Creditors from campaigns past haunt Sue Lowden

Sue Lowden may be looking forward to a run for statewide office in 2014, but her creditors only want to talk about 2010.

That is when Lowden ran in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate for the chance to challenge Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a race she lost to nominee Sharron Angle.

Federal campaign records show Sue Lowden for U.S. Senate still owes about $532,000 from that race, and at least one creditor is fighting the issue in court.

The consulting firm Vitale & Associates alleges Lowden should be personally liable for about $77,000 worth of work done for the campaign.

John Head, the company’s lawyer, said Lowden’s argument that her campaign — not her — owes the money rings hollow because in the heat of the race she promised to pay vendors herself.

“Her rationale for running was that ‘I’m rich, I can cover this,’ then she turns around and stiffs all these people working for her,” Head said. “It ain’t right.”

Lowden, who has announced her interest in running for lieutenant governor, did not respond to an email seeking comment. State Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, is pursuing the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor with the blessing of Gov. Brian Sandoval and of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, making Lowden’s potential candidacy that of an outsider.

Abran Vigil, Lowden’s attorney, said Lowden “will vigorously defend against Vitale’s claims.”

Creditors have been tailing Lowden since the summer of 2010, when she lost the primary to Angle despite entering the race as a favorite. Earlier this year, an appeals court in Ohio upheld a lower court verdict that said Lowden wasn’t personally responsible for about $200,000 owed to consultant Rex Elsass.

Lowden’s attorney is making a similar argument to fend off Head’s lawsuit in federal court. But Head said he is using a different legal tactic than Elsass’ attorneys used.

Head cited a case in connnection with Pennsylvania Republican Dick Thornburgh’s 1991 U.S. Senate campaign. After the race, Thornburgh argued he wasn’t personally liable for about $170,000 owed to consultant Karl Rove. But Rove successfully argued that the campaign official who agreed to pay for the services was acting as Thornburgh’s agent.

Head said he is pursuing a similar argument against Lowden. According to court documents she spent about $2 million of her own money on the race.

Vigil said the Thornburgh case may not matter. “It is not a Nevada case, and it is not even a 9th Circuit case,’’ Vigil said. “So, whether the court adopts its reasoning is yet to be seen.”

Head said he would continue to pursue the case “or die trying,” adding that Todd Vitale is both his client and his stepson.

“He pulled money out of his pocket to pay these vendors,” Head said. “When she stiffed him, he had to cover all that himself.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ or 702-383-0285

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