By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz said Wednesday that if he runs for governor in 2018 and faces Attorney General Adam Laxalt in a Republican primary, a key campaign issue will be the current controversy surrounding Laxalt’s efforts to persuade gaming regulators to intercede in a civil lawsuit involving Laxalt’s top campaign donor — casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
“I would think this would impact a primary,” Schwartz said during a taping of Nevada Newsmakers. “It is a matter of huge concern when the head law-enforcement officer in the state goes hat-in-hand to the gaming board commissioner and asks him to interfere in a lawsuit.”
Laxalt has made no formal announcement on a gubernatorial run but is officially exploring the idea. He reported a campaign war chest of $1.5 million in January. Many feel Laxalt — grandson of former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt — is the front-running GOP gubernatorial candidate.
Schwartz first said on Nevada Newsmakers in February that he was considering a run for governor.
“Should I decide to run, it will be an issue, an issue of integrity,” Schwartz said of the controversy surrounding Laxalt. “I want to hear and see what the final word is on this but I think it is very serious and reflects on the whole state of Nevada. It is just not my political future or the attorney general’s political future but it really reflects on ourselves as a political society.”
Adelson and his family are Laxalt’s biggest financial backers, according to a report in The Nevada Independent. Adelson, his wife, family members and Las Vegas Sands officials reported giving $100,000 to Laxalt’s Morning in Nevada PAC since 2015 and another $55,000 to Laxalt’s 2014 attorney-general election campaign.
Schwartz said Laxalt “sold himself cheap” to Adelson.
“I want to laugh at it but it is not funny,” Schwartz said. “He sold himself cheap. He got $100,000 from Adelson, I heard more, but $100,000 (for his PAC). The gaming commissioner said no way (to intervening on behalf of Adelson) and Adelson settled for $75 million.”
Then Schwartz added: “If you go to the dark side, at least get paid for it, right?”
Schwartz’s statement came hours before the joint money committees at the Democratically-dominated Nevada Legislature were set to hear a bill that would allow the Gaming Control Board to hire its own lawyers, independent of the Attorney General’s office.
The saga began when Laxalt sought a meeting with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett in late March of 2016. The two met at a coffee shop where Laxalt urged Burnett to intervene in the civil suit involving Adelson. Burnett, who secretly taped the conversation, turned down Laxalt’s request, according to news reports.
Burnett gave the FBI a tape recording of the meeting and the FBI determined Laxalt committed no criminal wrongdoing.
A few days later, Adelson tried to set up a meeting with Burnett, according to an affidavit from Burnett submitted to the Legislature. In the meeting, Burnett told Adelson the gaming regulators will not intervene in his civil suit.
Then, in late May, Adelson agreed to settle the suit. The Wall Street Journal reported Adelson paid more than $75 million to settle the wrongful termination suit by the Sands’ former Macau CEO, Steve Jacobs.
“The gaming regulator turned him (Laxalt) down,” Schwartz added. “And then Mr. Adelson went directly to the (gaming) board and the board turned him down. The next day, Adelson settled for $75 million and this lawsuit has been going on for five years now.”
Schwartz said he would wait until the Legislature is finished before seriously exploring a run for governor. The 2107 regular sessions ends on June 5.
“What we said is that we are going to wait until the end of the legislative session,” Schwartz said. “I want to do a poll, get the questions put together and then we will make a decision.
“So I’m quite interested,” Schwartz said about running for governor. “I think there is a lot I could do, a lot my administration could do for the state but again, it is up to the voters.”
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