Campaign complaint hits back at attack ads in AG race

A Nevada-registered political action committee on Friday filed an “elections integrity” complaint against the State Government Leadership Foundation for running a $500,000 TV and Internet ad campaign against Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat running for attorney general.

The civil complaint seeking financial penalties and an injunction to halt the ad campaign is dated March 17, and was filed by Nevadans for a Brighter Future and attorney Matt Griffin, Miller’s former deputy secretary of elections.

The complaint says the contents of the ad constitute “express advocacy” under Nevada law and because the foundation has spent money on the campaign it should have registered with the secretary of state’s office as a political action committee.

The foundation also failed to file its latest contribution report, due Jan. 15, the complaint said.

“We are calling for the Nevada secretary of state and the Nevada attorney general to investigate SGLF and bring them out of the shadows,” said Dave Kallas, chairman of Nevadans for a Brighter Future.

Last week, Miller himself complained about the campaign and threatened to pursue “every legal option” to force the foundation to reveal its donors.

The ad slams Miller for accepting $60,000 in freebies to attend UFC fights, shows on the Strip and a Beverly Hills conference and accuses him of living the high life. Miller reported all the gifts on financial disclosure statements.

The nonprofit foundation, however, doesn’t have to disclose its donors because it is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a “social welfare” organization. It also can receive unlimited contributions. The group is aligned with several GOP organizations, including the Republican Attorneys General Association, and typically targets Democrats.

Matthew Walter, executive director of the foundation, discounted the complaint.

“Clearly, Miller and his cronies want to shut down free speech about his high flying lifestyle and record of hypocrisy,” Walter said in a statement. “Miller has already shown he’ll go to great lengths — even refusing to follow Nevada’s transparency laws until we took him to court — to hide information about his activities. Nevadans deserve to have a leader with integrity, not have Ross Miller use front groups to try and intimidate us from exposing his party boy lifestyle.”

The secretary of state has a record of fighting third-party groups that protect identities of donors or fail to file paperwork to operate in Nevada. But last fall Miller lost a key case he filed in Nevada against Americans for Prosperity, a group partly funded by David and Charles Koch.

A judge in Carson City ruled on Oct. 17 that AFP wasn’t required to register with the secretary of state’s office or file campaign contribution and expense forms. The case involved AFP fliers attacking then-Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, who successfully ran for the state Senate, for backing a renewable energy bill. The fliers didn’t call for voters to reject Atkinson or vote for his opponent, however.

Similarly, the 30-second ad by the State Government Leadership Foundation doesn’t call for voting against Miller and doesn’t mention his main Republican opponent, attorney Adam Laxalt.

The ad can be seen at bit.ly/1npDr2v and the website is millershouseofcards.com.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.