Ranch family's case fires up Heller speech

A judge’s ruling that federal officials had interfered with a Nevada ranch family’s water rights and grazing permits sparked U.S. Sen. Dean Heller into an angry speech last week against government overreach.

Heller used the long-running case involving the Hage family of Nye County as a jumping off spot in an address that also touched on reported abuses by the National Security Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.

“The American people will not stand for an all-powerful government that ignores their constitutional rights,” the Nevada Republican said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It is long past time that we end this culture of government bullying and harassment.”

What prompted Heller was a 104-page opinion issued on May 24 by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones in the case involving the Hage family and their Pine Creek Ranch near Tonopah.

The case arose out of allegations against Wayne N. Hage and the estate of his father, Wayne Hage Sr., who died in 2006.

In what is just a chapter in a feud that dates to the days of the Sagebrush Rebellion, the government charged the Hage family, along with rancher Benjamin Colvin, with trespassing by grazing cattle without a permit on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land.

But in the course of a 2012 trial, Jones uncovered evidence of a government conspiracy against the ranchers. The agencies invited others to obtain grazing permits on Hage allotments and they applied for water rights in an attempt to interfere with the family’s water rights, according to an account of the case by Nevada blogger Tom Mitchell.

“The government’s actions over the past two decades shocks the conscience of the court,” Jones wrote in his opinion.

In his speech, Heller echoed the judge.

“Whether it is the IRS targeting groups for their political views, the NSA confiscating mass amounts of private data, or the federal government interfering with property rights, the American people are fed up with this laundry list of examples of the federal government blatantly disrespecting their constitutional liberties,” he said.



Gov. Brian Sandoval last week talked up state Sen. Mark Hutchison as his choice for a running mate when he seeks re-election in 2014.

“I’ve known Sen. Hutchison for some time,” Sandoval said. “I thought he had a fabulous legislative session. He has demonstrated leadership and the ability to work across the aisle.”

Sandoval said Hutchison will be a strong candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2014 election.

Hutchison announced his plans on July 8. Within a short time Sandoval’s campaign issued a statement in support of his candidacy despite other Republicans who have indicated an interest in the job, including former U.S. Senate candidate Sue Lowden.

“Obviously anybody can choose to be a candidate to run for lieutenant governor,” Sandoval said. “Mr. Hutchison is just someone simply to me who has demonstrated the ability to be an extremely strong lieutenant governor.”

Sandoval said there were discussions initiated both by himself and Hutchison about his potential run.

“We had that conversation and I chatted with him to see if he would be interested in it,” Sandoval said. “I don’t think it was any big secret that he had thought about it.”

But it was up to Hutchison to make the decision with his family about whether to run for statewide office, he said.

Sandoval said he did not have a conversation with other potential GOP lieutenant governor candidates before endorsing Hutchison.

“Because to my knowledge there is not another announced candidate for lieutenant governor,” he said.

Sandoval did not directly answer a question about whether having Hutchison as lieutenant governor would make him more comfortable in considering his political future in 2016 when U.S. Sen. Harry Reid is up for re-election.

“I am focused singularly on re-election,” he said. “I love my job as governor. It’s an honor and a privilege to do it.”

Sandoval also did not directly answer a question about whether he would serve a full four years if elected to a second term.

“I will be finishing this four-year term and seeking another four years after that,” he said.


Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.