Legislators approve out-of-state firm to promote Nevada tourism

CARSON CITY – Legislators took less than a minute Thursday to approve hiring an out-of-state company to promote tourism to Nevada.

Two months ago, members of the Interim Finance Committee had debated for an hour before deciding to delay approval of Burson-Marsteller, an international marketing firm, to carry out the $3 million, two-year campaign.

Democrats on the committee were angry because the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs had decided against hiring a Nevada firm.

Burson-Marsteller has offices worldwide and will run the campaign out of its Santa Monica, Calif., office. It will contract with Las Vegas-based Red Rock Strategies to do some of the work.

Red Rock Strategies represents only Republicans when it conducts political campaigns, however, and most of the legislators on the Interim Finance Committee are Democrats.

None of that background was mentioned Thursday when Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, quickly moved to allow the contract.

Members approved the matter by a voice vote with no apparent opposition.

“Work needs to be done in the future so we can keep track with what is going on,” Carlton said. “I still do have concerns but not to the level I can address in the Interim Finance Commission.”

At the June meeting, Republicans had questioned the authority of the committee to override contract decisions made by state agencies.

Questions have been raised on the constitutionality of the Interim Finance Committee, created in 1969, but its authority has not been challenged in court.

The committee makes decisions when the entire Legislature is not in session.

At the earlier meeting, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, had complained about the decision by the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs to hire an out-of-state advertising firm rather than a Nevada company.

But Tourism and Cultural Affairs Director Claudia Vecchio said there were no Nevada-based agencies with the expertise “to bring to light” her vision of advertising Nevada.

Eleven Nevada companies submitted bids, but R&R Partners, which is responsible for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s famed “What happens here, stays here” campaign, did not.

Vecchio told the committee that the state needs to “work with the best in the business.”

She was hired away from an Ohio tourism agency last November by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3900.


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