Posts Tagged ‘Sen. Harry Reid’

Nevada Think Tank Publishes “Piglet Book” Citing Government Waste

By Sean Whaley | 2:01 am October 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – From double-dipping employees to the questionable use of credit cards, the newest edition of the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s “piglet book” released today offers highlights of recent questionable government agency actions.

The Nevada Piglet Book 2012” is authored by Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, a libertarian think tank based in Las Vegas. The third edition comes out as lawmakers prepare to return to the capital for the 2013 legislative session.

In the 40-page report, Lawrence also reviews and raises questions about recent political and policy developments in Nevada, including the successful effort by Gov. Brian Sandoval and others to lure Apple to Reno, and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s efforts to promote green energy projects in the state using taxpayer subsidies.

“While Reid regularly trumpets these deals as ways to ‘create jobs’ in the state, these deals – it’s clear upon review – are really about transferring wealth from taxpayers and electric ratepayers to campaign donors and allied politicians,” Lawrence writes in the report.

He cites the work of fellow NPRI staff in criticizing the effort: “Since 2009, with Reid’s backing, over $1.3 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies has gone into renewable-energy contracts in Nevada. Yet the projects those subsidies fund are projected to create only 288 permanent jobs in the state – a cost to taxpayers of $4.6 million per job.”

Reid has strongly supported green energy development in his Senate career. His website says: “Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change. As the Senate Majority Leader, I am working on building a clean energy future that will help provide Americans safe, reliable, and affordable supplies of clean energy.”

As to the decision by Apple to build a data center in the Reno area after receiving large tax breaks, Lawrence said in the report: “To help it win the tax breaks it sought, Apple hired lobbyist and Sandoval adviser Greg Ferraro to represent the company before the Governor’s Office of Economic Development – where insider Ferraro was already under contract to perform public relations work for $200 per hour.”

This relationship was reported by the Las Vegas Sun in August. Ferraro told the Sun he personally represented only Apple in the dealings that netted the company $89 million in tax breaks, not the state as well.

While some of the information in the Piglet Report comes from reporters and others looking into questions at all levels of government, many issues cited are uncovered by government agencies themselves through audits.

“Most people don’t follow audits, they don’t read them, so they don’t know what they say, and the problems that some of the cities and counties and state have had,” Lawrence said in a telephone interview in advance of the release of the report. “So this is kind of a nice way to make that information more easily accessible to the public.”

The audits are an important source of information on the activities of government agencies, but not all entities, including most counties and many cities, do not have an internal audit function, he said. Getting local governments to invest in such reviews would be a benefit to the taxpayers, Lawrence said.

Lawrence also cites a Nevada News Bureau story in the report regarding some questionable use of welfare cash grants, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), by recipients.

“Over a seven-month period in 2011, Nevada TANF funds were withdrawn in 35 different states, Guam and the District of Columbia,” he said. “About a hundred withdrawals took place in liquor stores. Others took place in casinos and slot parlors. Some occurred in tourist destinations like New Orleans, Hawaii, Angel Stadium, Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm and Pier 39 in San Francisco. While withdrawals of this nature were a minority, they indicate that at least some welfare payments went to fund indulgences – not necessities.”

The book, and other transparency efforts by NPRI, does have an effect on policy makers, Lawrence said. One example was the successful push for electronic reporting of campaign contribution and expense reports by candidates and elected officials, which was sought by others as well in the 2011 session including Secretary of State Ross Miller.

“These transparency issues especially are things that resonate with people on every end of the political spectrum,” Lawrence said. “So it’s easy for the public to get behind each of these measures. It’s perhaps a little more difficult for lawmakers who may not want to make things quite as transparent.”

But for everyone else the changes are clearly a benefit, he said.

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Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, says the report presents an easy-to-read review of questionable government activity:

102412Lawrence1 :24 to the public.”

Lawrence says people of all political persuasions support transparency efforts:

102412Lawrence3 :27 to our benefit.”

 

 

Heller Says Online Gaming Bill Should Not Be Political Football In Run-up To General Election

By Sean Whaley | 3:33 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller today said online gaming legislation critical to the future of Nevada’s economy should be removed from the world of politics so partisan fights don’t “poison the water” for the bill’s future in Congress.

Heller, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said the legislation is too important to be subjected to political fights between himself and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid between now and the Nov. 6 general election.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Reid earlier this month blamed Heller for failing to line up Republican support in the Senate for the measure.

