Republicans filed complaints Tuesday asking federal and state authorities to investigate allegations that Harrah’s Entertainment “intimidated” and “coerced” its employees into voting early in an effort to boost the re-election campaign of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer for the campaign of Reid’s Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, sent the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., and U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden in Las Vegas a three-page letter asking for a “thorough” investigation into possible federal election violations.
David O’Mara, a Reno-based Republican lawyer and operative, sent a nearly identical letter to Secretary of State Ross Miller asking him to look into possible violations of state election laws.
Harrah’s spokesman Gary Thompson declined to comment on the allegations.
Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for Bogden, did not respond to an inquiry for comment.
Miller said his office would review O’Mara’s letter to see whether an investigation is warranted. As of 5 p.m., no substantial complaints of Election Day irregularities were reported, Miller said.
Members of Miller’s Nevada Election Integrity Task Force were holed up in a small conference room much of the day at the state’s Sawyer Building using laptop computers to monitor Internet complaints from voters.
The allegations against Harrah’s surfaced Tuesday morning in a National Review Online article that reported the casino giant had stepped up efforts to get employees to vote early following a plea from an unidentified Reid staffer.
Company e-mails showed that the Reid staffer informed Harrah’s that it was lagging behind the get-out-the-vote campaign of MGM Resorts International. It was suggested that Harrah’s supervisors pick up the slack and steer employees to early voting sites. Conventional wisdom is that in a tight race, high turnout tends to benefit Democrats.
The National Review reported that a top Harrah’s executive sent out an e-mail late last week showing the percentages of employees at Harrah’s properties who had voted. Attached was a spreadsheet with the employees’ names and where they worked. Supervisors at the properties were asked to fill in codes explaining why their employees had not yet voted.
“This constitutes nothing less than a concerted scheme to violate the rights of Harrah’s employees … to cast a secret ballot for the candidates of their choice, without fear of reprisals, recriminations, job loss, or other adverse employment actions,” the Republican letters stated.
The letters, however, did not provide any names of employees who felt intimidated.
The Review-Journal reported Saturday that the early voting casino effort was done in conjunction with Culinary Local 226, a heavy Reid supporter that represents about 60,000 casino workers. The union chartered buses to take workers to the polling places. O’Mara filed a complaint with the secretary of state’s office last week, alleging organized labor was using that campaign to force casino employees into voting.
Culinary union Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor, however, defended the effort, saying it was nonpartisan and no pressure was put on the workers.
On Tuesday, Taylor accused the Republicans of lacking proof that laws were being violated.
“That people want to vote is somehow a bad idea is in line with the Republicans in this election, when they’re telling Latinos not to vote,” Taylor said. “So I’m not surprised by this. I guess they’re upset that anybody is going to vote.”
The busing effort also involved MGM Resorts International, which encouraged its 10 Las Vegas casinos to participate. Company officials said more than 2,700 employees had voted early.
The Republican lawyers did not complain about the activities of MGM Resorts in their letters to authorities. But GOP operatives circulated a Washington Times blog that suggested MGM Resorts improperly pressured its employees to support Reid through the distribution of a voter’s guide with boxes checked next to the names of candidates the company supported, including Reid.
The Review-Journal obtained a copy of the 110-page guide, which includes short biographies of the candidates and some of their accomplishments.
MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman said the company has been putting out such guides for the past 15 years. Other casino companies have done the same thing over the years, he said.
Feldman said that although the company identifies its favored candidates with a check mark, employees are under no obligation to vote for them.
In a letter to employees on Monday, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren echoed those words.
“Unlike so many places in this world; at the ballot box, we are all equals,” wrote Murren, who appears in a television ad for Reid. “Your vote counts the same as mine.”
In the letter, Murren thanked the employees who had voted early and urged those who had yet to vote to go to the polls on Tuesday.
“No matter who you vote for, I encourage you to make your vote count,” Murren said.
Contact Jeff German at jgerman@review
journal.com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.
Letter of complaint to Department of Justice