September 7, 2010 - 8:05 pm
A former Nevada state senator says he thinks racial animus — not a desire for good government — motivated Clark County Commission Chairman and gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid to oppose a controversial lobbying arrangement. The incident continues a pattern of largely unsupported, and sometimes denounced, race-based allegations that have crept into the race for governor.
Former Sen. Joe Neal, D-Las Vegas, says Reid and other commissioners acted "in a very racist manner" when they voted 5-2 against authorizing a proposal by Clark County judges to hire former Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, as a lobbyist. Reid spokesman Mike Trask called the racial remarks "disappointing."
Neal, who is black, says the vote against the deal for Arberry, who is black, shows Reid, the Democratic nominee for governor, isn’t qualified for higher office.
Neal accused Reid of grandstanding on the lobbying deal in an effort to bolster his gubernatorial campaign at the expense of Arberry.
The comments came after Reid prevented Neal from speaking on behalf of Arberry before the commission voted on the lobbying proposal.
"He felt that he could elevate himself by being averse to me and Arberry," Neal said. "And I resent politicians who would try to do that, to try to use black folks as a means to try and elevate themselves politically."
Said Trask: "This is a disappointing suggestion. Rory has a long history of working with Assemblyman Arberry on a variety of issues."
Just before the vote Reid complimented Arberry for being a good legislator, adding the decision was based on what he felt was best for the county.
"In this case, Rory didn’t think it was right for taxpayers," Trask said.
Neal says he intends to file a complaint with the attorney general stating Reid and the commission violated the open meeting law by denying him the right to speak.
"If you put in a request you are supposed to be able to speak, and Mr. Reid, Rory Reid, turned me down," Neal said. "I’m filing an open meeting law complaint against that very thing."
The lobbying contract that led to the harsh charges from Neal was a controversial deal Clark County judges wanted to make with Arberry when he was still serving in the Assembly, albeit as a termed-out legislator with no more legislative sessions to attend.
Under the deal the judges would use court assessment fees to pay Arberry up to $10,000 a month to lobby legislators for the next 24 months. Shortly before the county commission was set to consider the deal, Arberry resigned his legislative post.
The proposed deal prompted an outpouring of concern that Arberry appeared to be trading on his official position as a legislator to score lobbying work for himself.
It is a type of wheeling-and-dealing Reid has long decried, going so far as to highlight in an ethics plan he published months ago ways to prevent such "revolving door" tactics.
Under Reid’s ethics plan, legislators would have to wait out a two-year "cooling off" period before returning to lobby the legislature.
"The county policy does," prohibit revolving door tactics, Reid said. "The state policy should."
Reid is running for governor against Republican Brian Sandoval. Sandoval spokesman Mary-Sarah Kinner says Sandoval, a former federal judge, also believes there should be a cooling off period between the time legislators leave office and return to lobby the legislature.
The statements from Neal aren’t the first time unsubstantiated allegations of racism or racial insensitivity have seeped into the gubernatorial campaigns.
In July the news director for Univision, a Spanish-language television station, accused Sandoval of being insensitive to Hispanics for saying he wasn’t worried about Arizona’s controversial, anti-immigration law ensnaring his kids because they don’t look Hispanic. The news director made her accusation in a Spanish-language newspaper, but the station didn’t have any audio on Sandoval when he allegedly made the comment. Sandoval said he didn’t recall saying it but added that if he did, it didn’t reflect how he felt.
The lack of corroborating evidence and fact Sandoval was Nevada’s first Hispanic attorney general didn’t stop partisan political operatives, including Reid’s campaign team, from playing up the racial element of the controversy.
And earlier this year during the Republican primary, Gov. Jim Gibbons said Sandoval would "promote ethnic bias and anti-semitism" in response to some Sandoval comments to the Review-Journal in 2002. Sandoval was running for attorney general and told a columnist who asked about enforcing unjust laws, such as Holocaust-era laws in Europe requiring Jews to wear yellow stars, said "it is my job to enforce it."
Gibbons, who lost to Sandoval in the primary, jumped on the statement with the anti-semitism charge and compared Sandoval to "appeasers", people who stood by while Nazis murdered Jews. The Gibbons accusations were widely denounced as over-the-top rhetoric aimed at inflaming anger as opposed to being thoughtful and appropriate criticism of Sandoval’s clumsy response.