Lowden told of trouble at Clark County GOP

Nevada state-level Republican Party officials knew about allegations of financial mismanagement in the Clark County Republican Party as long ago as 2007 but didn't step in to correct problems, despite pleas to help.

Then-state party chairwoman Sue Lowden, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said she asked another official to look into the matter but didn't pursue it further because it was "not a major problem."

An e-mail exchange dated Nov. 29, 2007, shows that Lisa Heck, wife of former state Sen. Joe Heck, sought Lowden's help unraveling allegations of mismanagement of Clark County Republican Party funds. Joe Heck is now a candidate for the congressional seat held by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

"It has been brought to my attention that there are also many discrepancies regarding check writing and accounts, which are still going on," Lisa Heck wrote to Lowden, according to the exchange. Heck didn't return calls for comment but Lowden was sent and agreed to discuss the e-mails.

At the time some county party members were concerned about the possibility expenses had been approved without following the proper process and that records were unaccounted for.

A laptop computer and documents went missing around the time of the e-mail exchange between Heck and Lowden. Although the materials were thought to be stolen, it wasn't reported to police until a Nov. 23 report this year by then-vice chairman Bob Ruckman. Former county chairman Bernie Zadrowski has since said the theft should have been reported sooner.

Lisa Heck worried in the 2007 e-mail exchange that calls for an audit would be reported to the public. Joe Heck was running for re-election in 2008, a campaign he ultimately lost.

"Also, at a time when Joe has a major bull's eye on his back, taking help from the county party if things aren't being done by the book opens him up for guilt by association," she wrote, according to the text in the e-mail.

Lowden said in an interview she was reluctant to step in because as state chairwoman she didn't want to act like "big government" by telling county officials how to run their shop.

Although delegates who elect state-level officials come out of county conventions, county-level administration is independent of state administration.

"I did not want to get in the middle of something; I have no control over what the county does, none," Lowden said.

Lowden did say she would ask then-state Sen. Bob Beers and another party official to look into the matter and urged Lisa Heck to suggest Joe Heck do the same.

"It would be very powerful to have them as well as Sen. Heck demand answers," Lowden wrote.

Beers, treasurer for Lowden's U.S. Senate campaign, said he never looked into the issue despite the reported request. He said he wasn't interested in donating time it would take to conduct an investigation for a county organization that "barely raised enough donations to make payroll."

At the county level, Beers says there are typically more positions than there are people to fill them, which can undermine efforts to adhere consistently to sound organizational practices.

"It is not a selective process and attracts some people for whom even the simplest policy is shrouded in deep mystery," Beers said.

Although Lowden acknowledged having meetings on the subject and talked of assigning Beers to investigate, she downplayed the seriousness of the situation.

"I don't see this as any major problem or any major incident," Lowden said. "We are talking about a very small amount of money here. We are not talking about anything of any consequence."

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.