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Facts getting in way of those trying to smear Laxalt

The people who are out to hurt Adam Laxalt’s political career were changing their story long before we knew what the Republican attorney general said in a secretly recorded conversation.

That’s what political operatives do when the truth comes out and it’s not on their side.

But now that the details of the conversation finally have been made public — now that we know the story liberals wanted to be true obviously isn’t — the narrative is shifting faster than desert sands in a windstorm. It’s a dead giveaway that Laxalt’s opponents are interested solely in scoring political points and creating content for attack ads in the 2018 election cycle.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday posted the transcript of Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett’s recording of a March 25, 2016, conversation with Laxalt. The transcript undermines every version of the tale that this is Nevada’s political scandal of the year.

First, liberals told us that Laxalt was pushing Burnett for unprecedented GCB intervention into a private-party lawsuit where one party was a licensee, especially since the case was only at the District Court level. The attorney general’s office is GCB’s legal counsel.

But, in a story I broke last week, there’s nothing unprecedented about that. U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto did so at least twice when she was Nevada’s attorney general. Burnett and Laxalt actually talked about a previous intervention by the Gaming Control Board in their conversation.

Next, liberals said that Laxalt wanted the board to file an amicus brief that declared records given to GCB and federal agencies by Las Vegas Sands Corp. were privileged. Burnett implies as much in an affidavit about the conversation that was released last week. But, in the transcript, Laxalt agreed with Burnett that the board shouldn’t file an amicus about such records.

“I think we’ve reviewed their [Sands’] broad request, and most of it is absolutely not possible … or appropriate,” Laxalt said in the transcript.

“[I]t’s not something that our guys anyway think we should support, and it’s not something I’m asking for support.”

Instead, Laxalt asked Burnett if Burnett wanted to intervene to protect the same type of documents at issue in Cantor G&W v. Asher, a brief handled by Masto.

Liberals then brought up an email Burnett sent to Laxalt’s office, asking if the board should get involved. The attorney who ended up answering the email advised against it, but the insinuation that Laxalt overruled his own attorney falls apart when you read the question Burnett asked.

“In other words, if a company provides info to the GCB only, no one else will ever see it. But if it is sent to the GCB and four other agencies, one can [sic] obtain it from the other agencies without a violation of the NRS?” Burnett emailed on March 4, 2016.

“I know we don’t — I know you don’t, and we agree — don’t even want to touch this joint investigation and whether it covers all these other agencies,” Laxalt said in the transcript.

Undeterred, liberals are trying to smear Laxalt by implying that he was doing the bidding of Sands CEO and Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who donated to Laxalt’s campaign. Nice try, but Laxalt’s proposed course of action would have undercut Sands’ argument that all the contested documents were confidential.

“[O]ur brief, at least as I see it, would not be totally helpful to Sands. I mean, it would be hurtful in a number of ways,” Laxalt said. “[T]hey’re making this broader argument that the privilege covers all of the stuff, to the extent that we’d weigh in and say, ‘The only thing we see the privilege covers is this narrow piece.’”

“Oh, yeah,” Burnett said in response.

That’s not say there aren’t unanswered questions. There are plenty.

But they’re for Burnett, not Laxalt.

Where’s the rest of the recording? Why did it cut off in the middle of one of Laxalt’s answers? What did Burnett say next?

What about this conversation made Burnett think he should send the recording to federal authorities, who determined Laxalt broke no laws?

Has Burnett recorded any other conversations?

Why did Burnett create his affidavit before it was subpoenaed by Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas?

Amazingly, liberals’ accusations and insinuations have fallen apart before Laxalt — presumably worried about violating attorney/client privilege — has given his side of the story. That should happen Wednesday night during a hearing on Democrats’ politically motivated bill to end the attorney general’s representation of the gaming board.

Liberals’ need to shift the narrative confirms that Laxalt’s conversation with Burnett isn’t a scandal. It was a lawyer doing his job.

There is one more unanswered question, however:

What was Burnett thinking?

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

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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