Secretary of State Ross Miller has sponsored a number of campaign reforms that are in the public interest. Foremost among them are proposals to make candidate financial records more transparent and crack down on candidates and public officers who accept gifts.
But the Republican Party says the Democrat is a transparent hypocrite for presenting himself as a champion of ethical politics and government. This week, the GOP is rolling out an attack campaign that rips Miller for accepting lavish gifts and accuses him of using a legal loophole to hide assets from the public.
The Republican State Leadership Committee, out of Washington, is behind the campaign. The RSLC is the party arm that works to get Republicans elected to statewide offices (except governor) and legislative seats. It was active in Nevada last year, in the state’s five swing state Senate races, trying to help make up for the party’s pathetic state and county operations.
Miller’s days as secretary of state are about over; limited to two terms, he’s running for attorney general next year. Assuming he wins, pundits expect him to run for governor no later than 2022. He’s an undisputed prince of the Democratic Party, seeking to follow in the footsteps of his father, former Gov. Bob Miller.
Proving that in today’s politics it’s always campaign season, the RSLC is trying to soften Miller up for whoever ends up seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general. The attacks will hit him while his name is in the news, as the 2013 Legislature considers his high-minded reform legislation.
It’s pretty effective stuff. The website, www.millershouseofcards.com, launches Monday. The home page has a casino motif, complete with a neon sign: “Ross Miller’s House of Cards: Built with a Stacked Deck.” The cards at the bottom are labeled “lavish gifts” and “hidden assets,” with links to the secretary of state’s own website. As the state’s chief elections officer, Miller is the keeper of all campaign finance reports and candidate financial disclosures. You can access Miller’s own reports while his mug looks back at you.
Miller’s list of accepted gifts is quite a wish list for the average working stiff. Over the years, Miller has accepted thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of tickets to sporting events, charity dinners and conferences.
“In 2009, Miller received an incredible $5,390 in gifts for attending a conference at the Hilton in Beverly Hills, California,” the website says. “Ross Miller loves to take in a UFC fight or a football game. And because he’s a powerful politician, he can usually find someone else to pay for his tickets. Sometimes he has to settle for $116 to watch the Reno Aces play ball. But his special interests friends (sic) know he loves a good fight. In 2009 and in 2010, Miller received $3,000 per year in tickets and swag for UFC matches.”
Nice! In 2011, he even scored $600 worth of Major League Baseball tickets from All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino. The website lists almost $60,000 in gifts Miller has accepted over the past five years. That’s a grand worth of gifts a month.
For some perspective on that total, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval reported accepting $3,600 worth of gifts over the past four years, none last year. Sandoval took $2,400 worth of airline tickets, received a signed football helmet worth $700 from one of his own campaign consultants, and got $500 worth of National Finals Rodeo apparel from Las Vegas Events.
Under the “hidden assets” card, the website says: “Most Nevadans can’t even afford a second home, let alone afford to hide one. But when you’re a Stanford-educated lawyer and career politician like Ross Miller, you know your way around the rules that the rest of us have to follow. Ross bought a home in Reno and didn’t disclose it on his financial statements for five years. But because of a special loophole in state laws, it’s all perfectly legal. Like a true 1%-er, Ross is a master at finding loopholes that are so big, you can drive a (second) house through them.”
Several pages of Miller’s Senate Bill 49 are dedicated to defining gifts and putting new restrictions not only on candidates and public officers accepting them, but their staffs and families as well. And it empowers his office to investigate wrongdoers. Which begs the question: If it’s such great policy going forward, why is it Miller time anytime there’s a big fight, football game or gala in Nevada?
After the website launches, the RSLC will send out several mailers, launch social media and make phone calls.
“Our aim is to show just how flawed a candidate Ross Miller is,” said Matt Walter, managing director of the RSLC. “He can’t sweep these indiscretions under the rug.”
Miller’s bills are good, even if some of his behavior is bad. And it’s quite an indictment of the state Republican Party’s effectiveness that the national arm had to swoop in to initiate a hard-hitting campaign built off public records. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s machine dumps all over Nevada Republicans on a nearly hourly basis through email and social media, and the closest thing to a party response is the anonymous Twitter account NVDemsFAIL, with its 31 followers.
Given how well Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller fared by hammering Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley over ethics issues in last year’s U.S. Senate race, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing about Miller’s gifts all the way through November 2014.
Glenn Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Review-Journal editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.