the campaigns of the candidates.

Despite efforts in past legislative sessions to improve the transparency of campaign contributions received by candidates, lawmakers have failed to make meaningful reforms to the reporting process.

The 2009 Legislature failed to approve efforts by Secretary of State Ross Miller to improve the reporting process by requiring electronic filing of the campaign reports. Electronic reporting would allow the creation of a searchable database to analyze who is contributing and in what amounts to the candidates.

Mandating electronic reporting for most candidates was supported in the Assembly but was amended out of Assembly Bill 82 by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee in the final days of the session.

A look through reports now on file with the secretary of state’s office show that many are hand-written and difficult to read.

Another proposal to make the information more voter-friendly by requiring earlier reporting also failed.

Miller had proposed last session that candidates report individual contributions in excess of $1,000 to his office within a few days of receipt starting 40 days before the primary and general elections. The information would then have been posted on the SOS website and available for voters to review before casting their ballots, especially those voting early, as nearly 60 percent did in the 2008 election.

For the primary, early voting begins May 22, but the campaign contribution and expense reports are not due until June 1. And because candidates can send in their reports by certified mail on the June 1 due date, the release of the information to the public can be delayed even further.

The same scenario will occur with the Nov. 2 general election, with the second round of reports due Oct. 26. Early voting begins Oct. 16.

The proposal – which also covered expenditures and multiple contributions from a single individual exceeding $1,000 – was discussed in committee but never actually made it into any version of AB82.

Miller said the campaign contribution and expense information available on his agency’s website consistently gets an F grade because of this lack of transparency.

The F grade was awarded in 2008 by the Campaign Disclosure Project in large part because the reports are not searchable.

“We need to put it into some type of format the public can use,” Miller said. “A 100-page handwritten report is not useful.”

Miller said he will try again to push for more transparency in 2011 if he is re-elected to another term as secretary of state.

In the meantime many voters will not have the information available this election year unless candidates take it upon themselves to voluntarily report their contributions on their own websites.

The 40th day before the June 8 primary is today.

Reactions from a handful of candidates on the idea of voluntary reporting vary; some say a voluntary posting of information is unworkable because it could give opponents an advantage if they did not participate as well. One lawmaker, however, suggested it could work to a candidate’s advantage.

Several other candidates contacted for the story did not return phone calls.

Miller, acknowledging that he has taken the lead on seeking reforms to the reporting process, said he will make his contributions public ahead of the general election on his website. Miller does not have a primary.

Miller said he will do so even though it may put him at a disadvantage by giving his opponents information about his campaign than he will not have from them. So starting 40 days before the general election, he will post all contributions in excess of $1,000 within 72 hours of receipt to his website for voters to view if they choose to do so.

“If it puts me at a disadvantage, we’ll see,” he said.

Republican governor candidate Mike Montandon said if elected to the job, he will push for reforms to make campaign reports more transparent for the public. Ironically, Montandon said he files his reports electronically in a format that would allow for searches. But the data is then converted into an unsearchable file for posting on the secretary of state’s website.

“This one is a slam dunk,” he said. “It’s common sense. I’m a freedom of speech person. I don’t believe there should be restrictions on who spends what on a campaign, but the information should be totally transparent.”

But Montandon said he would not post such data on his campaign website unless every candidate did the same, citing a disadvantage if his opponents could review his donor list without him having access to their information as well.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, one of three major GOP candidates seeking the governor’s seat, said he has no problems reporting his contributions, but questioned whether he would have the staff available to make such updates.

“We do not have individuals who are directed to work 100 percent of the time on the website or be data input people,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with openness.”

Democratic governor candidate Rory Reid would support more openness and transparency in the campaign contribution and expense reporting process, but he has no plans for early reporting in this election, said his spokesman Mike Trask. Reid has already put out a plan for changes he would make to ensure state government is more ethical and open, changes which he has already implemented as Clark County Commission chairman, he said.

“Reporting early would be problematic for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being the issue of fairness,” Trask said. “We’re going to file the report when we are legally required to do so as we are certain other candidates will do as well.”

Rob Lauer, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, said he supports reporting contribution information so voters can have access to it, but suggested the process needs to be ongoing so that the information does not generate undue momentum for those who receive a lot of financial support.

“I’m not sure I want to see campaign contribution reports affect the way people vote,” he said.

Rather than require reporting of large contributions beginning 40 days before an election, Lauer said transparency concerns could be addressed by requiring the information to be reported within 72 hours, regardless of when the money was received in an election cycle.

Ongoing contribution reporting would help get away from the “horse race” mentality, he said.

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, said he has no problem with reporting his donations, but said for many legislative races the financial support is relatively modest.

“Most of my contributions are $100, $500 or $1,000,” he said. “You can look at my past reports to see who is contributing to my campaign.”

