Newspaper fails to uncover name of ‘mystery’ gaming licensee

Sheldon Adelson, owner of casinos and newspaper. (Reuters pix via NY Times)

Often the most significant aspect of a news story is what it doesn’t report.

The morning newspaper today reports that Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton of Las Vegas is seeking to conduct a hearing on a surreptitious recording made by Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett of a conversation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt concerning “a certain licensee” — in other words, a casino owner.

Near the end, the news account informs readers that neither Carlton nor the AG’s office would name that “certain licensee.”

Now who on earth could that “certain licensee” be?

Back in February an online news operation called The Nevada Independent reported that Burnett had secretly recorded a meeting with Laxalt in which the AG asked that the gaming board file an affidavit in a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas demanding that certain records concerning the Las Vegas Sands be kept confidential. The Sands is owned by Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Adelson is also a major contributor to Laxalt’s political campaigns.

The Nevada Independent is funded by contributions, a large portion of which come from Sands competitors, and is headed up by former Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun and television commentator Jon Ralston.

Both the Independent and Battle Born Media newspaper sought a copy of the recording under the state public records law but were turned down. “Even if the requested material was a public record,” the gaming board custodian stated, “it is declared confidential and privileged by law and, therefore, exempt from disclosure.”

Laxalt issued a statement at the time in an attempt to explain his meeting with Burnett on behalf of Adleson, “The Attorney General’s Office was approached by the Sands Corporation asking us to file an amicus brief about NRS 463 — a statute that protects the confidentiality of documents submitted to the Gaming Control Board. I’ve made it a practice to personally advise and meet with my clients on a regular basis. As a Nevada statewide elected official, I also meet with constituents all the time on issues that are important to the State and our clients.”

In the story first filed online Tuesday evening, the morning paper quoted Carlton as saying in a statement, “Last week I issued a subpoena for information regarding actions Attorney General Laxalt took to interfere with the Gaming Control Board’s oversight of a certain licensee. … The information is unsettling and warrants a hearing. We will work with the Chairman of the Gaming Control Board to bring more light to this situation.”

At about 4 a.m. today The Nevada Independent, which bills itself in social media as @TheNVIndy, posted a lengthy story recapping its previous reporting on the topic and attaching a 14-page notarized affidavit filed by Burnett on April 27. Why he created the affidavit is unclear.

That affidavit explained for the first time why Burnett, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, decided to record the conversation. “Further, because said licensee had in recent months been part of the purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and as previously noted, there were news articles implying that agents or employees of the newspaper had sent reporters around to monitor particular judges, including the judge presiding over the wrongful termination case, I was concerned reporters might be monitoring me, as well.”

Burnett also said, “I was shocked and in disbelief due to the nature of these unusual circumstances. I was also extremely worried about what the conversation might entail. Based on my knowledge of Nevada statutes, including past discussions with federal authorities, I determined it was in my best interest, and those of the state and the GCB, to record the upcoming oral conversation.”

Burnett reportedly turned over a copy of the recording to the FBI, which found no criminal behavior.

The Independent reported that Laxalt sent this statement to the news outlet: “Today’s news proves the point — Nevada democratic (sic) politicians will stop at nothing — including twisting and politicizing a routine action that previous attorneys general, including Catherine Cortez Masto, have taken. … We look forward to exposing this for what it is: a political attack designed to distract from the Democrats’ radical agenda that harms Nevada’s working families.”

Laxalt is said to be planning to run for governor. In March the Sun reported that Democrats filed public records request seeking copies of Laxalt’s official communications with Adelson and his representatives. The Sun story also mentioned the secretly recorded conversation that remains a mystery to the newspaper into which it is inserted.

The Sun reported, “Laxalt has faced criticism over an April 2016 meeting with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett. Democrats have asked the FBI to release any audio recordings and documents related to the case and called for a state ethics investigation, saying Laxalt was attempting to push Burnett into supporting Adelson in a lawsuit.”

A year ago the Gaming Control Board fined the Sands $2 million for failing to maintain the reputation of the gaming industry. This was based on the company settling with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a $9 million civil penalty, which follow on a $47.4 million settlement with Treasury a couple of year earlier.


Newspaper columnists lecture the dumb hicks about what is good for them

We’re just too stupid to know what is good for us, according to a couple of liberal columnists for liberal urban newspapers at either end of the state, and all us rubes and hicks should just shut up and let Harry and Barry do what is good for us.

Writing in the Reno newspaper, longtime Reid sycophant Jon Ralston pilloried Rep. Cresent Hardy for daring to question President Obama’s single-handed designation of the 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument in his district as a payback to Harry Reid.

He reminded Hardy that much of his district is in urban and presumably urbane Clark County with this gibe: “Hardy may find that his position plays well in Bundyville, but many of his supporters do not live in anachronistic times.”

Ralston penned this vapid and tortured tweak of the ignorant opponents of Obama’s executive fiat:

Of course, the logic here is easily shredded. If the rural governments were consulted and objected, that would have had an impact? Really? Some of them favor Yucca Mountain. Does that mean policy should accommodate them?

What they really mean is that there should have been the illusion of a rural listening tour before jamming this through. It would taste so much less like political castor oil with that spoonful of sugar.

No need to waste time listening to those who have no idea what is good for them.

In the Las Vegas newspaper lefty columnist Steve Sebelius tried to ridicule Lincoln County Commissioner Kevin Phillips telling reporters that the monument designation was wrong. “It’s disgusting. It’s loathsome. It’s illegal. It’s unfair,” he said. “We feel like we’re not citizens.”

In his own hat tip to anachronistic times, Sebelius offered this too cute comparison: “But to hear some tell it, Reid put on a bandanna and robbed an old-timey stagecoach with his trusty Winchester Model 1873.”

Inexplicably, Sebelius, in a complete contortion of logic and democratic principles, wrote: “But Reid dismissed the critics, saying there was ‘not a chance in hell’ that Congress would have approved the designation through the legislative process.”

Sebelius ended his sermon from atop his high horse by writing:

Plus, it’s not as if the excitable Commissioner Phillips has a point. What Obama did is not illegal. It’s just as legal, and just as legitimate, as withdrawing the land through congressionally approved legislation.

And bottom line: Preserving the land from development was the right thing to do. History will bear that out, long after the wails of the disaffected have ceased to echo through the desert canyons of Nevada’s newest monument.

And anyone thinks otherwise is, well, too stupid to know what is good for them.

As for the action not being illegal, consider that the Constitution enumerates the powers vested in Congress and the president.

In the 1906 Antiquities Act, the Congress gave away this power to the president to designate monuments because the Congress was moving too slow for Teddy Roosevelt’s druthers, but Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution still reads: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States …”

Could the Congress give away all its other enumerated powers and go home? That would solve the problem of there not being “a chance in hell” of Congress taking some action Harry or Barry wants. We don’t need no stinking Constitution.

There is the scent of schadenfreude in the air as Ralston TV show goes dark — bridge burning to follow

I’m sure there are more than a few people out there today who are feeling a bit of schadenfreude.

That is one of Jon Ralston’s favorite words. He uses it all the time. It is the pleasure one derives from the misfortunes of others. It is German for “harm-joy.”

Jon Ralston

Ralston’s TV gabfest goes off the air on Dec. 12. Channel 3’s new owners apparently have other plans for the little watched time slot. Ralston now adds former TV pundit to his resume, which already includes former Review-Journal reporter and columnist, as well as former Las Vegas Sun columnist.

The Las Vegas newspaper account of this appropriately referred to the show as his bully pulpit. The sources Ralston could not develop by trading favors, he got by bullying, threatening and browbeating. I’ve heard him.

“His website,, offers a daily mix of tidbits about Nevada’s political scene, often delivered with acerbic personal attacks and name-calling, but sometimes injected with levity,” the R-J account of his departure says. “He recently called the activist group Citizen Outreach ‘Citizen Outhouse clowns’ and called conservative Republican legislators a ‘gang of loons.'”

Some might call that sophomoric.

The clowns at Citizen Outhouse return the favor:

Ralston Reports, the little-watched left-wing public affairs show originating out of KSNV Channel 3 in Las Vegas, was cancelled today.  The last show for the man who never met a bridge he didn’t burn will be on December 12th.

Watch parties for the defrocked TV pundit’s last hurrah are being organized as we speak.

