POLITICAL EYE: Chamber of Commerce executives express frustration with D.C. trip

Executives from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce made their annual trek to Washington last week. With the city continuing to struggle, the trip took on an added sense of urgency as business leaders looked for some message of hope.

They went home at the end of the week with no promises, and also not very encouraged, according to the trip leader.

"We did hear that things are just not moving, there is such a logjam of movement," said Michael Bonner, the chamber's board chairman. "No promises or commitments were given. It seems to be subject to a bigger process, and we are all stuck in this new process.

"It is frustrating," Bonner, a corporate finance attorney at Greenberg Traurig, said in an interview before returning to Las Vegas. "Our country has so many challenges, and to think that we are caught in this gridlock and that there are so many things that need to be done, and to hear from people on the ground that so many things are locked up, it is very frustrating.

"As a member of the chamber of commerce, I know that so many of our members are struggling and just holding on by their fingertips," Bonner said. "To know that while the gridlock remains locked up we could be losing businesses, and people's lives could be affected, and job creation goes out the window, it makes you wonder."

High on the chamber's agenda is trying to get Congress to formally designate a route between Las Vegas and Phoenix as part of the interstate highway system, the first step toward converting U.S. highways 93 and 95 into a new north-south Interstate 11 and a possible engine for expanded regional commerce.

A highway reauthorization bill is in the works, but as with many matters, money is a concern, along with the idea that something appearing to aid a specific state could run afoul of earmark rules.

The business leaders met with each of the five Nevada lawmakers on a range of issues, and also Phoenix-area Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., about the highway specifically.

Interstate 11 "is being discussed but there is nothing of substance at this point," said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. "The Nevada delegation is supportive, but it is the pay-fors that has everybody tied in knots."

Bonner said the chamber also underscored its endorsement of a bill by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., that seeks to make U.S. travel easier for international visitors by setting a 12-day standard for processing visas.

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Things are starting to take shape for President Barack Obama's latest visit to Las Vegas on Oct. 24.

Obama will hold a midday fundraiser at the Bellagio, with the proceeds to benefit his re-election campaign, according to Democratic officials.

The White House has not yet released further details of the trip, which likely will include an "official" event in addition to the political one.

In his travels this fall, Obama has used local backdrops to promote his job creation initiatives, and to criticize Republicans he says have been dragging their feet in response.

Obama visited Las Vegas three times in 2010, most recently last Oct. 22, when he campaigned for Sen. Harry Reid's re-election.

A Democratic official said Friday that Reid will be prominent at Obama's fundraiser at the Bellagio.

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Rep. Mark Amodei accumulated $106,000 in debt in winning the Sept. 13 special election to Congress, according to a report filed late last week at the Federal Election Commission.

Running a debt is not unusual for congressional candidates, especially victors who can wipe them out with a few well-timed fundraisers.

But the calendar for Amodei is condensed because he arrived in Congress in midsession and only 13 months before Election Day on Nov. 6, 2012.

It is even more condensed if he draws an opponent in the June 12, 2012, primary.

According to the FEC, Amodei raised $750,419 and spent $691,314 during the campaign to succeed now-Sen. Dean Heller in the 2nd Congressional District. He had $59,360 cash on hand, which could be applied to debt reduction.

Amodei, who beat Democrat Kate Marshall by 58 percent to 36 percent, was aided by more than $800,000 spent by the national Republican Party and conservative political action committees.

Closing the books on her campaign, Marshall, who is Nevada's state treasurer, raised $811,425 and spent $764,695, according to the FEC. She finished with no debt.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.