Heller, R-Nev., is locked in a fierce battle with Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., to retain his Senate seat.

“So I believe at the end of the day, we’ll have the 10-15 (GOP) votes that we’re going to need in order to get a bill like this passed,” Heller said. “But we don’t need the politics playing in it today. And we don’t need to poison the water on this also.

“Let’s get the politics out of this,” he said. “Let’s put an important issue like Internet poker to the sidelines during this campaign because it isn’t helping the process. And unfortunately in this case, the process is just as important as the bill itself.”

Heller predicted that after the election, he and Reid will again work together on the Internet poker bill.

“The Internet poker bill was never going to pass before the election,” he said. “It’s going to happen. And I’m still committed, as is Sen. Reid, to get a bill passed.

“When this is all said and done, both sides are going to come together and say, ‘OK, let’s do what’s best for Nevada,’ ” Heller said.

Berkley also criticized Heller on the online gaming issue in a statement released earlier this month: “Once again, Senator Dean Heller has failed to deliver for Nevada’s hardworking families who were counting on online poker legislation to boost the state’s struggling economy and to create thousands of good paying jobs.

“Perhaps Senator Heller shouldn’t have spent so much time cozying up to Wall Street special interests by protecting tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas and more time doing what Nevada families expect of their elected leaders: putting people back to work,” she said.

During the interview, Heller also criticized Berkley for not spending more time in Northern Nevada in her Senate race, including failing to make any recent appearances on the NewsMakers program. Her last appearance was on Feb. 1, 2011.

“Well, as much time as I spend in Southern Nevada I think she should be spending some time up here in Northern Nevada,” he said.

Berkley has made several campaign appearances in Northern and rural Nevada, including stops in Churchill County over the Labor Day weekend. She also attended an event in Reno on Saturday.

When asked about Berkley’s ongoing ethics problems regarding the preservation of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada and whether her actions inappropriately benefited her physician husband, Heller did not hesitate to weigh in.

“She was ethically challenged before,” he said. “She was counsel, she was a lawyer, and she told her boss at this point that you’ve got to buy off county commissioners, you’ve got to buy off judges, you’ve got to hire their children into your business in order to get favorable treatment from those judges and from those county commissioners.

“Now she’s in the United States Congress and her activity hasn’t changed,” Heller said.

Heller was referencing a memo written by Berkley to her then Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson that first surfaced in 1998 during her first bid for Congress. The memo has been the subject of a political ad critical of Berkley in her Senate race.

In response to the Crossroads GPS ad, the Berkley campaign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August that the episode was old news and has been overshadowed by Berkley winning re-election six times.

“Leave it to George W. Bush’s political director, Karl Rove, to dredge up something from two decades ago that voters made a judgment on during Shelley’s very first campaign for Congress,” campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, told the newspaper.

In the NewsMakers interview, Heller described her activities when working for Adelson as “trying to bribe judges and county commissioners” and the current controversy as “lining her own pockets as a member of the United States Congress.”

Heller was asked why he accepted $10,000 from Republican Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s annual list of the “most corrupt members” of Congress as is Berkley with a “dishonorable mention” for a second year in a row.

Heller sidestepped the question, responding by saying, “how hard do you have to work to be on the most corrupt list two years in a row?”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Dean Heller says the Internet poker legislation is too important to be a political football in the November election:

092512Heller1 :24 the bill itself.”

Heller says Berkley’s ethics problems go back many years:

092512Heller2 :22 activity hasn’t changed.”

 

 

Rep. Amodei Says Any Green Energy Policy That Pushes Utility Rates Higher Wrong For Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 4:05 pm August 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said today that any “green energy” policy that leads to higher electric bills for Nevadans who are looking for work in tough economic times is the wrong energy policy for the state.

“Nobody is anti-green,” he said. “We struggle to compete with the cost of a kilowatt hour when we talk about economic development. And economic development has something to do with jobs.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

If federal money is going to be spent on research and development to make wind, solar and geothermal energy more competitive that’s one issue, Amodei said.

“But if those, when they get done, go to sell into the grid and that increases rates, especially right now when things are they way they are in Nevada, and competition for sustainable living wage jobs is what it is in the Inter-mountain West, I think that’s the wrong energy policy,” he said.

Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District representative made his comments to Sam Shad in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program in response to recent comments from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid saying that NV Energy’s Reid Gardner coal plant in Clark County should be shut down. Reid has also urged NV Energy to support a $5 billion solar project that a Chinese company ENN Mojave Energy, wants to build near Laughlin.

An NV Energy official told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week that the utility has no plans to purchase more renewable energy at this time because it has exceeded the state’s requirement that 15 percent of its portfolio originate from green energy sources.

Amodei also questioned the effectiveness of federal financial support for green energy projects.

“If you go to the Department of Energy and you look in the last few years, they provided $1.5 billion, Sam, $1.5 billion in loan guarantees, to those projects in Nevada,” he said. “And while it’s great news for all the construction folks, I get that, in terms of the long-term jobs, it has created 137 long-term jobs throughout the state. That’s $22 million a job, Sam, in loan guarantees.”

Amodei appeared to get his math wrong, however, with a closer estimate being $11 million a job based on 137 jobs and loan guarantees of $1.5 billion.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute last week released its own analysis of the renewable energy sector in Nevada and found that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield 288 permanent, full-time jobs, or $4.6 million per job.

Amodei said Gov. Brian Sandoval could create more jobs in Nevada if given a $1.5 billion bank to do so.

Reid was also successful several years ago in getting NV Energy to terminate the construction of a coal-fired plant near Ely in eastern Nevada. NV Energy announced in 2009 it was stopping work on the $5 billion project. Two coal plants had been planned for the area by the utility.

Amodei said the project was able to meet all environmental and air quality requirements.

“These folks have complied with all of the objective regulations and permitting requirements, and you’ve got somebody (Reid) coming in, going, ‘forget about the rules, I’m going to impose my will,’ ” Amodei said.

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Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says any plan requiring Nevadans to pay more in utility costs to promote green energy is the wrong policy for the state:

081312Amodei1 :30 wrong energy policy.”

Amodei says long-term job creation with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees has been disappointing:

081312Amodei2 :23 in loan guarantees.”

Amodei says the proposed coal fire plants had met all air quality requirements:

081312Amodei3 :09 impose my will.’ “

 

 

Clean Energy Summit Sparks Political Events, Debate Over Government Role In Renewables

By Sean Whaley | 2:10 am August 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – With U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s 5th annual National Clean Energy Summit set to kick off today in Las Vegas, the debate over alternative energy development and the government’s role in its future rages on.

The purpose of the day-long event as described on the website is to, “once again bring together clean energy visionaries and leaders, public officials, business executives and entrepreneurs, investors, students, and the media to discuss how to empower the public with tools to promote the clean energy economy; increasing jobs and our energy independence.”

But the role of the federal government in the development of alternative energy has become a major political topic in this presidential election year, with critics pointing to the  closure in July of the solar manufacturing company Amonix in North Las Vegas 14 months after opening.

The company had been awarded $6 million in solar manufacturing tax credits to build the facility, but the company said the credits were never used. The closing was used to criticize President Obama and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is locked in a tough Senate race with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. But Politico noted in an article that the Bush Administration first backed the Amonix project in 2007.

Federal funding of Nevada renewable projects called into question

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, in an article published today in the Nevada Journal, examined the state’s renewable energy sector and found that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield just 288 permanent, full-time jobs.

“That’s an initial cost of over $4.6 million per job,” writes Kyle Gillis, a reporter for the NPRI publication. “Despite this, Sen. Reid continues to hype Nevada as the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewable energy,’ even though the renewable energy subsidized with federal dollars and mandated under Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard costs consumers and NV Energy, Nevada’s publicly regulated utility company, up to four times as much as fossil fuels, such as natural gas.”

Gillis said the few clean-energy jobs in the state of Nevada are still precarious even with government support, pointing to Nevada Geothermal Power, a federally subsidized green-energy firm in Nevada. Auditors are raising questions about whether that firm is going to fail, he said.

As of last October, Nevada Geothermal Power had 22 employees in Nevada, and, according to the New York Times, had received $145 million in federal subsidies – composed of a loan guarantee of nearly $79 million for its Blue Mountain geothermal project and at least $66 million in grants to the company itself.

The Times called the company a “politically connected clean energy start-up that has relied heavily on an Obama administration loan guarantee,” and said it “… is now facing financial turmoil.”

Sen. Reid’s position in support of alternative energy and federal assistance is unwavering

Reid says on his Senate website: “Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change.”