The over-under for when Ralston will start trashing KSNV and its new owners after his swan song has been set at 48 hours.

Defrocked was the word Ralston frequently used when deriding his former, also now former, supervisors at the R-J. He also cast aspersions on the publisher of the Sun after his exit, as well as everyone else.

The tune “Always Burning Bridges” will be in my head all day.


Pundit’s ties to Miller family belatedly recounted

Laxalt and Miller before a debate. (AP photo)

In case you missed it, as I most certainly did, a account shortly before the election recounted ties between television pundit Jon Ralston and the family of attorney general candidate Democrat Ross Miller, who surprisingly lost to Adam Laxalt Tuesday.

The story by Ciara Matthews points out that Ralston, who frequently boasted of his role in reporting a leaked “evaluation document” from Laxalt’s former law firm calling him a train wreck and unsuited to practice law, was prominently mentioned by Ross Miller’s father, former Gov. Bob Miller, in the acknowledgements section of his book, “Son of a Gambling Man.”

Sounds like Ralston practically ghost wrote the book:

From Bob Miller's autobiography

From Bob Miller’s autobiography

Count the glowing adjectives.

I’m told the book breezes past some of the former governor’s relationships with less than savory Las Vegas characters of that era.

The Watchdog report is full of interesting links and twitter feeds.

Conservative television group purchases KSNV-Channel 3

The rumor at the time of the death of KSNV-Channel 3 owner Jim Rogers was that conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group might buy the station and turn its editorial policy 180-degrees and spell trouble for its stable of liberal pundits.

Today the Baltimore company announced it has purchased the NBC affiliate for $120 million.

Jim Rogers

“We are pleased to add KSNV to our portfolio,” the press release quoted Steve Pruett, co-chief operating officer of Sinclair’s television group as saying. “With the addition of the station, our news footprint will cover all the major cities in the state of Nevada, allowing us to be a leading provider of local and regional news.”

Note the immediate reference to the news footprint.

The left-wing MediaMatters compiled a litany of conservative deeds by the group, saying “Sinclair has used its stations to promote a conservative, anti-progressive message.”

Its newscasts often include editorials by conservative commentator Mark Hyman. The stations supported Mitt Romney. In 2010 they ran a 25-minute piece that said Obama “displays tendencies some would call socialist.”

KSNV liberal pundit Jon Ralston, a defrocked newspaper columnist, is already hinting at things to come, saying in his morning email: “Big news in the TV (and my) world this morning. Sinclair has purchased KSNV, which means the huge company now owns the two major NBC outlets in Nevada. Sinclair has conservative owners, a dramatic change from the Jim Rogers days.”

The sale is expected to be completed in first quarter of 2015.




Might Channel 3 be in for some really big changes?

The death of Channel 3 owner Jim Rogers on Saturday has prompted an outpouring of well deserved plaudits for his philanthropy and dedication to the community and education, but perhaps the most interesting item with far-reaching implications for the future was atop Norm Clarke’s column today.

Though Rogers had told the staff of KSNV-TV this past December, during his battle with cancer, that “whatever happens, the station will not be put up for sale,” Clarke reports those staffers are concerned about a recent visit by Sinclair Broadcast Group chairman, president and CEO David D. Smith.

While Rogers was an unrepentant liberal, Smith’s group, which has been on a TV station buying binge, is die-hard conservative.

Such a sale would have implications for programming and personnel — such as the lowly rated Jon Ralston program.

In 2004 Sinclair stations were ordered to air a documentary critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Its newscasts often include editorials by conservative commentator Mark Hyman. The stations supported Mitt Romney. In 2010 they ran a 25-minute piece that said Obama “displays tendencies some would call socialist.”

Clarke reports:

If Sinclair were to purchase Channel 3, it likely would have major political implications.

“It could go from liberal ownership to conservative,” said a source at the station. “Jim more than leaned left and these guys more than lean right.”

Though Rogers and I locked horns on a few occasions over the past decades, he was always personally courteous and civil. He has given many people a second chance and has been good for the community. He leaves a legacy.

We’ll wait and see what the next chapter at Channel 3 is. Perhaps, it was just a friendly visit by someone in the same business.

