A conservative Nevada think tank today turned up the heat on the public agency charged with promoting Las Vegas.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute released thousands of documents it says illustrate a pattern of loose spending, overly cozy business relationships and nonexistent oversight at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The NPRI even took aim at the authority’s cheeky "What hapens here, stays here" advertising campaign, saying internal documents show the slogan is not only losing effectiveness but could be turning people away from Las Vegas.
"The overarching theme that comes from this research … is that it is clear to me a further investigation should be done," said John Doughtery, an investigative reporter from Arizona the NPRI hired to compile public documents from the LVCVA.
Some of the documents have already led to revelations that LVCVA President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter signed off on a $25,000 contribution to a Denver charity that subsequently honored him with recognition as a humanitarian during a lavish banquet. The honor also included thousands of dollars in spending on restaurant meals, a stay in a swanky hotel in Denver and fine wine and cocktails consumed during the planning process for the banquet — all paid for with public funds.
But the NPRI investigation also raises questions about much larger sums of money, such as the effectiveness of $87 million the LVCVA pays advertising agency R&R Partners, in large part to produce and buy airtime for ads touting the "What happens here, stays here" slogan.
NPRI released the findings to local media gathered at its headquarters in a storefront office near McCarran International Airport. In addition to local reporters, two men who said they were hired to represent "the other side" shared copies of publicly available tax disclosures from NPRI. They said the forms raise questions about funding soures for NPRI.
NPRI is a private, non-profit organization that counts Las Vegas Sands President and COO Bill Weidner as a board member. Weidner is a longtime critic of the convention authority, which he says wastes taxpayer money and unfairly uses public funds to subsidize a convention center that undercuts private venues such as Sands Expo Center.
The LVCVA has an annual budget of about $294 million, most of which comes from taxes visitors pay on Las Vegas hotel rooms.