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Reid swings at bonus paid to Lowden’s husband during company downturn

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election staff took a swing this afternoon at one of his major Republican challengers, pointing out that Sue Lowden’s husband was awarded a $200,000 bonus from their casino company last year at a time when its work force in Laughlin was cut and it stopped matching worker 401K contributions.

Seeking to raise questions about Lowden’s business bona fides, the campaign of the Nevada Democrat called attention to information it pulled from the latest Securities and Exchange Commission report filed this week by the Archon Corporation, for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2009.

The work force at the Archon-owned Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall in Laughlin dropped from 459 people from September 2008 to 353 in September 2009. Last April 30, the company reported, it stopped its 25 percent match of employee contributions to the company 401K. The move appeared to save about $67,000.

Paul Lowden, the company president, collected a $550,000 salary and a $200,000 bonus in 2009, and the same in 2008, according to the company report. Sue Lowden, who is executive vice president, secretary and treasurer, was paid a salary of $138,000 in 2009, and did not collect a bonus. A year earlier, her salary was $136,182, plus a bonus of $6,797.

“After claiming that job creation is her top priority, Lowden owes her former employees an explanation why their jobs were worth less than her husband’s massive bonus,” said Reid Campaign Manager Brandon Hall.  “As her own campaign says, her record in the private sector speaks volumes about how she would represent Nevada in Washington.” 

Lowden’s campaign cried foul. It said Lowden does not serve on the compensation committee that determined her husband’s bonus. It said Paul Lowden has not gotten a salary increase since 1996, and in the past has turned down “significant” stock option awards.

“My husband and I are proud to have created thousands of private sector jobs in Nevada’s leading economic industry,” Lowden said in a statement from her campaign. “We have provided health care and retirement benefits.”

As for Reid, Lowden said the four-term incumbent “has been living off the Nevada taxpayer his entire adult life, gladly accepting generous pay raises and writing government-run health care bills that he won’t even enroll in himself.”

Reid “has no idea what it’s like to meet a payroll – because hardworking Nevada taxpayers provide his payroll,” Lowden said.

As Senate majority leader, Reid is paid $193,400 annually.

Archon told the SEC in its latest report that the Pioneer has been hurt by the spread of gaming on Indian reservations coupled with the harsh economy overall.

“The Pioneer has experienced a flattening and, to a certain extent, a decline of its revenues over the last few years after experiencing strong revenue and profit growth in the early 1990s,” the company said. Archon’s latest annual report is here.

In a bit of back and forth, Reid’s campaign noted that while he has accepted pay raises in the years they are approved by Congress, he has donated to charity the proceeds from his books, most recently $110,000 in royalties from his 2008 memoir.

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