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Attorney general candidate Ross Miller target of ad blitz

A national state government group on Monday will launch a $500,000 TV ad campaign and website targeting Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat running for Nevada attorney general, painting him as a politician leading the high life and taking $60,000 in freebies to attend UFC fights, shows on the Strip and a Beverly Hills conference.

“Fancy parties, exclusive sporting events. Posing with celebrities — even Playmates,” the 30-second ad says, showing photos of Miller with boxer Mike Tyson and Las Vegas entertainer Holly Madison, a former girlfriend of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner. “Ah, one can dream, but for politician Ross Miller it’s reality.”

The commercial, which will run for several weeks statewide, uses photos Miller himself posted on social media sites over the years.

Miller’s Republican opponent, Las Vegas attorney Adam Laxalt, isn’t mentioned in the ad — the first in what is expected to be a highly competitive contest to replace Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is termed out.

Both top contenders come from political families: Miller, 37, is the son of former Democratic Gov. Bob Miller. Laxalt, 35, is the grandson of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev.

The State Government Leadership Foundation sponsored the ad — seen at http://bit.ly/1npDr2v — and put up the website — millershouseofcards.com — where the commercial also will be posted.

The group also plans to mail information about Miller to Nevada households in an all-out effort to weaken his chances of winning the Nov. 4 general election, said Matthew Walter, executive director of the foundation.

Miller, a former Clark County deputy district attorney, is considered the front runner thanks to his campaign’s financial advantage — he raised $880,000 last year; Laxalt didn’t announce his candidacy until this year — and because he has twice won statewide elections.

Laxalt, however, is receiving strong support from national and Nevada Republicans. A former Navy judge advocate general and federal prosecutor who served a tour of duty in Iraq, he’s been endorsed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, who sees Paul Laxalt as a mentor, and U.S. Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, both R-Nev.

“The State Government Leadership Foundation is going to continue its effort to educate people in Nevada on a number of policy issues where Ross Miller has been a tremendous disappointment,” Walter said. “This is going to be a comprehensive, multiplatform approach to lay out his record of hypocrisy and failing the people of Nevada.”

The nonprofit foundation is registered with the IRS as a “social welfare” organization, which means it doesn’t have to disclose its donors and can receive unlimited contributions. A ProPublica article last year said a records request it filed with the IRS showed the original funders of the decade-old group included Exxon, Pfizer, Time Warner and other corporations that put up at least 85 percent of the $1.3 million it raised in its first year.

The foundation is known for targeting Democrats, especially in recent elections.

The website targeting Miller allows users to click on playing cards to reveal various attacks.

One card called “lavish gifts” says Miller received $5,390 in gifts for attending a conference at the Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.

He also sat in free “swanky skybox seats” at UFC fights and football games and got free tickets to shows.

“Ross Miller loves to take in a UFC fight or a football game,” the site says. “And because he’s a powerful politician, he can usually find someone else to pay for his tickets. Sometimes he has to settle for $116 to watch the Reno Aces play ball. But his special interest friends know he loves a good fight. In 2009 and in 2010, Miller received $3,000 per year in tickets and swag for UFC matches.”

As for his “high-priced nightlife,” the website said: “Most Nevadans probably can’t afford to get great seats for a night at the theater. But in the middle of a recession, Ross Miller got $1,200 in tickets to see Jersey Boys on stage.”

The website also accuses Miller of being a hypocrite and not being transparent. However, all of the gifts were reported on Miller’s financial disclosure statements, as required by law. Also, Miller has a reputation for pressing for campaign finance reforms that would make financial disclosure requirements more stringent.

Miller was investigated by the Nevada Ethics Commission in 2010 when he was running for re-election for alleged misuse of state government resources for campaign purposes, according to the website. The complaint was filed by the Nevada Republican Party. The website doesn’t disclose that the complaint was dismissed as lacking “credible evidence.”

The ad also exaggerates, implying taxpayers paid for some of Miller’s gifts, which came from private sources.

“Miller took $60,000 in gifts and travel from special interests on top of his six-figure salary,” the ad says.

“He lives the life. You pay the tab,” the ad continues. “Tell Ross Miller to stop living the high life at your expense.”

Nevada Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson on Sunday slammed the ad, calling it, “shockingly misleading and blatantly hypocritical.”

“Right-wing special interests are smearing Ross Miller because, as secretary of state, he has fought to increase transparency in government and hold Carson City politicians accountable,” Hudson said in a statement. “In contrast to this shadowy group that refuses to disclose its donors, Ross Miller has been one of the most transparent secretaries of state in Nevada history. Adam Laxalt should immediately disavow this misleading and hypocritical smear campaign.”

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

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