Political Eye: Candidates turn sights on Nevada veterans

President Barack Obama and his GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney will each address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno this week, giving an election-year nod to the military at a time when thousands of men and women are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of health care and jobs.

Obama will speak to the group today , followed by Romney on Tuesday.

At least 300,000 veterans live in the Battle Born state, or more than 10 percent of the population.

That’s a lot of potential votes.

Nevada lawmakers have been paying more attention to the nation’s fighting men and women, too, in 2012.

Spouses and children who inherit small businesses from military members who are killed in the line of duty would qualify for priority government contracts and other veterans benefits under new legislation.

The bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday was just the latest in a series of efforts by Nevada lawmakers to show some love to veterans who could help tilt close elections in November.

In this case, Republican Sen. Dean Heller said his new bill would fill a gap. Under a 2006 statute, if a service-disabled veteran who owns a business dies, the spouse inherits the ability to continue qualifying for small-business preferences.

But according to the American Legion, the law does not cover business owners who are activated for service and killed in the line of duty. The bill would ensure the survivors "have the same economic opportunities afforded to that veteran," Heller said.

The benefit would extend for 10 years or until the spouse remarries or gives up majority ownership in the business.

Heller’s bill came days after Republican Rep. Joe Heck sponsored legislation that would enable low-income disabled veterans to qualify for more generous federal housing subsidies. Heck also has been promoting his rewrite of the Stolen Valor law to punish people who falsely claim to have earned military medals for heroism.

Meanwhile, Heller’s Senate opponent, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, said last week she has signed on as co-sponsor of a bill that would allow doctors affiliated with the VA to expand their use of telemedicine to treat patients across state lines.

In May, Berkley revived a bid to increase funeral and burial benefits for veterans.

And last month, Heller testified before the Senate on his bill to set aside more federal funding for women veterans who are homeless.

The first two television commercials Berkley ran in her Senate campaign this year were aimed at veterans, including one that touted her work in Congress to establish the VA medical complex in North Las Vegas. The facility is scheduled to begin serving patients later this summer.

– Steve Tetreault

WASHOE GOP GOES ITS OWN WAY

They’re calling it an amicable divorce.

The Washoe County Republican Party has filed separation paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, allowing it to raise and spend money without any control from the Nevada Republican Party.

Washoe County GOP Chairman Dave Buell said Tuesday that his Reno-based party became a separate entity three weeks ago, filing a statement of organization with the FEC on June 25.

The goal, Buell said, is to allow donors to give the Washoe County GOP up to $10,000 directly to help pay for a voter registration drive and other efforts on behalf of Republicans, including federal candidates.

The move also gives the Washoe GOP control of its money and strategy at a time when some GOP regulars don’t trust the leadership of the Nevada Republican Party, which has been all but taken over by supporters of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

The Paul takeover of the state and Clark County GOP caused a deep rift in the party earlier this year. It also prompted the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney’s GOP presidential campaign to open separate "Team Nevada" offices statewide to lead election-year efforts.

Buell put the best face on what amounts to a legal divorce between Washoe Republicans and state GOP headquarters. He said he and the state party Chairman Michael McDonald discussed the move and shared dinner on Friday the 13th in Elko with other GOP leaders as part of a Romney campaign event.

"We know there are a lot of donors that are reluctant to give money to the state party," Buell said. "We just want to give them the opportunity to donate for the election. I talked with him (McDonald) and he understands what’s going on and he has no issue with it. He knows we’re pretty well organized up here."

McDonald is focusing his organizing efforts on Clark County, where 70 percent of the state’s population lives and where Democrats prevail over Republicans.

The state and the county parties are all working with Team Nevada organizers to help defeat President Barack Obama in Nevada, Buell said. And they’re working to ensure victory for U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is facing U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., in the hotly contested Senate race.

The Nevada Democratic Party is far better organized thanks to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who built it into a competitive machine to win re-election in 2010 and to help Obama win the battleground state in 2008.

The one-page letter the Washoe County GOP filed with the FEC attests that the local party "is not affiliated with the Nevada Republican State Central Committee," the governing body of the state GOP controlled by Paul supporters.

"The WCRP confirms to the Commission that it is not funded by the NRSCC; is not under the management or control of the NRSCC; and does not conduct its activity (including making contributions) in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of the NRSCC, or any other political committee established, financed, maintained, or controlled by the NRSCC."

– Laura Myers

NO NAME, NO ADDRESS, NO CHECK

Politicians in Nevada’s cash-strapped governments might wish money appeared from thin air, but that can cause its own problems, as Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman learned recently.

Goodman had to give up a $100 donation to her 2011 mayoral campaign after she couldn’t identify the source of the contribution for the Nevada secretary of state.

The money showed up on a campaign contribution and expense report as coming from a donor named F. Ake and an address that, in an Internet search, showed up as a vacant lot.

Under Nevada law candidates aren’t obligated to do much research into their donors, but they aren’t supposed to accept money from anonymous or unidentifiable contributors.

And if a candidate can’t verify the source of a contribution, the law requires it be forwarded to the state’s general fund or to a charity.

In Goodman’s case the mayor gave the money to Safe Nest, which seeks to eradicate domestic violence, and said she isn’t sure how nobody noticed it until recently.

"I can’t believe nobody caught that name," she said, adding that on further review the check itself had no name and an inconclusive signature but was apparently attached to a legitimate account because it cleared the bank.

"It was a legitimate account, it was a legitimate check and it was made out to Goodman for Mayor," she said.

– Benjamin Spillman

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC. Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj. Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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