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GOP activist Dane’s financial transactions part of Metro extortion probe

The financial transactions of longtime Nevada GOP activist Tony Dane’s political action committee are part of the Las Vegas police investigation into allegations of attempted extortion against Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards, search warrant records obtained Tuesday show.

Police also were looking for correspondence connecting Dane to Assemblyman Brent Jones, R-Las Vegas, veterans advocate Robert Lauer, and political activists Laurel Fee and Jerry Littman, the warrant shows.

Las Vegas police, who searched Dane’s northern Virginia residence Thursday, were authorized to collect bank records, money orders, checks and invoices tied to the Conservative Republican Caucus Political Action Committee. The search warrant also allowed them to seize computers, laptops, servers and automated telephone dialing devices from Dane, who has been involved in political robocalls.

Dane referred a reporter to his attorney.

Attorney David Otto, who is representing Dane, questioned why police are seeking robocall equipment. Otto said he’s still exploring legal options for Dane and contends police are overstepping their bounds. It’s unclear if he’ll pursue the matter in Virginia or Las Vegas.

No one has been arrested or charged in the case.

“(Dane) wants to fight it,” said Otto, who is also representing Lauer. “Important civil rights are at stake, not just for my two clients, but for everybody.”

A Metro spokesman declined to comment, citing the open investigation.

Edwards first approached Metro in December, alleging attempted extortion in connection with his vote for the Assembly speaker.

A search warrant inventory indicates that police seized three iPhones, unspecified documents, three tablets, computer software, four laptops, three hard drives and other electronic equipment.

Metro on Jan. 31 had executed a search warrant at Lauer’s Las Vegas residence, taking computer equipment and seeking communication involving the same individuals mentioned in the Virginia search warrant.

Dane’s political action committee, called CRC PAC in state filings, reported raising $245,000 on Jan. 14, all of it from Dane or his business, Dane & Associates.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske last week sent Dane a letter asking him to explain why he didn’t disclose the names of contributors to the PAC, which was set up to fund recall efforts against some GOP legislators.

No response had come to the secretary of state’s office as of Tuesday, but Dane has until Friday to respond, agency spokeswoman Catherine Lu said.

The Virginia search warrant was executed by detectives with the Criminal Intelligence Section at Dane’s residence, 1151 Habby Ridge Drive in Front Royal, Va. Virginia troopers assisted.

LAUER PETITION

Separately, Otto filed a court petition Tuesday seeking the return of Lauer’s property seized by Metro on Jan. 31.

The petition, filed in Clark County District Court, also seeks to unseal the affidavit that supports the warrant. Robert Lauer, a veterans advocate, hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crimes in connection with the case.

The sharply worded court petition calls the search of Lauer’s house and the seizure of his property “nothing more than a political vendetta and intimidation in an effort to silence Mr. Lauer and his compatriots.”

The petition says the raid was based on a “false claim” by Edwards and contends that Metro’s police action is politically motivated and a result of Edwards, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo “stifling any criticism” of the governor’s proposed $1.3 billion tax increase.

“The governor is not a party in this matter,” Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in an email.

The petition argues that the warrant isn’t valid and the seizure has “nothing to do with collecting evidence against Mr. Lauer.”

A Metro spokesman declined comment on the petition.

In an interview Tuesday, Edwards said the petition is “beyond laughable.”

“The more these guys talk, the deeper the hole they’re in,” Edwards said, adding that he can’t talk about the investigation.

But he said Lauer and others “will be shown for what they are” when the whole story comes out.

Lauer has said since police searched his home that he has “nothing to hide.”

The search warrant was executed in an effort to locate recordings of conversations between Lauer and Edwards and any documents or affidavits in Lauer’s possession that alleged illegal or unethical behavior on Edwards’ part.

Lauer has said he didn’t record any conversations with Edwards and hasn’t lodged any ethics complaints against Edwards. He also has said that two days before Metro searched his residence, Edwards called him asking if he had recorded the last meeting between the two or filed an affidavit complaining about him.

Assemblyman Jones said he helped Edwards place a call to Lauer at the time. He called Edwards’ allegations a distraction.

The case is an outgrowth of a leadership struggle between moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans inside and outside the Assembly. Edwards and others face potential recall elections planned by conservatives.

The Assembly’s Republican caucus became embroiled in the leadership battle after winning majority control of the lower house in the Nov. 4 elections.

Former Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, was replaced as the caucus leader by Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks. Hansen soon stepped down after a newspaper reported on his controversial writings that critics called sexist and racist.

Hansen was replaced in a subsequent vote by Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, now the Assembly speaker.

Review-Journal writer Sandra Chereb contributed to this report. Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.

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