Stewart said Democrats get a lot of their money from labor unions, Republicans get a lot from the business community and the gaming industry supports candidates of both parties.

“There are no surprises, really,” he said.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he would like to see the secretary of state’s office set up a process where candidates could voluntarily report their contributions using the guidelines and have them posted on the SOS website.

Candidates who choose to voluntarily post their contribution information might get a favorable response from voters for making the information public, he said

“I don’t think it would put a candidate at a disadvantage,” Goedhart said. “Voters are tired of business as usual.”

Passing legislation to require the reporting of such information would be fine as well, he said. But in the meantime, there is no reason why candidates could not do so on their own.

“Anything that adds transparency would be fine with me,” he said.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said he supports the earlier reporting language proposed by Miller in the 2009 session, but suggested a voluntary process whereby candidates would post the information on their own websites would not be practical. One candidate might post the information prominently while another would bury it on the website. It would also require voters to seek out each candidate’s website, he said.

An alternative would be to have the secretary of state’s office set up a system that would be uniform for candidates who wanted to provide the information. But it is unlikely that many candidates would voluntarily report because of a concern their opponents would not do the same, he said.

Transparency is critical but not likely to occur without legislation, Segerblom said.

The electronic filing requirement would not have been in place for this election cycle anyway. AB 82 was amended by the Assembly Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee to have the requirement take effect in January of 2011.

AB82 passed the Assembly 23-18 on May 21 with the electronic filing requirement in place. It provided an exemption for a candidate who did not have access to a computer and limited the requirement to candidates who collected more than $10,000.

Stewart said he voted no on the bill because of other sections dealing with voter registration changes, not because of the electronic contribution reporting requirement.

But the bill, which contained numerous other provisions relating to election law, was then amended May 30 by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee to delete the electronic reporting requirement. Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, made the motion to delete the provision. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, voted no. Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, abstained, according to the committee minutes.

The bill then passed the Senate on a 16-5 vote.

Ultimately none of the provisions of AB82 survived because the Legislature ran out of time before taking final action on the measure.

Numerous state assembly and senate candidates contacted for their comments on the issue did not return calls.

Mike Montandon’s New Media Dreamin’

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:01 pm April 29th, 2010

Is he crazy like a fox? Or just crazy? That was the gist of a series of questions I posed to Mike Montandon today during a NNB-hosted conference call with a few bloggers and reporters.

Acknowledging that his 6-point lead over Rory Reid in a head-to-head is “attributable to Rory’s apparent lack of popularity” and that he still has a tall hill to climb in the primary, Montandon nevertheless reiterated what underdogs always do:

“I believe I can win.”

Belief may be what gets him through the night, but how to turn nice dreams into election night upsets?  Recent polls have Montandon pulling only 7% on June 8th while Sandoval’s 39% is a widening of his previous lead over Gibbons who is now down to just 25%.

“The thing is, that new slogan — “the only electable conservative” — is not just a slogan, it’s true.  And it’s what I’m starting to hear on the campaign trail,” said the former mayor.

“People are saying to me, we do not disagree with Gibbons and his principles, but we will not vote for him again,” he said. “So I’m gaining there.”

As for Sandoval, he’s coming off a few pretty bad weeks and Montandon thinks his avoidance of public forums as well as his decision to skip tomorrow night’s debate is a mistake at a time when Gibbons is bleeding supporters.

“I will be there,” said Montandon. “I show up everywhere. And I talk to everyone.”

In the absence of deep campaign coffers, Montandon said he is using the same on-the-ground tactics he’s enlisted in past campaigns along with various “new media” strategies including lots of Google ads, a presence on FaceBook and Twitter and the use of web videos and interactive web tools to collect data and drive traffic.

“We have the largest web presence of the three candidates by far,” he said. “And we have used those tools to ID likely primary voters and assemble a very large mailing list of supporters.  Large enough, that if they all show up on election day, I win.”

Waxing skeptical, I asked Montandon how he can seriously say he is positioned to pull off an upset of that magnitude.

“You know, one of my fondest memories is in 1997, sitting with friends, watching the voter returns…the polls going in showing me losing by 9%, and me winning by 11%,” he said.

Great story, but he’s not down by just nine.  He’s off the lead by 32% with less than six weeks to go.  What’s the road from former Nor’town Mayor to Miracle Mike?

New media tools, showing up and consistency on issues, says he.

And he does seem to have that last one down:  While Gibbons waffles and Sandoval wavers, voters know (or could know, if they paid attention) where Montandon stands on taxes, jobs, education, Yucca, guns, abortion and traditional marriage.  And his positions for the most part do pass the conservative smell test.

