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Adelson an easy touch for GOP

Which political party is going to get the most mileage out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s stop in Las Vegas this week?

The private luncheon in Summerlin that Cheney will attend Thursday is a fundraiser for the state Republican Party. But Democrats hope to use the event to rouse their faithful, too.

An e-mail went out to party members on Friday inviting them to protest across the street from the gated community of Cheney’s host, Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, hoping to catch the unpopular veep on his way to and from the event.

It’s free to protest, but you don’t get lunch; at $250, it’s a relatively cheap political meal, but who wants to hang out with Cheney these days? One well-known Republican operative said Friday, “I don’t know anyone who’s planning on being there. I saw it (the invitation) in my inbox and deleted it.”

Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign and Nevada Republican Rep. Jon Porter will both be tied up in Washington and, alas, unable to attend, their staffers said.

Cheney’s not the only personage who will be seeking Nevada conservatives’ dollars this week with the help of Adelson, America’s third-richest man.

On Tuesday, Newt Gingrich is scheduled to address the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, at The Venetian. Tickets to that dinner range from $150 for a single plate to $10,000 for full VIP treatment for 12.

On Thursday, the action is back at The Venetian when presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani throws a fundraiser hosted by Adelson. It’s $250 to attend the former New York mayor’s reception. If you commit to raise $25,000, you get dinner, a photo … and cigars.

AG ON TOUR

It looks awfully like a Nevada campaign schedule: “kitchen table” audiences in places like Pioche and Battle Mountain; a talk at a high school in Ely; a tour of a women’s shelter in Elko. But it’s not that.

It also looks awfully like the tour Gov. Jim Gibbons took last month, widely seen as a way of returning to his comfort zone with the rural voters who are his traditional base of support. But it’s not that either.

Rather, it’s the “rural road trip” of Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, starting this morning in Alamo and finishing Thursday in Lovelock.

Cortez Masto is widely seen as a rising Democratic star and near-inevitable future gubernatorial candidate. But the tour in question isn’t about politics, said her spokeswoman, Nicole Moon.

“She’s not running for anything,” Moon said. “Our purpose is not to go out and get votes. It’s to get out and hear what issues people in the rural communities face, and tell them what our office has to offer.”

The tour also was not inspired by Gibbons, Moon said. “This was something we talked about and put in our communications plan when she (Cortez Masto) came on in January.”

Cortez Masto is the third attorney general Moon has served. She worked for Republican Brian Sandoval for six months, and for his replacement, Republican George Chanos, after Sandoval was appointed to the federal bench. They never did anything like this, Moon said.

“The furthest from the office either of them got was George Chanos took a trip to Yucca Mountain,” she said.

DOMAIN GAMES

Dan Burdish, a Republican political operative who splits his time between Nevada and Florida these days, is constantly dismayed at how few political campaigns are Web savvy.

After prosecutor Robert Daskas announced his intention to run for Congress, Burdish went online and found that Web addresses such as robertdaskas.com and daskas2008.com were up for grabs. Just to make a point, he spent about $150 buying nine domain names: the .com, .net and .org addresses for robertdaskas, bobdaskas and daskas2008.

Burdish, a former executive director of the state Republican Party, said he’s done the same thing to Republicans in the past, “because I know that people aren’t out there telling candidates to do this, and it’s just crazy.”

Burdish said he would sell if asked.

Burdish didn’t buy daskasforcongress, but a company called PoliticalWebNames.com did, and is offering it for rent.

Daskas’ campaign declined to comment.

The incumbent Daskas is challenging, Rep. Jon Porter, doesn’t own jonporter.com, which bills itself as “The Best jon porter Resources and Information” — and is also for sale.

Porter’s campaign site is porterforcongress.com.

SILK PURSE

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., likes the new reforms that aim to limit earmarks. But he’s not letting them stop him.

Congress adopted ethics reforms earlier this year with an eye to reduce the cost and number of “pork barrel” projects lawmakers stick into appropriations bills. As lawmakers work though spending bills for 2008, early signs are earmarks are being reduced about 20 percent in the Senate, according to Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.

Reid last week praised the new rules, which require lawmakers to be identified in public bills and reports alongside the projects they are adding.

“The rules are pretty good,” Reid said. “If you want to do an earmark, you let people know whose it is. It is very open. There is no hiding.”

But Reid said the new rules are not cramping his style in adding Nevada money into the spending bills.

In a phone call Thursday, he told state and local road and airport officials about some of the $18 million for Nevada he put into a highway spending bill that passed recently. He already has announced $93 million for Nevada defense contractors and university researchers in an upcoming Pentagon spending bill.

“I am not running from earmarks,” Reid told reporters on the call. “I have always believed that I know better than the bureaucrats in one of these offices here how money should be spent in Nevada, and I will do everything I can to get this money through congressionally directed spending.”

FISHING AROUND

The conservative public interest group Judicial Watch announced last Tuesday it was suing the Bureau of Land Management for records that might show Sen. Harry Reid’s fingerprints on agency approvals for the massive Coyote Springs development in Clark and Lincoln counties.

What Judicial Watch didn’t mention was that while the BLM ignored its document request, it got more response from the Environmental Protection Agency, which also played a role in advancing the real estate project that has been criticized by public land advocates.

The EPA provided Judicial Watch with some material it requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act, “but not everything,” and the group is appealing within the agency, according to a spokeswoman.

As far as the records the EPA turned over so far, “we don’t know if there is anything there worth talking about,” a Judicial Watch staff member said.

While maintaining Reid did nothing improper in his handling of Coyote Springs, aide Jon Summers charged last week Judicial Watch was on a witch hunt that it could use for fundraising.

HSU’S LAS VEGAS CONNECTION

Every story has a Vegas angle, it seems, and the saga of Hillary Clinton fundraiser-turned-fugitive-turned-alleged defrauder Norman Hsu is no exception.

“Last year, to celebrate New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s re-election victory, Norman Hsu capped an amazingly successful year as a Democratic fundraiser by treating members of her campaign staff to several days at the glitzy Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas, complete with free show tickets and dinners at posh restaurants,” the Los Angeles Times reported last week.

The trip, which included Clinton’s current campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, was legal, but symbolized Hsu’s unstinting generosity, the Times reported. That generosity tended to allay the nagging doubts that have now turned out to be justified.

Clinton has returned $850,000 in donations from or solicited by Hsu, who is in jail and facing state and federal investigations.

Contact political reporter Molly Ball at 387-2919 or MBall@reviewjournal.com.

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