Jim Rogers and I. (screen grab)




Ralston labels Root a birther — fair or not?

I think someone is stretching the definition of birther a bit.

On his blog Friday, defrocked newspaper columnist Jon Ralston, stated: “Wayne Allyn Root, the state’s most famous birther, continues to be honored by state Republicans and may soon become an albatross for a congressional candidate.”

I thought the definition of birther was one who stated or believed Obama was born in a foreign country and therefore not eligible under the Constitution to serve as president.

Ralston, ever the self-aggrandizer, went on to write:

“MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow picked up on Root after I broke news of the invite this summer with Nevada GOP elected officials and House No. 3 man Kevin McCarthy. In her piece, Maddow played the clip of Root saying Obama was an illegitmate (sic) president who got into college as a foreign-exchange student with an Indonesian passport. Root responded in a bizarre piece in which he accused Maddow of trying to “defame and slander me.” (He also has had a lawyer contact me.)”

Wayne Allyn Root

Now I’m not defending Root, whose bombastic speaking style leaves me cold and whose columns I published under protest at the Review-Journal, but rather I question Ralston’s accuracy. I can’t recall Root ever claiming Obama was foreign born.

Root has “suspected” Obama, in order to get some form of affirmative action benefit, enrolled in college as a foreign exchange student, possibly using an Indonesian passport.

Here is what Root himself has to say on this topic:

“I believe Obama is a fraud. But it has nothing to do with his birth. Obama’s critics have it all backward. They are looking in the wrong place. He isn’t a foreigner portraying himself as an American. He’s an American who fraudulently portrayed himself as a foreigner. So because of his own fraudulent actions, Obama is actually the one to blame for starting all of this conspiracy talk.

“Months ago, MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow spent 15 minutes on her national show calling me a “birther.” I scratched my head, because I’m not — never have been, not for one minute. A “birther” believes Obama is a foreigner, not legally qualified to be President. I have never believed that.

“I’ve always believed that Obama is 100 percent American. There, I’ve said it loudly. I’m a leading critic of the President, but I’ve always believed him to be American-born. He is as American as P.T. Barnum. And he lies and exaggerates like Barnum, too. While Obama is no foreigner, he is a fraud.”

Root goes on at some length laying out the circumstantial evidence that leads him to this rather tenuous conclusion. A conspiracy theorist, sure. But a birther?

Accuracy in commentary, as with Obama’s so many broken promises, should never be allowed to get in the way of a good old name-calling tirade.

The perils of rapidly posting news stories online — journalistic standards revealed

New newspaper motto: “All the news that’s fit to post … for an hour.”

According to defrocked newspaper columnist Jon Ralston, who somehow managed to snag a copy of a news story posted on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s website Monday afternoon before it was expurgated, Rep. Joe Heck went ballistic when reporter Ben Spillman asked him about his son’s tweeting.

Ralston reports the story when first posted contained this exchange:

Asked about his own son’s tweet that implied special insight into the raid that led to the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, Heck abruptly ended a conversation with a reporter.

On Oct. 16 Joey Heck tweeted that his father’s committee deserved more credit than Obama for the raid.

“Obama didn’t make the call to kill Osama. … That was the intelligence committee #iwouldknow,” the tweet stated.

When asked about the Intelligence Committee referencing tweet Heck ended the interview.

“Are you kidding me, are you kidding me,” Heck said. “Do you really think that my son is tweeting on national security issues? The conversation is over. You have really crossed the line.”

But within an hour the passage was excised, Ralston says.

Tweet that appears next to R-J story online.

Tweet that appears next to R-J story online.

Oddly enough the story that is posted online still carries next to it a tweet by Stephens Media’s Washington bureau chief Steve Tetreault referring to Heck cutting off the interview in a huff. Additionally, the story is nowhere to be found in the print edition. To add to the curiosity of the bowdlerizing, the information about the Osama tweet had already been printed in the Review-Journal a month and a half ago when the paper followed up on a report from BuzzFeed.

Ralston’s comment was: “Even for the ‘newspaper,’ where journalistic standards are an oxymoron, this is a new nadir.”

I’m sure he would include me and former publisher Sherman Frederick in his critique of the “journalistic standards” of the Review-Journal, but in this case I have to agree with him. I seriously doubt any explanation will ever be forthcoming.