So while Gibbons stumbles and Sandoval fights off the flying monkeys hurtling down from the turrets of Dan Hart’s IE committee, Montandon says he will keep on keepin’ on down the yellow-brick road to Oz:  back and forth between the rurals and Clark County, in and out of meet-and-greets and small group gatherings, his email sign-up sheets in tow.

But is new media really the poor candidate’s war chest?  Can Montandon’s small but scrappy tech team use Google tools and goofy YouTube ads to actually pull off a victory?  Or at least convince voters he is less embarrassing than Gibbons and finish with a second place ribbon?

“Well, they will either be rock stars, or they will have to go out and work for a living,” joked Montandon.

“Look, four years ago you would not have even stood a chance in a campaign without big money,” he said.  “New media allows us to have a better chance.  It really will be a bellwether.”

In 40 days we’ll see whether the bell tolls for he.

GOP Candidates for Governor Debate Taxes, Budget, Economy and Yucca

By Sean Whaley | 12:28 pm April 24th, 2010

RENO – The three Republican candidates vying to become the next governor of Nevada engaged in a spirited discussion Friday on issues ranging from taxes and public education to the future of Yucca Mountain.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, seeking a second term, former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon and former federal judge Brian Sandoval agreed on many issues, from school choice and vouchers to an aversion to any type of tax increase to get the state out from under a projected $3 billion plus budget deficit next year.

But there were areas of disagreement as well, most notably on the issue of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. Sandoval and Gibbons were opposed with Montandon in support of the idea in conjunction with the development of new technologies to deal with the waste.

The debate sponsored by Anger is Brewing, a major player in the Nevada Tea Party movement, was a mostly courteous exchange of views by the candidates.

But Sandoval used the forum to challenge Gibbons on his long-held assertion that he has not raised taxes as governor.

Referring to the 2009 session, Sandoval said: “When you submitted a budget, you submitted a budget that included over $200 million in tax increases.”

Sandoval said he is the only candidate who had a plan to balance the budget in the most recent special session without raising taxes or resorting to massive layoffs and cuts to vital services.

“As part of this special session, there were fees that were increased,” he said. “The fees that were increased for banks. The fees that were increased for gaming.”

In response, Gibbons said Sandoval’s budget balancing plan was inadequate to cover the actual $880 million gap.

“So his idea about how to balance the budget is coming up short every time,” Gibbons said. “His ideas were wrong.”

Sandoval replied: “I didn’t hear a disagreement that you increased fees and taxes, governor.”

Gibbons said there was an increase in mining fees but the industry agreed to it. The other fee ideas came from the Legislature. Gibbons said he fought off a $300 million tax increase on mining and major gaming fee increases.

“I stood firm against raising major taxes on business and industry,” he said.

Montandon agreed with Gibbons that Sandoval’s plan to balance the current budget fell far short of what was required.

All three candidates flatly rejected the idea of approving any new taxes to balance Nevada’s budget in the 2011 session, suggesting that revenue studies now under way are thinly veiled efforts by some to move forward with new revenue sources such as a corporate income tax.

When asked how to balance the budget next year, Montandon said Nevada must change its policies that have pushed jobs out of state. A return to prosperity will solve the state’s budget problems long term, he said.

In the meantime, “we’re going to have to cut, and cut dramatically for a short period of time,” Montandon said.

Duplication of programs, such as offering nursing degrees at three different higher education campuses, must be eliminated in the short term, he said.

Gibbons said he has a track record of submitting balanced budgets without proposing any tax increases and that he is in the process of prioritizing spending for the next budget.

“We cannot continue to rely on government to provide us with everything we want,” he said. “It’s only going to be there to provide the things we need, the basic constitutional requirements, education, safety, those kinds of things.”

The candidates were asked how Nevada can help ensure the federal government does not expand beyond its constitutional limitations.

Sandoval said he supports the challenge Nevada is involved in over the federal health care law.

“I believe that government should stay out of our lives,” he said. “We need to get back to basics.”

Montandon said the people were warned back in the 1960s by Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater that the “federal government would come bearing cash with strings attached. And we weren’t paying attention then. We’ve got to pay attention now.”

Gibbons said judges are trampling the Constitution with liberal rulings.

“I’ve fought for your rights under the Constitution,” he said. “I am the one who took the challenge to federal court on the health care bill when the attorney general would not stand up for your rights.”

Gibbons got a laugh from the crowd with a retort to Sandoval saying he appreciated being described as a conservative judge.

“And I wish you hadn’t left the bench,” Gibbons replied.

Sandoval is the front-runner in the three-way race, according to polls.

The winner in the June primary will face Democrat Rory Reid in November.

One area of disagreement among the candidates was the subject of Yucca Mountain.

Sandoval said he said he opposes the site for nuclear storage because of the potential harm to Nevada residents. Sandoval said he is open to alternative uses for Yucca Mountain, and that he supports the development of nuclear power.

Alternative energies such as geothermal, wind and solar all should be pursed as well, he said.

When asked what the solution is to the nuclear waste issue, given his support for nuclear power, Sandoval said the material should be left on site for the time being, a comment that elicited a few boos from the audience.

Montandon said he is pro-nuclear energy because cheap and reliability electricity has been one of the greatest contributors to America’s quality of life. But the U.S. needs to develop new technologies to deal with the waste, he said.

“We will always need some sort of safe storage and some sort of repository,” Montandon said. “Safe is the key word.”

Gibbons agreed on the opportunity Nevada has to push renewable energy development. As to Yucca Mountain, Gibbons said he supports reprocessing of the nuclear waste, not burying it at the site.

“What we should do is create a nuclear center of excellence that is going to take this material and figure out just exactly how we eliminate the hazard of that waste,” he said.

The $14 billion spent on Yucca Mountain would have been better spent on research and development, Gibbons said.

Montandon Announces “Nuclear Week”

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:00 pm April 12th, 2010

Gubernatorial candidate Mike Montandon has apparently decided to make nuclear energy his issue.

Here’s his intro video on the subject, one of a series his campaign says will be released this week.

One video will include the former Chief Scientist of Yucca Mountain and one will be about the “stark differences” between Mike and his opponents.

Montandon is also having an “Online Town Hall” on the issue on Wednesday.

Montandon says Yucca Mountain “represents a safe opportunity to start a new industry in Nevada akin to gaming or mining.”

More Calls for Ensign’s Resignation Trickle In

By Sean Whaley | 8:08 am April 11th, 2010

(Updated at 10:02 a.m. and again at 10:41 a.m. on April 11, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Despite being described as a “wounded” senator who has not been effective in representing Nevada in Washington, DC, state Republican officials and candidates surveyed by the Nevada News Bureau for the most part are still not calling on U.S. Senator John Ensign, R-Nev., to step down.

Ensign, under the cloud of an ethics investigation over whether he provided inappropriate and possibly illegal help to former administrative assistant Doug Hampton, was called upon to resign earlier this week by two former Clark County GOP officials. Ensign last year acknowledged having an affair with Hampton’s wife.

Among the few Republicans willing to call for Ensign’s resignation was Michael Roberson, candidate for Senate District 5.

“As a taxpayer and constituent, I have heard and read enough to join other Nevadans in calling for Senator Ensign to resign,” said Roberson. “His behavior shows a callous disregard for moral decency, the dignity of his office and for those of us who elected him.”

“I realize that some suggest that we should wait for the Senate Ethics Committee and U.S. Department of Justice investigations to conclude before making such a determination. However, through his own admitted actions, I do not believe Senator Ensign is worthy of the job he currently holds, and that he is in fact letting Nevadans down by continuing to fight for his job,” he said.

Roberson said that whether Senator Ensign is indicted or cleared is a legal matter and not his top concern.

“As an attorney and a member of the Nevada Bar, I certainly respect our legal system, and I believe Senator Ensign does deserve a full, fair and complete investigation,” he said. “However, the behavior he has shown and the decisions he has made make him an unsuitable representative for our state.”

“Our congressional delegation is weakened by this scandal – and therefore, so is our representation in Congress. Nevada taxpayers  deserve better. It is time for Senator Ensign to resign and allow a more suitable and effective Senator to replace him,” he said.

Ira Hansen, a Sparks resident running for Assembly District 32, also said he thinks Ensign should step down.

“I’ve been a big Ensign supporter from Day One,” he said. “I still think very highly of the guy. But I am extremely disappointed in his unfortunate personal behavior.”

“While it is true that Ensign is innocent until proven guilty,” Hansen said, “his violation of his family values positions by having an extramarital affair does justify asking him to step down.”

“Whether his resignation would be in the best interests of the state is a much bigger question,” he said. “It’s a tough call.”

Elizabeth Halseth, candidate for Senate District 9, also agrees it is time for Ensign to go.

“If you cannot lead effectively, there is limit to your success and the success of those you serve,” said Halseth.  “While I applaud Senator Ensign for the great things he has done for our state, I believe he has become ineffective and will ultimately harm our ability to grow.”

Halseth said she believes we need strong elected officials officials who can help Nevada get back on track.

“The people are our strength, and the people have lost faith in Senator Ensign’s ability to lead effectively,” said Halseth.  “For that reason, I believe it’s in the best interest of the people, the party and the state of Nevada that Senator Ensign resigns immediately.”

Calinit Atia, candidate for state Assembly District 22, said she believes elected officials must always put their constituents first and that it may be time for Ensign to consider stepping aside.

“I don’t know if what Dean Heller said is true, but if John Ensign has lost his effectiveness, then yes, I would say he should put the state’s interests before his own and step down,” said Atia.

“These are dark days for John Ensign and his family and the choices he needs to make are not easy, but they are choices that must be made,” she said.  “My heart goes out to his family.”

George Harris, a former chairman and former treasurer of the Clark County Republican party, re-iterated past statements calling for Ensign’s resignation.

“If Ensign continues to be a wasp in the GOP ointment, he will ultimately damage the prospects of those who come out of the primary election,” Harris said.  “The opposition will absolutely use this ethics scandal against all Republicans in the general election.”

“Ensign could save everyone a lot of embarrassment,” Harris said.  “The problem is, he has become the story.  The media and the Democrats are basically turning him into a clown, the longer this drags on and the more facts come to light.”

“From a strategic perspective, as the former head of the Republican Senatorial Committee, Ensign knows that if this was anyone else, he would be the first in line to tell them to resign,” said Harris. “We cannot have this kind of thing hanging over the party. Ensign should discontinue his selfish behavior and resign now.”

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., agreed in television interviews this week that Ensign is a “wounded” junior senator and that Nevada needs a stronger voice in Washington. But he stopped short of calling for Ensign to resign.

In a written statement to the Las Vegas Review Journal, U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian said, “After consideration of the news reports and Congressman Heller’s recent statements — which I take very seriously — I think the issue is that the people of Nevada need to know that Senator Ensign can represent them effectively.”

“I must respectfully say that as the potential Republican nominee, I do not expect to be campaigning with Senator Ensign this fall,” said Tarkanian.

Interviews with a number of other Nevada Republicans do reveal a general reluctance to call for Ensign’s resignation.  The general consensus is that Ensign has not yet been found guilty of any wrongdoing and that he will make the right decision for Nevada when the time comes.

Still, there is acknowledgment that Ensign’s troubles are creating problems for the Republican Party in Nevada because he can’t raise money for candidates or campaign on their behalf.

U.S. Senate John Chachas said, “Senator Ensign has suffered a great deal of personal and professional grief for some self-acknowledged lapses in judgment and behavior. Nevadans should not make sport of tap-dancing on someone’s misery.

“That said, elected officials need to be held to a higher standard. They have to be,” he added.  “I have served on boards of directors in business, and if a senior director had such issues, I would give him or her a nudge and suggest that moving on would be good for the company and shareholders.”

“But this is politics. The only ‘board’ is the electorate every six years. So in the interim, the only thing that matters is the good judgment of the individual,” said Chachas.  “I am confident Sen. Ensign will exercise good judgment for Nevada. His career and reputation are not the issue. The issue is Nevada, and I am confident he will do the right thing in that regard.”

Mike Montandon, gubernatorial candidate and the former mayor of North Las Vegas, said Ensign appears to be a liability for Republican candidates because they are clearly not seeking his endorsement.

But the issue of his resignation is a decision only Ensign can make, he said.

“I’m not going to call for anyone’s resignation,” Montandon said. “If someone in public office can’t make that decision for himself, then something is wrong.”

Montandon also noted that an Ensign resignation, should it occur, raises myriad political issues that could ripple across the state. Whether it would be better before or after the primary and how it might affect the re-election chances of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just two of those issues, he said.

State Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said Ensign’s troubles are damaging to the GOP brand, but he added that the inquiries into his actions are still in progress.

“In America we have a system where you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “So in the absence of any clear criminal wrongdoing, it would presumptuous of me to be the judge, jury and executioner.”

Democrats are using Ensign’s troubles to their advantage, but ethics issues aren’t unknown to Democrats, Goedhart said. He pointed to New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who is facing an ethics probe of his own.

“Is it reducing Ensign’s effectiveness? Yes,” he said. “Am I calling on him to step down? No. Not unless he has been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing.”

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, a candidate for state Senate, said he believes Ensign will do what is best for the state.

“He has not been charged or convicted, so it is very premature for people to be calling his resignation,” he said.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, who is also running for an open state senate seat, said he has stayed out of the controversy but said a resignation could, “throw a monkey wrench into the elections.”

A resignation now would be poor timing, he said.

“We should wait and see what the investigations turn up,” Gustavson said. “Let it take its course. Until then I’m not suggesting we do anything different.”

U.S. Senate candidate Garn Mabey, a former member of the state Assembly, said he would agree with the description of Ensign as a “wounded” senator. But Mabey said he considers Ensign a friend who helped him win his first race for elective office.

“I’m not going to throw him under the bus,” he said.

Mabey said he does not believe Ensign’s troubles will affect other Nevada Republican candidates.

“I think he is a good man,” Mabey said. “It is a decision he has to make.”

U.S. Senate candidate and Assemblyman Chad Christensen said: “This has been an unfortunate situation all the way around. There are two basic issues here. If John Ensign did anything illegal he should resign, if not then voters should decide in 2012 if he should stay.”

Rob Lauer, a candidate for secretary of state, said he believes in loyalty and called Ensign “a great Republican.” It is up to Ensign to decide whether he can continue to be effective in Congress, he said.

“I like him personally,” Lauer said. “He has done a lot of good things for the state. But on a political level as a senator he has an obligation to the people of the state. If he can’t get bills through, if he is not effective for the state, he needs to do what is best for the state.”

Ensign’s troubles are an issue for Nevada Republicans because without them, he could raise money and help GOP candidates, Lauer said. Until the issues facing him are resolved, he can’t be an effective leader for Nevada Republicans, he said.

Craig Lake, candidate for Congressional District 1, declined to comment on the matter. Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge running for governor, also had no comment.

Patrick McNaught, candidate for Senate District 12, and Michelle Fiore, candidate for CD-1, could not be reached for comment. U.S. Senate candidates Sharron Angle also could not be reached.

Tarkanian, Montandon Campaigns Named in Nevada State Democratic Party FEC Complaint

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:40 pm April 10th, 2010

From the state Dems on Thursday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 8, 2010

Tarkanian, Montandon campaigns named in FEC complaint for illegal “soft money” ad

Las Vegas, NV. – The Nevada State Democratic Party has filed a complaint the with Federal Election Commission alleging that the Tarkanian for Senate campaign coordinated the use of “soft” money to illegally attack Sen. Harry Reid, a federal candidate. Congress has passed strict laws against the use of “soft” money in federal elections.

Soft money is money raised for state or local races, can be raised in much higher increments then federal money and can be raised from corporations and unions. Raising of soft money is regulated by state laws and not federal laws, which are much stricter.

The complaint alleges that Mike Montandon for Governor used soft money to pay for an illegal ad attacking Sen. Harry Reid to the benefit of and in coordination with the Tarkanian for Senate campaign. The complaint specifically names consultant Steve Wark in his current capacity as a simultaneous advisor to both campaigns.

On March 18, 2010, Montandon for Governor ran an internet ad featuring pictures of Rory Reid and Sen. Harry Reid.

The ad was illegal because the Tarkanian campaign, through its common consultant, used soft money to attack a federal candidate, Sen. Reid.

“With this illegal ad, the Montandon and Tarkanian campaigns and their mutual advisor have demonstrated utter disregard for the most basic campaign finance laws,” said Sam Lieberman, chairman of the Nevada State Democratic Party. “For a state candidate to attack a federal candidate in this manner clearly violates federal law, and their inability or unwillingness to adhere to basic campaign finance rules is troubling and must be punished.”

Couldn’t find the ad in question on YouTube so either it’s not there anymore or I’m looking in the wrong place.  Will post it when I find it.

Am awaiting comment from both campaigns.

Update (2:51 PM):

Ok, it was not a YouTube ad, just a small web ad.

“We ran a little web ad on Drudge for two days and collected a few hundred email addresses,” said Montandon.

“The complaint is completely without merit,” said Montandon.  “Suggesting that I somehow coordinated or mingled funds with the Tarkanian campaign is just insane.  Steve Wark did do some work for me last year, but so what?”

Team Montandon will send me a copy of the ad in question this afternoon; I’ll post it here once I’ve got it.

Update (2:58 PM):

“The Tarkanian campaign had no prior knowledge of the internet ad, all questions should be directed to the Montandon campaign,” says Team Tark campaign manager Brian Seitchik.

Update (5:55 PM):

Here is the ad:

And a statement from the Montandon campaign:

Accusations Against Montandon Campaign Show Reid’s Willingness to Abuse His Control of the Democratic Party of Nevada

North Las Vegas – The recent complaint filed against the Montandon campaign and others is the first of what is expected to be many uses and abuses of Senator Harry Reid’s money and control of the Democratic Party.

Republicans are eager to challenge Nevada’s senior Senator because he has lost touch with the average Nevadan. Harry Reid is integral part of the Washington liberal elite and he has proved with this complaint against the Montandon campaign that he will do anything to further his own personal goals.

His son Rory, attempting to salvage a gubernatorial campaign by dissociating himself with his father’s tainted name, is using the money and resources of his father’s good ole boy network to lash out at the ideological link I’ve made between him and his father.

The internet ad linking Rory to his father was created by a media consultant out of Texas. The ad was not coordinated with anyone else, in theme, direction or content.

It is ridiculous to think that the Montandon campaign would have the desire to spend resources on any other campaign, or that targeting Rory Reid would have to be done with no reference to any “dynasty”. The complaints have no basis in fact.

Montandon’s New Web Ad: Good or Goofy?

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:35 pm April 8th, 2010

You be the judge.

