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Danny Tarkanian threatens to sue Susie Lee over campaign ads

Updated July 31, 2018 - 8:43 pm

Congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian is demanding his opponent retract claims that he “set up telemarketing scams” and took a $16 million taxpayer bailout in a scathing cease-and-desist letter.

It’s the latest salvo in the heated race between Tarkanian, a Republican, and Democrat Susie Lee for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.

“Unfortunately, some people prefer to lie, deceive and be dishonest to voters in order to get elected … and then run the risk of facing the consequences of lying only until after getting elected,” Tarkanian said. “That’s what Jacky Rosen did in 2016. Now it appears Susie Lee is copying Jacky and repeating the same lies.”

Tarkanian’s attorney, Marc Randazza, last week issued the letter demanding that Lee rescind the claims and publicly apologize or face a defamation lawsuit. Tarkanian and Lee are vying to fill the House seat of U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, who’s running for U.S. Senate.

The Lee campaign claims Tarkanian set up businesses that were fronts for telemarketing schemes and received “a $16 million taxpayer bailout” for failed real estate ventures. Both claims, which have dogged Tarkanian for years, have appeared in Lee’s press releases, on Twitter and on a website funded by her campaign.

Tarkanian admits to setting up the businesses in the 1990s, but he said he had no hand in the day-to-day operation of the businesses and knew nothing about the telemarketing scams targeting seniors.

Similar ads that former state Sen. Mike Schneider ran in 2004 prompted a defamation suit that Tarkanian won, and Schneider paid $150,000 to resolve the case.

Tarkanian sued Rosen’s campaign for publishing similar claims in 2016. A Clark County judge in June 2017 denied a motion from the Rosen campaign to dismiss the case. The campaign appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, and the case is pending.

Lee’s campaign on Tuesday doubled down by calling Tarkanian a “sore loser” with a sketchy past.

“Danny Tarkanian’s history of helping to set up telemarketing companies that preyed on the elderly is well-documented, as are his suspect business dealings and bailout,” said Lee’s campaign manager, Brandon Cox. “This is a desperate, partisan attempt to muddy the waters by a sore loser and perennial candidate who has run six unsuccessful political campaigns in a row. Nevada voters deserve a real debate about the issues, not publicity stunts and a bogus lawsuit.”

The claim that Tarkanian was “bailed out” of a $16 million debt by taxpayers is tied to a failed real estate deal. Tarkanian filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012, but Randazza said taxpayers were “held harmless” because the banks that lent Tarkanian the money were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Contact Ramona Giwargis at rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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