Save money by selling off federal public grazing range

Here is an idea from 1982 whose time has come.

Writing at Forbes magazine online today, Steve Hanke, a one-time senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, resurrects an idea he broached 36 years ago — sell off federal grazing lands with the first right of refusal going to current grazing permit holders.

Hanke says Reagan endorsed the idea, as did then-U.S. Sen. and Reagan confidant Paul Laxalt. He quotes Laxalt as saying:

Before we proceed any further, let me tell you where I stand. I believe a need does exist to sell some of our excess public lands. However, I intend to do all in my power to protect existing public land users from being “locked out.” To this end, I endorse a proposal developed by Dr. Steve Hanke, a senior economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, that deals with the protection of existing grazing rights which, I believe, can serve as a model for protecting miners as well. Basically, Dr. Hanke has proposed that ranchers currently holding grazing permits be given the right to purchase, on a first refusal basis, the public grazing permits that they currently rent from the BLM.

Hanke says the federal government should stop renting grazing land — a process by which the government loses 91 cents an acre — and sell it at a profit.

Hanke concludes:

The question now is: what would be the benefits associated with this privatization proposal?

First, the productivity of federal grazing lands would increase.

Second, federal revenues would be generated. Instead of receiving annual grazing fees, the federal government would receive an equivalent lump-sum payment.

Third, the annual federal costs (and these do not include, as they should, capital carrying charges) exceed the annual revenues generated from federal grazing lands. Therefore, privatization would eliminate negative cash flows for the federal government. This would obviously benefit all U.S. taxpayers, who must now pay taxes to support the federal government’s retention of public grazing lands.

Lastly, a state and local property tax base would be created. Western dependence on Washington, D.C. would be reduced and federalism would be enhanced.

Sounds like a winning proposition, especially for taxpayers.

BLM pix


Reid gloats: ‘Trump is a billion-dollar loser’

After The New York Times splashed the news that someone had anonymously mailed one of its reporters Donald Trump’s 1995 IRS returns — reporting of which is a violation of federal law, according to American Thinker — Harry Reid posted to his official Senate website a scathing putdown of the Republican presidential nominee.

The Times account says Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax return and speculated that a loss of that amount could legally allow him to avoid paying any income taxes for up to 18 years.

Reid reacted:

“As I was saying.

“Trump is a billion-dollar loser who won’t release his taxes because they’ll expose him as a spoiled, rich brat who lost the millions he inherited from his father. Despite losing a billion dollars, Trump wants to reward himself with more tax breaks on inherited wealth while stiffing middle-class families who earn their paychecks with hard work.

“Trump is over-leveraged and deeply indebted to someone, but until he releases his taxes we won’t know who. The implications for America’s security are severe. The American people deserve to know who has leverage over this man who wants to be president. In the name of the public interest, the Senate should immediately pass the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, which would force all presidential candidates to release their tax returns. If all senators agreed to pass this act for the good of the country, we could pass it in a matter of minutes.”

Reid added insult to insult by calling Trump “a racist, incompetent failure.”

This is from a member of the Club of 100 which votes on treaties and advises and consents on major presidential appointees but who has consistently refused to release his own tax returns.

In 2012, Reid pounded on Mitt Romney to release his tax returns, speculating he had not paid taxes in 10 years. A Reid spokesman said of Reid’s failure to release his returns: “He’s not running for president. …”

This the same Reid who during his 1974 Senate race against Paul Laxalt questioned Laxalt’s ties to Howard Hughes.

Reid challenged Laxalt to reveal his and his family’s finances, according to a Las Vegas newspaper account years later.

Reid held a news conference to hand out his own financial statements and tax returns for himself and his three brothers, challenging Laxalt to do the same.

“Any man or woman who will not be completely candid about his or her finances does not deserve to be in public office,” Reid was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

Reid on Senate floor calls Trump a Frankenstein.

Reid on Senate floor calls Trump a Frankenstein.


Newspaper column: Nevada attorney general hits the road to listen to constituents

Attorney General Adam Laxalt addresses constituents in Elko recently. (Elko Daily Free Press photo)

Attorney General Adam Laxalt addresses constituents in Elko recently. (Elko Daily Free Press photo)

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has been taking a page from his grandfather’s playbook in recent weeks touring various communities in the state with some of his staff and conducting townhall meetings with concerned citizens in what he calls “AG for a Day.”

He says the idea is a homage to grandfather Paul Laxalt’s practice of touring the state with his cabinet and staff members while governor. The senior Laxalt called it his “Capital for a Day” tour.

A couple of weeks ago Adam Laxalt crisscrossed Northern Nevada and this week he has been meeting constituents across Southern Nevada.

