Horsford’s ‘pay-to-play’ offer is a new low in Nevada

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford was short in the fundraising department and came up with an idea for fast money. He’d pimp the Democratic leaders in the Legislature for cash.

His June 1 report for the Victory 2010 Political Action Committee was embarrassing. He gave a hundred bucks and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Washington, D.C., gave $10,000, but those were the only contributions to his PAC.

His proposal to raise money by promising access to Senate Democrats for cash is wrong. He knows it’s wrong, which is precisely why he rescinded his “pay-to-play” offer after it became public and apologized.

Horsford told Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Ed Vogel on Friday he didn’t tell the other senators about his plan to raise money for his PAC by selling access to those self-same leaders.

So they didn’t have the chance to point out it was a lousy idea and they didn’t want to be pimped out and ordered to be part of a line-up like the working girls at a Nevada brothel.

Horsford won’t say how much money he’s raised since he sent the letter out in July but said he’d “offer” to return the money (an offer nobody is going to take up). He should man up and return the money without forcing the donors to ask for it back. That’s just a ploy to keep the money.

The benefits package for becoming a “Victory Leader” was specific. The bigger the check, the better the access. Since there are no limits on how much can be given to a PAC, I guess we’re fortunate the top package was offered for “$25,000 or more.”

For that, the donor and up to 10 guests would have had a private dinner with Horsford and the chairs of the nine standing committees. This package seemed to be designed for johns looking for quantity.

For $10,000 to $25,000, the donor and up to seven guests could have eaten dinner with Horsford and the chairman of the committee of the donor’s choice. Line up, girls, the donor wants to make his choice.

For $5,000 to $10,000 you would get Horsford and a reception with unnamed Nevada Senate Democrats, the ones left over from the first round of picks.

For $1,000 to $5,000 you would get lunch with Horsford.

The implication is certainly this: No money means no face time. No free lunches.

Who probably has already ponied up? The businesses who fear they might get taxed during the 2011 Legislature. They have the most to lose and they have the most to spend.

This is a new low in Nevada, which already has a reputation for political corruption. Maybe we’re not to the level of Chicago, but then our citizens haven’t become as tolerant of corruption as a way of life. Yet.

While it’s not the same as taking lap dances and money under the table for votes, and officials are saying it’s not illegal, it still looks slimy and is slimy, perpetuating the perception that all politicians are for sale.

One of the jobs of party leaders is to raise money to help elect others. Horsford’s PAC total of $10,100 lags far behind $97,750 the Senate Republicans raised in two PACs.

Assembly Speaker-in-Waiting John Oceguera reported raising $110,000, which looks impressive until it’s compared to the comparable first report of 2008 filed by Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, who raised nearly $200,000. She did it without selling or renting any Democrats.

Strange, but until this story broke, I never noticed the majority leader’s last name rhymed with “whores.”

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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