Commentary - May 19, 2017 - by Ray Hagar
By Ray Hagar
Nevada's system worked, state Sen Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said this week on Nevada Newsmakers.
It was a proud day for state government, he said.
It did not let the state's richest man -- casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson -- successfully use the attorney general as an errand boy to lobby Nevada's top gaming regulator to influence a high-stakes trial between Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its' former Macau CEO.
"The reality is that when a major casino owner can have the attorney general come and do his bidding, it is concerning," Segerblom said on Nevada Newsmakers.
"But from my perspective, the best news is that the system worked," Segerblom said. "Adelson was not able to influence the system. It really says a lot for Nevada."
Segerblom spoke after he and the rest of Nevada witnessed the unmasking of the uncomfortable relationship between Laxalt and Adelson. That controversy came to a crescendo last week when Laxalt and that top gaming regulator -- A.G. Burnett -- were forced to testify in a hearing at the Nevada Legislature.
Laxalt's aid to Adelson -- his biggest campaign contributor -- and its subsequent fallout has hurt both. To some, Laxalt has sullied the office of Attorney General and has clearly stumbled on his road to becoming governor in 2018.
Adelson lost, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, the court rendered a $75 million judgement against Nevada's political puppet-master.
The system worked, in large part, because of the convictions learned in a long public-service career of Gov. Brian Sandoval. He too, declined to enter into the case. He also backed Burnett after Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson accused Burnett of being in cahoots with Democrats, calling for an investigation.
Sandoval's past experience -- as the Nevada attorney general, U.S. District Court judge and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission -- gave him a multi-dimensional view of the issue. He saw all angles. He made the smart play.
"To the governor's credit, he has really stood behind him (Burnett) and he knows the agency," Segerblom said. "He used to work there (gaming commission). He knows the attorney general (office). He knows that whole process but the fact he stood behind A.G. (Burnett) was really important."
Laxalt, grandson of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, is the top Republican contender for governor because of one reason: He has the backing of Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. That should not be underestimated. Without it, you're out.
Not only is Adelson Nevada's richest man and top political influencer, he also owns the state's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
When it was evident Adelson was backing Laxalt -- whose career spans one term as AG -- more-experienced Republicans like U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Rep. Mark Amodei acquiesced to the anointed one.
"If you just look around, they (Sands) are the major contributor," Segerblom said. "They control the process and with the Laxalt move, they have basically said, 'Here's our horse.' And everybody dropped out, including the lieutenant governor, who spent eight years getting ready to run."
There's no doubt: The Sands is calling the shots in Nevada, Segerblom said.
"Running for governor is not like running for the U.S. senate, where you've got a lot of outside money coming in," Segerblom said. "It is basically (Las Vegas) hotel money and the reality is that the hotels have fenced their horse, Laxalt, and it is not going to change."
Well, maybe. Mr. Adelson can always change his mind and see the universe react.
"It could be that the Sands does some polling and says, 'You (Laxalt) are vulnerable and we don't want (GOP state Treasurer Dan) Schwartz, so they could pull the rug out from under Laxalt and encourage Heller or Hutchison to run."