Candidates for Governor Weigh In on Public Employee Pension Issues

By Sean Whaley | 3:43 pm April 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s  leading gubernatorial hopefuls all acknowledge the importance of ensuring the long-term health of the public employee pension program, but the three Republican candidates – Gov. Jim Gibbons, former federal judge Brian Sandoval and former North Las Vegas mayor Mike Montandon – each say it is time for significant changes.

The three Republicans all favor a move to a “defined contribution” type of plan seen in the private sector, where employees manage their own retirement funds and no long-term liability exists for the employer.

The major Democratic candidate, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, said he wants to first determine where the truth lies between two significantly different views on the pension plan: that it is actuarially sound and will be fully funded over time, or that the $9.1 billion long term unfunded liability the plan has now needs immediate attention.

The current system is a defined benefit plan, where employees are guaranteed a certain retirement income based on their salaries and years worked. The plan, which covers virtually all of Nevada’s public employees, allows a retiree to collect 75 percent of his salary for 30 years of service. Those reaching 30 years can retire at any age and begin receiving retirement income.

Nevada state employees and state agencies contribute equally to the plan. Contributions for many local government employees are made entirely by the employer.

A recent study of state and local government pension funds identified Nevada as one of 19 states where “serious concerns” exist about the long-term health of the retirement plan. Nevada’s plan is less than 80 percent fully funded, according to the examination by the Pew Center on the States issued in February 2010. Nevada’s plan is currently only 72.5 percent fully funded.

Gibbons said he wants to take up the issue in the 2011 session because any delay in changing the plan will have costly implications for taxpayers.

“We have to turn this ship around and for new employees, move away from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan,” he said. “I am willing to work with the Legislature. I want to work with the Legislature to find a solution to this problem.”

Gibbons said he has advocated a change to a defined contribution plan before, and that the proposal actually dates back to the 1990s.

Even if the change must come incrementally, action needs to be taken sooner rather than later, Gibbons said. The $9.1 billion unfunded liability is an obligation of Nevada taxpayers, he said.

Montandon said the Public Employee Retirement System must change to a defined contribution plan because people are living longer and defined benefit plans just don’t work anymore from a financial standpoint. Medical advancements and other factors leading to increased longevity are turning such plans even further upside down, he said.

“There is no chance that $9 billion unfunded liability is going to get smaller,” Montandon said.

Sandoval, who stepped down from a lifetime appointment as a U.S. District judge to run for governor, said the state and local government agencies can no longer afford such retirement benefits. He said Nevada’s plan should mirror those in the private sector and federal government.

“Simply put, the state can’t afford this anymore,” Sandoval said. “We can make an absolutely compelling case that the system has to change.”

Sandoval said the plan’s unfunded liability has gotten worse, not better, over time, increasing by nearly $2.3 billion from 2000 to today, where it stands at about $9.1 billion.

Despite some modest reforms approved by the Legislature in 2009 to the retirement plan for new hires starting Jan. 1 this year, the state and local government retirement plan, “still far exceeds retirement programs in the private sector or federal system,” he said.

Sandoval said he has the political will to push for such a change. But if there isn’t support for the change in the Legislature, then further reforms to the current system should be implemented, from increasing the minimum age for retirement, restricting the ability to “buy” years of retirement credit and dealing with situations where large salaries in the last years of employment drive up the cost of the retirement benefit.

Reid said he would first like to see some consensus emerge on what needs to be done to ensure the long-term financial health of the public employee retirement system. Getting those with divergent views together to find common ground would be a good first step, he said.

“Somebody’s wrong,” Reid said. “It can’t be one or the other. The positions are just so far apart. I think we need to have more opportunity for those with opposing views to (have those views) vetted. I don’t have a proposal as to what should be done tomorrow.”

Reid said he does believe that government personnel costs are unsustainable and must be addressed.

Any changes made to the retirement system would not immediately resolve the long-term unfunded liability because there are legal impediments to making changes to the plan for current public employees and retirees. The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled the retirement benefit is a constitutionally protected property right.

But Sandoval says changes must be made now to address the unfunded liability into the future.

Montandon agrees.

“We need to begin changing from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan,” he said. “We can’t do it all in one step because of current legal commitments. But you have to begin changing it immediately.

When public employees learn that they would have more control over their retirement funds with such a change, there is less anxiety about making a switch, he said.

“We also have to make it clear there is no hidden agenda,” Montandon said. “The agenda is only to change to a defined contribution plan.”

Rory Reid Takes His Education Reform Plan to Northern Nevada, Rejects Vouchers as “Gimmick”

By Sean Whaley | 5:02 pm March 23rd, 2010

RENO – Democratic candidate for governor Rory Reid took his education reform plan to northern Nevada today, calling for a fundamental change to give principals, teachers and parents a much bigger say in how their schools operate.

Reid said his plan would transition every school in Nevada to an “EDGE” school where community-based decision making would lead to improved student performance. EDGE stands for Economic Development through Great Education.

