Gifts add up for some Nevada politicians

CARSON CITY — Some of Nevada’s leading politicians accepted thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts in 2011, including tickets, clothing and travel accommodations, according to financial disclosure statements filed with the secretary of state.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto took $850 in tickets to the Latin Grammy Awards, $2,265 in tickets to the Anderson Silva-Vito Belfort Ultimate Fighting Championship and $600 in tickets to a NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She also took thousands of dollars in travel and hotel rooms from various organizations to attend attorney general-related conferences around the country.

In all, Masto reported accepting $13,561 in gifts last year. Cortez Masto, through spokeswoman Jennifer Lopez, declined comment.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki topped that, accepting gifts of $15,582, including $520 in Boston Red Sox tickets and more than $10,000 to attend state-related business meetings in China.

Secretary of State Ross Miller received even more, $15,622, including $9,600 for a CEO Leadership Group membership fee.

Gov. Brian Sandoval reported only one gift, $500 worth of clothing from sponsors of the National Finals Rodeo. His spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said late Wednesday that the gift was unsolicited and the governor reported it as the law requires. She said he plans to give the gift to charity.

This information comes from financial disclosure statements that all elected state and local politicians were required to file with the secretary of state by Tuesday.

In early 2006, such disclosures got some legislators in trouble with constituents because they accepted pricey tickets to a Rolling Stones concert.

Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics, said it is important that politicians report their gifts, but he questioned why "people of means" had to take freebies to events they and everyone else could attend if they paid.

Sandoval reported his annual salary at $149,573, Masto, $140,980, and Miller, $102,898.

Krolicki was paid $63,648 as lieutenant governor, considered a part-time job. He also has outside employment with Extend Health and as an investment adviser.

"I wouldn’t call it unethical, but it raises questions among the people: Why did they accept these gifts?" said Dupalo, whose citizen organization in Las Vegas renders opinions on the ethical positions of politicians.

Similar comments were made by his ethical watchdog organization six years ago after 10 legislators accepted $400 tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. Some reported the gifts on their financial disclosure statements. Others said they forgot.

Because of a public outcry in which Nevadans said legislators should have known better than to take free tickets, most returned the money to the donor or gave the price of the tickets to charities.

A spokesperson for Masto did not return repeated requests for comment .

The Review-Journal only reviewed the financial disclosure statements of the major constitutional officers, legislators who are running for Congress and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

The most unusual — and practical — gifts were those accepted by Goodman. She took more than 20 gifts, much of it sweets valued at less than $100. She accepted two gifts of See’s Candies, a bundt cake, Godiva chocolates, Mrs. Fields cookies and Greek pastries.

City spokesman Jace Radke said Goodman was in Washington, D.C., and not available for comment. He said she only accepts candy or cookies from well-wishers and reports every gift.

State Treasurer Kate Marshall and state Controller Kim Wallin reported no gifts. Neither did state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera and Sen. Ruben Kihuen, all D-Las Vegas. They are all running for Congress, as is Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who also reported no gifts.

Krolicki also reported taking $200 in Reno Aces tickets from friends; $4,500 from the Halter Financial Group for a trip to China to participate in a financial summit; and $6,000 from PACTRANS Air & Sea for a Nevada Commission on Economic Development trip to China. He also reported that a friend gave him $2,000 for educational electronics, athletic gear, meals and other items.

Miller reported taking 17 gifts. Alfredo Alonso, a Reno lobbyist, gave him $120 in Wolfpack football tickets; NV Energy gave him $350 to attend the Reno Tahoe Open; and AT&T gave him $150 to attend the Bobby Dolan baseball dinner, a fundraising event for the UNR baseball team.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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