Newspaper column: These statewide candidates worthy of your vote

The statewide elective offices on the November ballot are of doubly vital concern to rural Nevadans this year, primarily because the urban counties are likely to stack the Legislature with tax-and-spend Democrats beholding to public employee unions and eager to throw more of our money into the bureaucratic maw.

Topping the list is the race for governor, pitting Republican Adam Laxalt against Democrat Steve Sisolak. During his term as attorney general Laxalt has proven himself to be a staunch defender of Nevada’s rights in the face of federal encroachment and displayed conservative bona fides. The voters need to hand the veto pen to Laxalt so he can protect us from a likely left-leaning collective of lawmakers. