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Lowden says she did not promise to personally pay campaign debt

Did Sue Lowden promise to personally pay off her 2010 U.S. Senate campaign debt?

Did she agree to be “personally liable” to a Colorado company that conducted polling for her campaign?

Did she discuss with the company, Vitale & Associates, the terms, price or subject of its contract with her campaign?

The answer to all these questions is “no,” according to an affidavit Lowden filed Feb. 26 to support a motion for summary judgment in her favor in a legal battle with Vitale, which sued to get $77,000 in unpaid Lowden Senate campaign bills.

“I never intended to be personally liable for the unincorporated nonprofit association Sue Lowden for U.S. Senate’s debts,” Lowden wrote. “In fact, that is why an unincorporated nonprofit association was formed.”

Lowden’s 2010 campaign is trying to reach partial repayment agreements with vendors for a total of $600,000 still owed. Lowden said she’s waiting for approval of her repayment plan from the Federal Elections Commission and then she’ll finish paying off the vendors herself. She’s already settled some debt over the past few years, she said.

Lowden, a Republican running for lieutenant governor this year, is having to defend her actions in court as well as in the

public because her GOP opponent, state Sen. Mark Hutchison, has made her unpaid debt a major campaign issue.

Now, however, Lowden’s own Senate campaign manager, Robert Uithoven, filed an affidavit this week in the court case that directly contradicts what Lowden told the court in her legal statement in a political case of she said/he said.

In his affidavit filed Monday, Uithoven said Lowden “made the decision to hire Vitale & Associates as the campaign pollster based upon my recommendation.” The company conducted three polls, in July 2009, January 2010 and April 2010. Uithoven said he reviewed both the results and the costs with Lowden in each case.

“Either Sue Lowden approved each and every poll and the expenditure of money on the polling, or she gave me the authority to give approval,” Uithoven said in his affidavit.

As for the key question — did Lowden say she would spend her own money to win and pay for her campaign — Uithoven said there’s no question in his mind that she did. (He said the same thing publicly in 2010.)

“I had numerous discussions with Sue Lowden regarding funding of the campaign expenses,” he said in his affidavit. “Repeatedly , she stated that whatever it took in personal funds to win would be available.”

One time, he said, he talked with Lowden and her husband, Paul, about one of her opponents who also was spending personal money — presumably investment banker John Chachas, although the document does not name him.

“They both stated that … he could not outspend them,” Uithoven wrote.

According to Uithoven’s contract with Lowden, he was to “help implement the campaign plan and budget,” and was obligated to “report directly to the candidate on all matters/operations concerning the campaign.”

Lowden personally loaned her Senate campaign $2 million, although she ended up losing the GOP primary to Sharron Angle, who lost the race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Together, Reid and Angle spent about $44 million on the campaign with Angle outspending him by a couple of million dollars.

Lowden forgave her own debt, meaning she came out of the Senate race with a personal $2 million loss and unpaid bills.

Tom Letizia, Lowden’s campaign manager for this year’s race, said “she stands by her statement” in the affidavit.

Lowden said, “Under the advice of my attorney I have been advised not to comment on an active lawsuit.”

Hutchison slammed Lowden for refusing to pay off 100 percent of the U.S. Senate campaign debt.

“It has been almost four years since Sue Lowden incurred these debts,” Hutchison said Tuesday in a statement. “There have been media investigations, lawsuits filed, and Federal Election Commission inquiries, yet Sue Lowden continues to refuse to pay multiple hardworking small business owners who she asked to work for her. This is simply wrong.”

Hutchison said Uithoven’s affidavit makes it appear “that Lowden is not only misleading her past vendors, she’s also deceiving the general public. Her manager confirmed that Lowden committed to pay these vendors personally.”

“She should explain why it’s okay to write a personal check for $100,000 to her new campaign without first paying the debts of the last one,” Hutchison said. “Sue Lowden cannot seriously claim she will attract businesses to Nevada when her business ethics lead her to walk away from past debts owed to struggling small businesses and to claim that paying these businesses forty cents on the dollar is ‘normal business practice.’”

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.

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