Ruling expected to bring more political ads to state for 2010 races

Nevada televisions, newspapers and radios will no doubt be flooded with even more political ads during the 2010 election season thanks to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.

The impact loosened restrictions on corporate and union spending will most likely be limited to races in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as the limits that apply to state and local offices in Nevada are already more permissive than all but three other states.

"Corporations can come in and spend as much as they want for or against (Sen.) Harry Reid (D-Nev.)," Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said, describing the likely fallout for federal races. "Unions can do the same. It opens the floodgates for the money that is able to be poured into Nevada."

But in campaigns for state office and ballot initiatives it will be business-as-usual in Nevada because unions and corporations already have close to free reign when it comes to political spending. Only Alabama, Wyoming and North Dakota have less restrictive laws than Nevada, according to the Campaign Disclosure Project, a project of University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, Center for Governmental Studies and the California Voter Foundation.

"We have such poor campaign finance laws already I don't anticipate a major impact," Miller said.

Charlie Spies, election law specialist at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in Washington, D.C., and former counsel to the Republican National Committee, says the change will benefit "conservative or pro-business" candidates.

Spies, who is also counsel to U.S. Senate candidate Sue Lowden but not speaking on behalf of the campaign, says lifting restrictions to allow more direct advocacy for or against candidates will not only make politically active companies more aggressive, it could encourage nonactive companies to start spending to influence voters.

"They are more likely to invest in communications they think are effective," he said.

Nevada Democrats slammed the decision and criticized Republicans for praising the new rules.

"The decision was a blow to the rights of ordinary people to compete on a level playing field with special interests and big business, who will seek to sway elections and votes in Congress with their billions," the state party said in a press release.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-477-3861.