He points to the funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for helping Nevada become the nation’s renewable energy leader.

“Through the Recovery Act, Nevada has received over $550 million for a range of energy efficiency, renewable, and weatherization projects as well as hundreds of millions in low-cost financing for transmission and renewable energy deployment projects,” Reid said.

New federally-backed Nevada alternative energy project announced

On Monday Reid was joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Nevada Rural Development State Director Sarah Adler to announce a major renewable energy project in Northern Nevada.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced the $105 million loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC to finance development of a facility to convert municipal solid waste into advanced biofuels. The project is expected to help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, relieve pressure on existing and future landfills, and stimulate economic growth in Northern Nevada through job creation.

The Nevada plant is expected to create an estimated 430 jobs during construction and 53 permanent jobs in Storey County, 20 miles east of Reno. Once operational, the plant is expected to convert 147,000 tons of processed municipal solid waste into over 10 million gallons of advanced biofuels annually using a two-part thermo-chemical process.

“The time is now to embrace alternative American-produced feedstocks that support our nation’s energy independence, provide jobs in rural areas, and support the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” Vilsack said. “At USDA we are focused on the production of renewable energy from a wide variety of non-food sources, including waste, algae, wood, and switchgrass as a long-term solution to America’s energy needs.”

Alternative energy debate also focuses on oil company tax breaks and Nevada Senate race

The politics of energy development prompted another event Monday, this one aimed at Heller and his history of supporting tax breaks for oil companies.

Sponsored by ProgressNow Nevada, activists gathered near Heller’s Las Vegas office to bring attention to his record on the issue.

Heller in March shifted his position to some extent by urging Congress to close some oil company tax loopholes to help reduce the price of gasoline. He did so in an amendment to S. 2204 called the Gas Price Relief Act. It would, in part, close oil and gas tax loopholes for the major integrated oil companies and provide a permanent reduction in the gas tax.

Berkley has been using Heller’s past votes to maintain the tax subsidies as a campaign issue in the Senate race. An ad running now in northern Nevada, paid for by the League of Conservation Voters, points out that Heller voted “nine times” for Big Oil tax breaks.

The Heller campaign called the ad “payback” to Berkley for supporting the league in voting against a bill to transfer BLM land to Lyon County.

“This ad is a tired, over the top attack,” said Chandler Smith, Heller for Senate spokeswoman, in a statement last month. “Dean Heller actually proposed a bill that would end tax loopholes for big oil companies. Shelley Berkley, on the other hand, voted for a national energy tax that would raise prices at the pump and is personally invested in big oil companies.”

Electricity from coal also part of the discussion

Today, a coalition of health advocates, environmentalists, and members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes is set to rally outside the conference to call on NV Energy to transition from coal fired power plants to clean energy.

The coalition also plans to call attention to NV Energy’s Reid Gardner coal plant operating 50 miles from Las Vegas and next to the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation. The groups allege that air pollution from the coal plant results in $28 million in public health costs every year.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes wants the coal plant shut down.

NV Energy officials say even though the plant was built in the 1960s, “it has undergone extensive technology improvements and is among the cleanest coal-burning facilities in the nation.”

Rep. Berkley Launches Two Ads In Ongoing Fight With Sen. Heller On Medicare, Ethics Issues

By Sean Whaley | 6:12 pm July 12th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Shelley Berkley for Senate campaign today launched two new ads, one criticizing Sen. Dean Heller for voting to “essentially end Medicare” and a second telling viewers that her work to preserve a kidney transplant program was only aimed at helping Nevadans.

One ad focuses on Heller’s two votes in support of a plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would have kept Medicare in place for people 55 or older but changed it for others by privatizing it and relying on government subsidies.

The other is a response to a decision by the House Ethics Committee announced last week to establish an investigative subcommittee to determine whether she inappropriately furthered the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner by working to preserve a kidney transplant program at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas in 2008.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

In the ad, Berkley notes that the complaint about her activities was filed by the Nevada State Republican Party.

The ad says in part: “The Las Vegas Sun says Berkley’s advocacy wasn’t driven for personal gain. It was aimed at helping Nevadans.” It also mentions Heller’s two votes to “end Medicare as we know it.”

Heller launched an ad focusing on the ethics allegations against Berkley earlier this week.

The new Berkley ad campaign was first reported by the Las Vegas Sun.