Reid said in his plan principals would have control over curriculum, staffing and scheduling and discretion to spend more pupil funding on the best programs and services for students. Teachers would have more freedom in the classroom as well.

Reid also said in an interview today with the Nevada News Bureau that he supports open enrollment, whereby parents would be able to move their child to another public school if their local school was failing.

“Parents should be able to vote with their feet if they believe that a school isn’t serving their child’s needs,” he said.

While supporting competition among public schools, Reid said he does not support the idea of voucher schools, where parents would receive tax dollars to enroll their children in private schools.

“I think vouchers, frankly, are a political gimmick,” he said. “They take money from one system and give it to another.”

Reid’s position on vouchers sets him apart from the three major Republican candidates for governor. Governor Jim Gibbons, former North Las Vegas mayor Mike Montandon and former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval have all endorsed the voucher school concept.

Gibbons had asked the Legislature via Proclamation in the special session that concluded March 1 to consider a voucher school proposal, but there was never a bill introduced and lawmakers adjourned without addressing the issue. The request to consider his “scholarship” plan for students, along with several other education-related proposals, was included in an amended Proclamation signed by Gibbons on Feb. 24.

Montandon said today there are challenges in crafting a voucher bill to get around the limitations on using public tax dollars for private schools, but that such challenges should not stop elected officials from trying.

“It’s the only way teachers will ever get paid what they deserve,” he said. “If there is competition with private schools to get the best teachers, we don’t even need to discuss merit pay.”

Reid said his EDGE plan is revenue neutral and would generate additional classroom dollars by reducing the amount spent on administration. He noted that Baltimore’s school reform program was initiated with $165 million in central-office budget cuts, of which $88 million was diverted to local schools.

Reid says his plan, a year in the making, borrows the best elements found in magnet, empowerment, charter and traditional public schools. The key to a school’s success are principals who are given the power to lead, teachers who are freed from arbitrary regulation and parents who are engaged, he said.

Successful schools are also critical to the state’s efforts at economic growth and diversification, Reid said.

“We’re never going to have a strong economy unless we have strong schools,” he said. “They are linked.”

While there might be some opposition to his plan, Reid says Nevada’s public education system is broken and needs to be fixed, and that his plan will accomplish this goal.

Audio file:

MP3 – Rory Reid on EDGE Plan

e-Interview with Montandon

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:33 pm March 8th, 2010

While we’re talking about gubernatorial candidates, freelancer Nancy Dallas did an e-interview with Mike Montandon that you may wish to read.

New Rasmussen Numbers on Nevada’s Gubernatorial Race

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:09 am March 8th, 2010

In case you missed the Rasmussen numbers on the governor match-ups over the weekend (snippets/bullets):

– GOP candidate Brain Sandoval has an 18-point lead over Democrat Rory Reid who trails Sandoval 53% to 35% with 7% preferring another candidate and 5% undecided.  (Last month, Sandoval led Rory by 12 points.)

– North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon has a 42% to 37% lead over Reid.  13% said they like some other candidate and 8% are undecided. (Last poll, Reid led Montandon 40% to 36%.)

– However, Rory still has the edge over Gibbons, 44% to 36%.  In that race, 15% want Someone Else and only 4% are undecided.

– Gender ratios:  Male voters prefer all three GOP candidates over Rory (but by just three points when Gibbons is the candidate). Sandoval leads among female voters, too, but Reid has the edge among women over Gibbons and Montandon (hm!)

– Indy vote note:  Among voters not affiliated with either major party, Reid trails Sandoval but leads both Gibbons and Montandon (hm!!)

– Gibbons:  37% of all voters in Nevada at least “somewhat approve” of the job Gibbons has been doing as governor (9% strongly approve).  61% disapprove of the governor’s performance, including 37% who strongly disapprove.

– Sandoval:  gets “very favorable” views from 17% and “very unfavorable” from 10%.

– Rory Reid, double-whammied by being (1) chairman of the Clark County Board of Commissioners and (2) the offspring of the uber-unpopular Harry Reid, has 34% unfavorables.

– Montandon:  5% have a very favorable opinion of Montandon and 8% view him very unfavorably.

Candidate Filings: Day Five

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:43 pm March 5th, 2010

9:30 AM:

Dale Andrus (R) – Assembly District #33

12:10 PM:

Kenneth McKenna (D) – CD 2

Mike Montandon (R) – Governor (filed in LV)

3:00 PM:

Assembly District # 40 Pete Livermore (R)

Assembly District # 35 John O’Connor  (D)

5:30 PM:

Gregory Nance Dagani (R) – State Controller

Joel Hansen (IAP) – Attorney General

Terry Souminen (R) – US Senate

Arthur Forest Lampitt Jr. (LIB) – Governor