Judge rules Sandoval ads cannot run

CARSON CITY — An out-of-state political organization whose TV ads touted Nevada Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval cannot run any more of the ads until it registers as a political action committee in the state, a judge determined Wednesday.

The Alliance for America’s Future didn’t take any immediate action to file as a PAC, but its attorney said it might appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

It wasn’t clear how long resolving such an appeal would take, but other election appeals on several proposed ballot questions before the state Supreme Court have already gone on for almost three months.

District Judge James Wilson issued an injunction Wednesday that blocks the alliance from running the ads until it registers as a PAC with the secretary of state’s office and discloses its board members and donors.

In his decision, Wilson stated the "disclosure requirements, which may at times inhibit the free speech that is so dearly protected by the First Amendment, are indispensable to the proper and effective exercise of First Amendment rights."

The judge stated that Nevadans "have a right to know who is behind election advertising. Continued violation of the statutes and depriving Nevadans of information about who is behind election advertising will cause irreparable harm."

Voters need information about PACs to determine "what weight to give the advertising," he stated.

The Virginia-based alliance had finished running TV ads on May 25 that touted Sandoval’s merits without his participation, but alliance lawyer Jason Torchinsky said Tuesday the alliance was considering running more ads again before the primary.

Torchinsky said Tuesday that the alliance does not want to disclose its donors because "it could have a chilling effect" on future donations. He said political opponents might retaliate against people who have made donations.

Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat seeking re-election, secured a temporary restraining order last week from Wilson halting any additional ads. Wilson then conducted a 90-minute hearing Tuesday in which lawyers for the alliance and the secretary of state argued whether the judge should lift the order or issue a preliminary injunction stopping the ads.

Alliance lawyers argued they did not have to register because the ad doesn’t state that people should vote for Sandoval or even indicate that he was running for governor.

But the ruling states that the ad "advocates expressly the election of Brian Sandoval," and the fact that he is running for governor is "not a secret in Nevada."

One of the directors of the Alliance for America’s Future is Mary Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, according to Internal Revenue Service records.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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