State election officials were investigating several complaints over an automated campaign call that uses the voice of a crying domestic violence victim to target a candidate for Nye County district attorney.
The auto-dialer attack on former chief deputy district attorney Ron Kent has rattled the nerves of some Nye County residents who initially mistook the message for a real call from a distressed loved one.
The call begins with the voice of a woman, crying and hysterical, saying, “I’m sorry to call you this way. I just really have to say something.”
The woman says she had her skull fractured and arm broken in a “domestic dispute that turned violent.” Then she references a domestic violence charge leveled at Kent by his former wife more than 20 years ago.
Pahrump resident Tom Lovette said when he answered the call about 9 p.m. on a Saturday, he thought it was his daughter calling from San Diego after being attacked.
“It sounded just like my daughter when she’s hysterical,” he said.
Now the angry father wants some answers.
“You can be as nasty as you want. That’s neither here nor there. But this got personal,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility for this. I can’t stop them, I know, but I sure plan to embarrass someone.”
Matt Griffin, deputy of elections for the Nevada secretary of state’s office, confirmed Friday that investigators were trying to determine who was behind the call.
A male voice at the end of the recording states, “This message was paid for by the Conservative Republican Coalition CRC PAC.”
Political action committees, or PACs, that operate in Nevada are required to register with the secretary of state’s office, but Griffin said there was no group by that name on file.
Those searching for the culprit need look no further than conservative political activist Tony Dane, who manages a Las Vegas company called AutomatedCalling .
Dane said Friday that he produced the attack ad through his CRC political action committee, which he insists he registered with the state years ago.
Records indicate a CRC PAC was registered by Dane with the state in 2002, but the group does not appear on the state’s active PAC list.
Dane said the woman in the ad was “a very close friend of mine” who was severely beaten by her then-husband.
“I do not believe that someone who abuses their spouse is fit for public office,” Dane said.
In a written response to the abuse allegation, Kent admitted to “one regrettable instance” when he slapped his wife.
“The break-up was horrible, as is the case with many divorces, with allegations on both sides,” Kent said in the statement. “After our divorce (my wife) and I continued a close personal friendship. Shortly after the divorce she was diagnosed with cancer. We remained close until she lost her battle with cancer.”
Kent is one of five Republicans in the heated, seven-way race for Nye County district attorney. The incumbent is embattled four-term District Attorney Bob Beckett, who fired Kent shortly after the former chief deputy prosecutor announced his candidacy.
Dane supports Las Vegas lawyer Michael Root in the race, but he said the Republican challenger had nothing to do with the auto-dial message.
Root said Dane is a friend, but the first he heard about the call was from some county residents who received it. He said he played no part in creating the ad and has yet to hear it.
Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said the auto-dial message did not prompt anyone to call 911 as far as he knew, but he did get some calls “from people who were horrified by it.”
“It’s politics by personal attack,” DeMeo said. “I’m dumbfounded by it.”
Dane said he hadn’t received any negative feedback about the message so far.
“Everything I’ve heard on it has been positive,” he said.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@review
journal.com or 702-383-0350.