Nearly $100M has poured into Question 3 battle in Nevada

The most expensive campaign in Nevada history has collected nearly $100 million in contributions — and it has nothing to do with who will sit in the Governor’s Mansion or represent the Silver State in the U.S. Senate.

The opposing sides of Question 3, also called the Energy Choice Initiative, are raising and spending money like no political campaigns before, according to reports filed with the secretary of state’s office Tuesday night. And most of the money has come from NV Energy, the state’s largest electricity provider, in

just the past four months.

The group opposing Question 3, called the Coalition to Defeat Question 3, brought in more than $50 million between June 8 and Oct. 12. All but $12,000 of the $63.1 million that the PAC has raised this year has come from NV Energy.

“This is $63 million that should be used to lower rates for Nevada families. Instead, that money is being used to protect an out-of-state owned corporate monopoly. NV Energy is not spending play monopoly money, they are spending our money, all to protect their bottom line,” Yes on 3 Executive Director Dave Chase said in a statement Wednesday.

In a statement, NV Energy spokeswoman Andrea Smith said that the Yes on 3’s characterization that ratepayers are funding the companies effort against the ballot measure is not accurate.

“Customers are not funding and will not fund, NV Energy’s contribution to the Coalition,” Smith said.

The ballot measure, which passed with 72 percent of the vote in 2016 but needs voter approval again on Nov. 6 to become law, would shift Nevada away from a monopoly-based utility structure to a competitive, open electricity market by way of a constitutional amendment.

No on 3 campaign spokeswoman Tracy Skenandore said in a statement that the group “includes thousands of diverse individual members, community leaders, elected officials, small businesses, community and environmental organizations, and business groups from across the state who have come together to oppose this misleading ballot measure.”

Since the start of 2018, the Coalition to Defeat Question 3 has spent more than $62 million, with roughly $44 million of that going to the Santa Monica, Calif.-based campaign consulting firm Winner & Mandabach Campaigns.

The pro-Question 3 PAC, called Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices, raised $13.5 million — all of which came from Las Vegas Sands Corp. — bringing its total for 2018 to $32.9 million raised. The group spent $11.8 million in the latest reporting period and has spent a total of $13.6 million since the start of 2018. Most of that money went to a Venice, Calif.-based campaign consulting firm called Left Hook.

Since the start of 2018, Sands, which considered leaving NV Energy but decided against paying a $23.9 million exit fee, has donated $22 million to the Yes on 3 campaign. Tech-giant Switch was the campaign’s only other contributor, with $10.9 million in donations made earlier this year.

Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government relations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., said Wednesday that the company supports an open and competitive market; hence its financial support for the measure.

Governor

Nevada law bans a single person or entity from donating more than $10,000 to a single campaign in one year, but nothing prevents donors from using companies or entities to make multiple max-dollar donations.

That practice has been used in the race to replace term-limited Gov. Brian Sandoval, as Democrat Steve Sisolak outraised Republican Adam Laxalt by more than $1 million from June 8 through Oct. 12.

Sisolak, a Clark County commissioner, reported raising $4.2 million to Laxalt’s $2.9 million. But Laxalt, the Nevada attorney general, has significantly outspent Sisolak — who faced a financially draining primary against fellow Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani — by a margin of $6 million to $3.9 million.

MGM Resorts, via 20 different companies and subsidiaries that share the same post office box, gave Sisolak’s campaign $200,000, according to his campaign filing.

Similarly, Laxalt’s campaign received $200,000 from 20 companies and entities that share the same address and are associated with Bill Foley, the Vegas Golden Knights owner and chairman of Fidelity National Financial Services.

Senate

Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen raised three times as much money as GOP Sen. Dean Heller and has outraised the incumbent senator every quarter since announcing her candidacy in 2017.

The freshman congresswoman raised more than $7.1 million from July through September, federal campaign finance reports show. Heller raised $2.2 million during the same period.

Heller campaign spokesman Keith Schipper said Rosen is banking on support from outside Nevada.

“Jacky Rosen has burned through the millions she’s raised from California and New York, and what does she have to show for it?” Schipper said.

Heller is the only Republican senator running in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s clear in the home stretch of this race that the momentum for Jacky Rosen’s campaign is growing every day, while Dean Heller’s campaign is falling apart and just hoping Mitch McConnell’s Super PAC will drag him across the finish line,” Rosen campaign manager Danny Kazin said.

Rosen ended the quarter with $2.6 million, while Heller ended it with $2.7 million. Her top donors include labor unions and EMILY’s List. Heller’s top donors were Aetna and the International Warehouse Logistics Association.

3rd Congressional District

Democrat Susie Lee raised $1.78 million in the third quarter, more than double Republican Danny Tarkanian’s $660,000 fundraising haul. Lee ended the quarter with $787,000 while Tarkanian reported $480,000 on hand.

4th Congressional District

In the rematch of the 2014 race between former U.S. Reps. Steven Horsford and Cresent Hardy, Democrat Horsford reported raising $929,000 and ended the quarter with $380,000 in the bank. Republican Hardy’s fundraising haul was $290,000 over the same period, campaign finance reports show. He ended the period with $108,000 cash on hand.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Ramona Giwargis at Rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter. Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @Dentzernews on Twitter.

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