CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons said Monday that he has heard rumors Democrats paid The Wall Street Journal to publish stories about his dealings with a defense contractor and that the coverage was designed to help Democrats in the 2008 election.
Asked about rumors of a conspiracy among Democrats against him, Gibbons said he heard the same thing but did not name a source.
“I have heard that the Democrats have paid to have these Wall Street Journal articles written,” Gibbons told the Reno-Gazette Journal.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Gibbons is under investigation by the FBI because of suspicions he accepted unreported gifts or payments from a Reno company that was awarded secret military contracts when Gibbons was in the U.S. House.
The Wall Street Journal stood by its stories, and Democrats denied having anything to do with the published reports.
Gibbons said he first met the Journal reporter who broke the stories, John R. Wilke, when Wilke was in Elko the night of a debate between Gibbons and his Democratic rival in the 2006 gubernatorial race, state Sen. Dina Titus of Las Vegas.
“When I met this guy, (Wilke), he was brought to Elko by the Dina Titus campaign, and that is where I met him. So I don’t know what his agenda is, but there is nothing there with any of these allegations.”
Gibbons spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin, asked whether the governor put any stock in the rumors, said, “I don’t believe he has formulated an opinion on whether or not there’s any merit to those comments or not.”
“The governor was simply commenting on the fact that he has heard those rumors,” Subbotin said.
Titus told the Gazette-Journal that she has never spoken to the reporter from The Wall Street Journal who wrote the stories about Gibbons.
“I think the stress is getting to the governor. Now he’s looking for a conspiracy,” Titus said.
“I have never met this (reporter),” Titus said. “I’ve never talked to him. He has never asked me for a comment. I have no connection to him whatsoever.”
Gibbons said the ties between the Democrats and The Wall Street Journal are about politics.
“What this is about, I believe, is that this is about the 2008 election,” Gibbons told the Gazette-Journal. “And it has very little to do with me. It is just that they want to deal with what their interests are in 2008.”
A spokesman for The Wall Street Journal said Gibbons’ comments are unfounded.
“The Wall Street Journal’s articles about Governor Gibbons are supported by extensive reporting,” said Robert H. Christie, director of public relations for Dow Jones and Company, the newspaper’s owner. “The governor’s suggestion that the Journal’s coverage is a product of the Nevada Democrats is baseless.”
Gibbons’ comments drew criticism from Democratic leaders at the Legislature.
“I find it hard to imagine that anyone paid The Wall Street Journal to fabricate stories about the governor,” Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said. “The Wall Street Journal is generally considered a conservative newspaper, perhaps run by Republicans and not Democrats.”
Gibbons’ comments resulted in a terse response from the Legislature’s leading Republican.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. “People have their own perceptions of what is going on.”
Raggio said he has been dismayed with the amount of criticism of Gibbons.
“I’m a little bit tired of everybody bashing the governor all of the time,” Raggio said.
The Wall Street Journal first published a story about Gibbons’ relationship with Reno software entrepreneur Warren Trepp days before the November 2006 general election.