“Our goal has been to try to bring our office to the people …” he explained in a recent interview. “I think government is best that is closest to the people, and so for us to get out there and make sure we are up to date on what is on everyone’s mind. It’s been very successful in that respect.”

Laxalt said one of the most common concerns expressed to him and his staff has been about federal government overreach when it comes to regulations and restrictions. To address this he has created a solicitor general office in his agency, which is essentially the state’s lawyer.

That office, he said, has been able to work very aggressively to create some federal-state boundaries and bring Nevada to the negotiation table on some of the big issues.

“People are pretty excited that this office has been active in that federalism space and working hard to try to give our local economy and some of our most important sectors some space to survive in some cases and ideally to be able to grow and thrive down the road,” Laxalt said. “We’re working very hard to do the best we can with our limited resources.”

The attorney general’s office is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the Interior Department and its Bureau of Land Management over land use restrictions being imposed on agriculture, mining, oil and gas and recreation in the name of protecting greater sage grouse habitat.

Laxalt has argued that the BLM’s sage grouse protection efforts blatantly disregard the input of Nevada experts and stakeholders in violation of federal law.

The attorney general’s office also has been actively involved in the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rules that were being promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to wrest control of every stream, ditch, wetland or muddy spot that might eventually spill a few drops of water into any rivulet, even though water rights have always been under the purview of the states.

Laxalt joined 22 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in this case. A couple of months ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the current regulations are too broad, but there is more legal wrangling to come.

In addition to the battle over sage grouse and water, Laxalt joined other attorneys general to challenge the president’s executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants with U.S. citizen children. A recent 4-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling put the executive order on hold for now.

His office also has worked with Elko County in its attempts to keep open a road in the Jarbidge Wilderness area and with a church fighting for water rights in Nye County.

Laxalt said he and his staffers have also fielded questions about his office’s program to help military personnel, the first of its kind in the nation, as well as efforts to stem domestic violence, fraud and Open Meeting Law violations.

“I think that attorneys general across the country have been what we like to call the last line of defense and, as we face the coming months of the close of this administration, typically presidents take their lame duck status gracefully and slow down on the way out,” Laxalt observed, “but this president and his administration has signaled that they’re going to crank up the rule making process and try to change as many rules as possible. So attorneys general are standing ready to prevent any of these rules that have not gone through the proper rule making process or that we think are outside of their legal jurisdiction.”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Reid has a history of making baseless allegations

Though Harry Reid admits he lied in 2012 when he said Mitt Romney had not paid IRS taxes in 10 years, he is completely unrepentant.

“I have no repentance, because it was an issue that was important,” Reid is quoted as saying. “This has been an issue of mine for a long time.”

In another interview, he quipped, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

Harry Reid speaking at luncheon in Las Vegas this past week. (R-J photo)

Yes, it has been an issue of his for a long time, though Reid refuses to release any of his tax returns, saying his annual financial disclosures in Congress are sufficient, though those forms only report income and investments in broad ranges. His 2014 disclosure form places his net worth at between $2.9 million and $6.7 million.

Reid did release his IRS returns once and demanded that his opponent and his family do the same. That was in 1974 when he ran against Paul Laxalt for the Senate and lost by 611 votes.

“Any man or woman who will not be completely candid about his or her finances does not deserve to be in public office,” Reid said, according to an Associated Press report.

According to a 2012 Review-Journal account by Laura Myers at the time Reid was saying Romney paid no taxes, in the 1974 race Reid questioned how former Gov. Laxalt could pay $7.5 million for the Ormsby House hotel-casino in Carson City and questioned Laxalt’s ties to Howard Hughes who was buying casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas and the land that is now Summerlin.

Laxalt complied. It turned out he was worth about $200,000, excluding the hotel, and Reid was worth about $300,000.

It also turned out Laxalt’s sister was a nun who had taken a vow of poverty, and Reid later admitted that made him look bad.

That appears to be his only regret, that it made him look bad.

Considering Reid’s recent injuries, which he said occurred when an elastic exercise band broke and sent him tumbling into a cabinet in his Henderson home, and his decision to not seek re-election, the ending on a 2014 story about Reid’s history of shenanigans seems rather prophetic:

“Reid, who will turn 75 in December, plans to run for reelection in 2016. His reelection is assured, thanks for his extensive and powerfully entrenched political machine. After that, whether he is removed from the Senate on a gurney or in handcuffs remains to be seen.”



Friends of Ross Miller using anti-free speech state law to try to gag opposition group

Some pals of Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, son of former Gov. Bob Miller, are trying to gag of a Republican-leaning group airing an ad on TV and the Internet ridiculing Miller for taking $60,000 in gifts while in office — living the high life, as they put it.