I can’t help but wonder who got the phone call from Heck and who made the decision to spike legitimate news.

Even the gray lady got caught changing things online. The perils of posting.

If this be April Fool’s Day, that must mean … not again!

I awoke this morning and realized it was April Fool’s Day, and shivered in chagrin at some of the opportunities to behave like an adult editor that I frittered away over the years. There is sure to be a reservation for me in an outer circle of journalistic Hell.

You see, for years I allowed Jon Ralston — then Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist, now defrocked Sun columnist and self-aggrandizing television pundit and web worm — to publish entire column’s of outrageous political fantasies that would end with something to the effect: “Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone. Did I fool you?”

Happy April’s Fools Day …

I would link to a couple of those groaners, but the recent Review-Journal online redesign has the paper’s online archives in utter disarray. Search engines will find a URL but it doesn’t work. But what the heck, here is one he published in the Las Vegas Sun in 2000. Their archives still work, if nothing else does.

So, I wondered this morning, without an ink on newsprint outlet for his infantile fantasies, would Ralston stoop to still another April Fool’s Day joke? He managed to disappoint.

An alert reader, who I surely hope is not actually paying for his emailed political pointers, let me know Ralston is down to his old tricks.

After informing everyone in his “Morning Flash” that he was rushing off to New York for an interview at 30 Rock, he proceeded to report John Ensign is consider running for Congress against Steven Horsford. “How could he be worse than Tark?” and that Jim Gibbons is now a mining industry lobbyist and Brian Sandoval is being considered for secretary of the Interior.

It ended: “Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone. Did I fool you?”

Not for the past two decades.

Las Vegas newspaper wins ‘Wheel of Profanity’ and lets expletive fly uncensored

I pointed out in January that the Las Vegas newspaper had evolved in its policies concerning the use of profanities in the “family” newspaper, because it used  “BOEHNER TELLS REID TO F— OFF” on the front page to refer to an inside story about what the House speaker said to the Senate majority leader.

When I was editor I overruled the AP Stylebook on this. The Stylebook suggests: “If a full quote that contains an obscenity, profanity or vulgarity cannot be dropped but there is no compelling reason for the offensive language, replace the letters of the offensive word with hyphens, using only an initial letter.”

Front page refer in January

I reasoned every freaking member of the damn “family” already knew precisely what letters were excised. “This is no game show,” I would exclaim, “and Vanna White ain’t the editor.” If the word were necessary to the context of the story and the ability to convey the news value, then use the word, not some flimsy hyphens. That’s like wrapping a nude in Saran Wrap and calling it decent.

But I never did use the word. Instead, I told editors to substitute in parens the word “expletive.” Everyone still knew what was said, but perhaps we’d be spared the wrath of the prudes and a couple of cancellations.

I guess the paper has so few subscribers left now that it makes no difference. Today in a story under the headline “Henderson, Milam reportedly reach tentative settlement,” the Review-Journal lets rip a quote from an email from a former BLM director who was catching heat about the land deal.

PROFANITY WARNING! The paper, in print and online, quoted: “‘At the end of the day, I am hopeful the good citizens of Henderson will realize they have fucking idiots working for them and that they will show up at the polls to elect officials who are worthy of representing that community’s interests,’ (Bob) Abbey wrote. ‘I do not believe this to be the case today.'”

The evolution is complete.

For a dose of double irony, see the morning emailed newsletter from self-styled TV pundit, former Review-Journal columnist and defrocked Sun columnist Jon Ralston — who has been known to let out an all-too-frequent and all-too-voluble profanity, especially the aforementioned one, across the newsroom — in which he wrote:

You don’t often see what the “newspaper” published in an updated post early Monday evening, with an astounding quote from ex-national BLM Director Bob Abbey about that lawsuit expected to be settled as early as this morning. I will alter it because this is a family newsletter, but he said: “At the end of the day, I am hopeful the good citizens of Henderson will realize they have f—ing idiots working for them and that they will show up at the polls to elect officials who are worthy of representing that community’s interests,” Yes, the word is not edited, a decision by the RJ that is surprising if not, perhaps, understandable to get the full force of what he was saying. Here’s the full story.