Heller, a Republican appointed to the Senate in April 2011, and Berkley, a longtime Democratic Congresswoman representing Las Vegas, are locked in a tough battle for the Senate seat.

An announcement today from the Berkley campaign  commented on the new ads.

“While Dean Heller continues to look out for his special interest friends on Wall Street by voting to essentially end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance company bureaucrats, Shelley Berkley is a champion for Nevada seniors and patients  – working tirelessly to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, Berkley for Senate communications director. “This fall, Nevadans will understand the clear choice they have in this election between a fighter for the middle-class like Shelley Berkley and someone like Dean Heller, who would throw seniors under the bus to protect taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies and corporations that ship jobs overseas.”

In response to the ads, Chandler Smith, Heller for Senate spokeswoman, said: “How about the truth, Congresswoman? For the first time since 2009, a bipartisan committee of five Democrats and five Republicans unanimously decided Congresswoman Berkley’s actions required a formal investigation on the basis of a non-partisan report. In the very same ad she asks for the ‘truth,’ Shelley Berkley desperately tries to shift blame and repeats PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year over and over again. No matter how much she may want to distract from her own problems, Congresswoman Berkley’s ethics troubles do not give her a free pass to lie to Nevadans.”

In a media event today to highlight the fact that early voting for the November general election is 100 days away, U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said Berkley worked to help Nevadan’s in need of care. He mentioned his own experiences with his wife Landra who has undergone treatment for breast cancer.

“I think this is going to be fine for Shelley,” he said. “She’s a terrific candidate. She is a person who has always fought for Nevadans. And certainly she should fight for these people who are sick and in danger of dying.”

He also responded to a question about whether Berkley adequately disclosed that her husband was affiliated with the kidney transplant program. Questions about her work to preserve the program were first raised by the New York Times in a report published in September 2011.

Berkley and other members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation were able to preserve the program. But the New York Times said her efforts, “also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.”

Reid said anyone who lived in Southern Nevada knew that Berkley’s husband was a nephrologist.

“Well I think you will find she didn’t violate any rules whatsoever,” Reid said. “They can look into this more and I’m sure they will, but I don’t think there is a problem with that.”

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Audio:

Sen. Harry Reid says Berkley was right to fight for the kidney transplant program:

071212Reid1 :15 danger of dying.”

Reid says any ethics review will find no rules violations:

071212Reid2 :11 problem with that.”

 

Sen. Harry Reid Talks Tough On Deficit

By Andrew Doughman | 7:50 pm January 18th, 2011

Driving down debt and reining in federal spending might not be two things people normally associate with Sen. Harry Reid, but that’s what he spent most of this time addressing on television tonight.

“We cannot sustain the spending of this country,” the Democrat said. “We cannot wind up being a Greece or an Ireland and default on our debt.”

Reid spoke on journalist Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program, where he highlighted the budget surplus he helped create under the Clinton administration. He also downplayed a 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling under the Bush administration.

Congress will first have to vote whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, a measure that used to spark no controversy. A rejection to raise the debt ceiling could endanger the country’s ability to borrow money, and could even cause it to default.

Reid said that Congress would first have to vote to lift the debt ceiling above its current $14.3 trillion limit before it embarks on any serious debt reduction.

He said, however, the he is optimistic that Republicans and Democrats can agree on how to drive down the debt.

Reid’s television appearance marked the end of a busy day in Nevada for the Senator. He used the visit to announce his priorities for the new session of Congress.

As reported in the Las Vegas Sun, Reid listed creating clean energy jobs, improving Nevada’s education system, modernizing transportation infrastructure and investing in small businesses among his priorities.

Earlier in the day, he toured a Las Vegas solar panel manufacturing plant and spoke about green jobs and renewable energy.

“We’re going to be able to be energy independent within the immediate future,” he said.

Reid noted that Nevada will be well-poised to export its renewable energy by 2020, when California has established it must supply one-third of its power from renewable energy sources.

Reid also said that he hopes Congress will tackle comprehensive immigration reform and make modifications to the health care law.

“The (health care) bill we passed is not perfect,” he said. “We have a lot of things we can do to help make it better.”

He recommended removing some of the reporting obligations the new law mandated for small businesses, which he said were too burdensome.

On the education front, Reid implored Gov. Brian Sandoval to “step back from election statements” and make tough choices and fund education properly.