State Government Leadership Foundation is the group running the ad and a website called

Nevadans for a Brighter Future filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Election Division — which will doubtlessly kick it to the attorney general due a rather obvious conflict of interest — claiming SGLF is violating NRS294A, a state law to demands anyone spending money on a candidate, election or issue register as a political action committee with the Secretary of State and file reports detailing spending and donations.

The gifts outlined in the ad include free tickets to UFC fights, shows on the Strip and a Beverly Hills conference, according the Las Vegas newspaper.

Ross Miller

“Fancy parties, exclusive sporting events. Posing with celebrities — even Playmates,” the ad says, while showing photos of Miller with Mike Tyson andHolly Madison. “Ah, one can dream, but for politician Ross Miller it’s reality.”

The ad concludes, “He lives the life. You pay the tab. Tell Ross Miller to stop living the high life at your expense.”

SGLF says it is spending $500,000 to air the ad.

Though Miller is running for attorney general against Republican Adam Laxalt, grandson of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, the ad never mentions the race.

In his complaint letter attorney Matt Griffin says, “SGLF is identified as the party responsible for paying for the advertisement. The content and subject matter of the advertisement constitute ‘express advocacy’ under Nevada law. As such, the funds expended to produce and disseminate the advertisement are ‘expenditures’ under Nevada law.”

He goes to say that each time SGLF engages in any political activity it is breaking the law and it must be forced to follow the law.

Actually, this is the second time friends of Miller have tried to gag the out of state group. Earlier a Jim Lamb on behalf of Miller’s campaign wrote television station managers demanding the SGLF ads be pulled from the air because the ads falsely said taxpayers were the source of aforementioned gifts.

SGLF sent a letter in response to the TV stations. “The whole point of the ad, which is abundantly clear to anyone who sees it, is that Ross Miller has lived a lavish lifestyle while serving as Secretary of State,” the letter reads. “Mr. Lamb does not dispute any of this — he certainly does not dispute that Ross Miller took these gifts, nor can he dispute that Nevada’s taxpayers pay Ross Miller’s six-figure salary. Left unsaid, because the cannot dispute this either, is that Ross Miller received these gifts from special interests because of his taxpayer-funded position as Secretary of State. The facts are clear: Nevada’s taxpayers are paying for Ross Miller to be Secretary of State, and he is using that position to live the high life.”

The concludes by urging the stations to not be “badgered into protecting Ross Miller from the truth.”

But the complaint claims the ad constitutes “express advocacy,” which is prohibited under the law unless you register and file financial disclosure reports. The ad doesn’t even mention that Miller is standing for election, much less expressly advocate for or against his election.

A similar complaint was tossed out of court a couple of years ago because it was found the communication in question was not “express advocacy.”

Carson City Senor District Judge Robert Estes found the Secretary of State’s case against Americans for Prosperity lacking because the statute applies only to those spending money “on behalf” of a candidate.

Americans for Prosperity — funded by Harry Reid’s favorite conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch — sent out mailers in 2012 during the election campaign of Kelvin Atkinson for state Senate. Those mailers criticized Atkinson for co-sponsoring a 2011 renewable energy bill. But the mailers never mentioned his candidacy.

Of course, that is merely a technicality. The real concern should be that this law is palpably unconstitutional. The First Amendment prohibits abridgement of free speech and the 14th Amendment extends that prohibition to states. Requiring registration and reporting of donors and spending abridges free speech. Period.

And the one thing the First Amendment is clearly intended to protect is “express advocacy.”

In the Supreme Court case Citizens United, the court held that groups, corporations and unions may not be singled out and barred from spending their own money in support of or opposition to a candidate or a cause.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a concurrence: “The (First) Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is ‘speech’ covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise.”

But in an inexplicable self-contradiction, the ruling let stand reporting and disclosure requirements similar to those in Nevada law. How can you remain anonymous if you must disclose?

But Justice Clarence Thomas, in a partial dissent, chided his comrades for this duplicity: “The disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in (the law) are also unconstitutional. … “Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information …’”

But judges in Nevada have concocted a strange interpretation of the First Amendment. Carson City Judge James Wilson, while a Virginia-based for airing ads applauding Gov. Brian Sandoval, wrote: “Irreparable harm will occur to the voters and to the electoral process if broadcasting of the Ad is not enjoined, because voters are being deprived of the information to which they are entitled under Nevada law prior to casting their ballots,” namely, who donated the money to air the ads.

Never mind that Ben Franklin and other Founders often wrote under pseudonyms, that “Common Sense” was first published anonymously, that the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers were published under pseudonyms or that John Locke published his works anonymously.

The concept that Nevadans must not be deprived of certain identifying information is not even in the penumbra of the Constitution.

Free speech is a right, not a privilege that requires a permit or disclosure of donors. The entire Nevada law should be repealed or declared unconstitutional.