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VICTOR JOECKS: $150K unaccounted for in Neal’s finance reports

Updated May 19, 2024 - 12:33 pm

State Sen. Dina Neal’s campaign finance reports imply that around $150,000 in contributions has seemingly disappeared.

Neal, a North Las Vegas Democrat, won election to the Nevada Assembly in November 2010. She served five terms before running for the state Senate in 2020. She ran for the old seat of Senate majority leader Kelvin Atkinson. In 2019, he was arrested and eventually pled guilty to stealing almost $250,000 in campaign funds. Hold that thought.

The law requires every Nevada politician to file “contributions and expenses reports” on a regular basis. Annual reports are due in January and cover the previous year. Neal filed her first report in 2010, and it detailed her activities in 2009. That year, she raised $950 and reported $2,600 of in-kind contributions. As the name implies, in-kind contributions aren’t monetary donations. As such they aren’t included in the following numbers.

Despite her modest start, Neal’s fundraising soon took off. Eventually chairing the Taxation Committee undoubtedly helped. Her annual reports and most recent quarterly filing show she’s raised more than $775,000 in monetary donations. That included more than $100,000 in both 2016 and 2020. In 2018, she raised more than $90,000. Despite running in a safe district, her reports also show that she’s spent a bit more than $600,000.

Nevada politicians have to report their ending-fund balances. The Nevada secretary of state’s “How To Guide” for campaign finance reports states that is “the balance of the campaign bank account at the end of the reporting period.”

Given that, you’d expect Neal’s ending fund balance would be around $175,000. But that’s not what her most recent campaign finance report shows. That report was filed April 15 and covered the first quarter of 2024. It says she has a bit under $27,000 in the bank. Once you crunch the numbers, about $150,000 is unaccounted for.

This isn’t a one-time concern. Her year-over-year totals don’t add up either. For 2021, she listed her ending-fund balance as $13,446. In 2022, she raised $87,700 and spent $63,729, according to her finance report. That means her campaign account should have increased by almost $24,000. Instead, her listed ending fund balance for 2022 was only $18,721.

Something similar happened in 2023. She raised almost $64,000 and spent just more than $49,000, the records show. Yet, her listed ending fund balance dropped to under $17,800. That doesn’t add up.

When she began her political career, Neal and other politicians didn’t have to report ending-fund balances. Aside from manual calculations, there was no quick way to figure out how much money politicians controlled.

In 2017, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 45. One provision required that elected officials report their campaigns’ ending-fund balances starting in 2019. Only one person in both houses voted against it — then-Assemblywoman Neal.

I asked Neal about the discrepancies in her campaign reports. I emailed her the spreadsheet I used to compile this information so she could review my calculations. I asked where the money went and if she ever used campaign funds for personal expenses.

“I have never and would never, misappropriate or misuse campaign monies,” she wrote in an email. She didn’t respond to further requests for comment by phone and email.

Perhaps her statement is true. Perhaps there is an innocent explanation. Perhaps she’s terrible at keeping records. Perhaps her campaign reports are riddled with entry errors.

Or perhaps she’s followed in Atkinson’s footsteps. Neal is already under an FBI investigation in another matter.

Neal faces a primary challenge from Regent Laura Perkins. Before re-electing her, voters should make her explain why her finance reports don’t appear to add up.

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

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