Catherine Cortez Masto seeking Democratic nomination to replace Harry Reid in Senate. (R-J file photo)
Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has become the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for Harry Reid’s Senate seat and Harry has already endorsed her. It was in all the papers, along with everything you need to know about her merits and demerits — well, not quite.
As it turns out, a couple of the people being touted as potential Republican candidates for the seat figure into those demerits.
On March 24, 2010, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons sent Democrat AG Cortez Masto a letter directing her to file suit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. She immediately fired back a letter saying such action would be frivolous and refusing to do so.
“Our state constitution creates the Office of the Attorney General as a separate constitutional officer within the executive branch. The Attorney General is the State’s chief legal officer. Like you I have a responsibility to represent the State’s interests. As such, I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed. I also have the responsibility to decide how and when litigation is conducted.”
Well, not exactly. As I wrote at the time, the Nevada Constitution and Nevada Revised Statutes seem to reach a different conclusion as to her authority to refuse the governor’s direct order.
The constitution says:
“The Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Attorney General, and Superintendent of public instruction shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.”
For the AG, law in NRS 228 states unequivocally:
“Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.” (Emphasis added.)
The governor directed. The AG refused.
Another section of NRS 228 reads:
“If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her by law, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.” (Again, emphasis added.)
Instead, attorney Mark Hutchison, now the lieutenant governor, was hired pro bono to represent Nevada in the unsuccessful litigation to overturn ObamaCare. He is now being urged to run for Reid’s Senate seat.
An attorney general who refuses to follow the law seems imminently qualified to succeed Harry Reid.
Then there was the criminal indictment by AG Cortez Masto against then-state Treasurer and later-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and his chief of staff over alleged mismanagement of a college saving program. No funds were missing but the AG’s office claimed Krolicki was not following state budgeting rules.
A judge dismissed the charges completely and Cortez Masto did not appeal.
But during the prosecution an invitation to a fundraiser for a Democratic opponent of Krolicki for lieutenant governor listed a sponsor of the event as Paul Masto, husband of the attorney general. She denied any wrongdoing and the event was canceled.
Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Chris Comfort said at the time, “Catherine Cortez Masto and her friends are so arrogant that they change a few words on an invite and pretend this is no longer about Catherine Cortez Masto. The event is hosted by Catherine’s husband and Catherine’s top donors, and it underscores her personal and partisan crusade to destroy Brian Krolicki.
“Catherine Cortez Masto’s political stunts continue to erode public trust in her and in the judicial system,” he was quoted as saying.
Another qualification to succeed Harry Reid.
Krolicki also is said to be considering seeking the Republican nomination for Harry Reid’s Senate seat and contemplated a run in 2010.
In announcing her candidacy Cortez Masto also announced her resignation as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a job to which she was appointed only three months ago after being termed out as attorney general.
She was appointed without benefit of a national search to a job that had been vacant for five years and paid a salary of $215,000, far more than her pay as an elected official, even though she had no experience in higher education.
Was it merely a ploy to keep her nose in the public trough until some elective office opened up?
Further showing her liberal bona fides, while serving as executive vice chancellor, Cortez Masto testified before a legislative panel against a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses.
“AB148 is overly broad,” Cortez Masto testified. “This is a solution in search of a problem,” adding that guns on campus would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.
Another qualification to succeed Reid, who claims to support the Second Amendment, while voting consistently to curb those rights.
Even though Article 8, Section 9 of the Nevada Constitution states: “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes,” Cortez Masto opined otherwise when the governor and lawmakers wanted to dole out money to various companies to get them to move operations to Nevada — such as Elon Musk’s SolarCity through a so-called Catalyst Fund. (Billionaire Musk’s Tesla Motors later got more than a billion dollars in tax breaks to build a battery plant near Sparks.)
On three different occasions state officials attempted to get the voters to amend the Constitution make subsidies to companies legal. In 1992, a proposal was nixed by 76.5 percent of the voters. In 1996, 64.8 percent of voters opposed it. By 2000, resistance dwindled to 59.3 percent, but it still failed.
Despite the clear wording of the constitution and the majority of voters, AG Cortez Masto’s opinion on the Catalyst Fund states: “The Nevada Constitution does not prohibit the State from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to regional development authorities that by definition must be local governments, or prohibit local governments from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to companies.”
Some lawyers might call that money laundering. But that’s how Harry doles out favors to his cronies.
The only announced Republican candidate for Reid’s seat is Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers.