KUNR Investigation: Lobbyists Don't Report Business Relationships
Listen to the story
Brandon Rittiman / KUNR
(Note: A complete list of the relationships we examined can be found below.)
Nevada's legislature is part-time. That means lawmakers have to make a living doing something else.
It's no surprise then, that many have business relationships with lobbyists trying influence them.
That's not against the rules, so long as lobbyists report those relationships.
But you may be surprised how often that doesn't happen.
To be a lobbyist you have to register with the legislature's staff.
On the registration form, lobbyists have to disclose any business association they or their client has with a member of the legislature.
KUNR identified 28 lobbyists who have some type of business relationship with lawmakers.
But our investigation found that only one-fourth of them actually made the disclosure.
We compared the lobbyists forms with the financial disclosures lawmakers file each year.
The most glaring omissions are nine registered lobbyists with Snell & Wilmer Law Firm.
They did not name Senator Greg Brower, who's a lawyer at their firm.
The former assemblyman was appointed by the Washoe County Commission right before the session started.
Brower says his colleagues had already registered as lobbyists.
Brower: "And of course when they filled out that form some months ago, they did not have a business relationship with anybody who was in the legislature. They are now amending the form to reflect that fact."
Lobbyists are supposed to amend their forms within five days of any changes. We're now more than two months into the session.
We found Senator Brower himself made a similar error, missing a 30-day window to file his financial disclosure. He became a senator a few days after the regular deadline for everybody else. He says he's fixing the mistake.
Jones Vargas law firm has two of the lobbyists who represent Caesar's Entertainment, formerly known as Harrah's.
Assemblyman Elliot Anderson works as a security guard at the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas, which is owned by Caesar's.
Those two lobbyists for Caesar's declined recorded interviews, but they argue that employment is not they type of business association the form is designed for. And even so, they point out that the form asks for direct business relationships.
The casino where Assemblyman Anderson works is not owned directly by Caesar's, it's owned by one of Casear's subsidiaries.
Legislative staff say we've found a gray zone in the disclosure law. And plenty of the connections we discovered fall into it.
The two lobbyists for the Nevada Parent Teacher Association did not disclose a relationship with Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, who works for the national PTA.
The lobbyist for Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare did not name Assemblyman Pete Livermore, who serves on the board of the hospital run by that group.
But not everybody sees the gray zone as a problem.
Dayton: "If there's a gray area, I always disclose."
That's Michael Dayton, a lobbyist with the law firm McDonald Carano Wilson. He and five colleagues named Senator Ben Kiekhefer on their forms, though one of them did not.
The Senator recently took a job as the lead PR man for the law firm.
Besides Kieckhefer, the only lawmaker named on any form was Assemblyman Skip Daly.
Daly runs the Laborer's International Union Local 169. So when that union's lobbyist John Russell filled out his form, he thought:
Russell: "It's a no-brainer and we've got nothing to hide. Yeah, I've got a business relationship with him. Yeah, I work for the guy. He signs my paychecks."
The lobbyist for the plumbers and pipefitters union named the union, but not the lawmaker- Assemblyman Richard Carrillo- who is a union official.
That underscores a point legislative staffers made to us; that the form could be simpler to understand.
In future sessions, they plan on a computer-based form that would give lobbyists a list of lawmakers to choose from.
In the meantime, the Legislative Counsel Bureau is looking into the relationships we found in our investigation.
It will also start making the business associations available on the legislature's website soon.
But bureau director Lorne Malkiewich points out that won't clear up the gray zone of disclosure law.
Malkiewich: "What we will put online is what people have reported. If it's not reported, there's nothing to put online."
What's clear is that different lobbyists interpret the disclosure rule in different ways.
And we haven't even talked about the nine lawmakers who work for state and local government agencies, many of which have lobbyists of their own.
What merits disclosure? Employment? Consulting? A simple business deal?
Right now many of the connections between lawmakers and lobbyists fall into those shades of gray.
As of the halfway mark of the 2011 session, we identified the following business relationships with lawmakers:
(Lobbyists who disclosed are noted)
Greg Brower [R] - Lawyer at Snell & Wilmer Law Firm
· Cowley, Alaina *
· Dickson, Miles *
· Hoch, Colleen *
· McDonald, Sean *
· McMullen, Erin *
· McMullen, Samuel *
· Ross, George *
· Shelton, Karl *
· Tomlinson, Neal *
Ben Kieckhefer [R] - Communications Director for McDonald Carano Wilson Law Firm
· Care, Terry * (CLAIMED)
· Conaboy, Kathleen * (CLAIMED)
· Dayton, Michael * (CLAIMED)
· Endres, Jim * (CLAIMED)
· Georgeson, Paul *
· Knox, Lindsay * (CLAIMED)
· Pagni, Michael * (CLAIMED)
Elliot Anderson [D] - Security Guard at Planet Hollywood Hotel/Casino (Owned by Caesar's Entertainment)
· Alonso, Michael *
· Hart, Dan *
· LaSane, Karlos *
· Maddox, John *
· Pontoni, Diane *
· Sande III, John *
Richard Carrillo [D] - Business Representative for Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 525
· Esposito, Greg *(CLAIMED Plumbers & Pipefitters, but not claim Carillo)
Skip Daly [D] - Union Officer for Laborer's International Union Local 169
· Russell, Johnathon * (CLAIMED)
April Mastroluca [D] - Service Representative for the National PTA (The Nevada PTA is part of the national organization and has two unpaid lobbyists)
Pete Livermore [R] - Board Member for Carson Tahoe Regional Health Care
· Walker, Mary *
(Note: * = Paid Lobbyist)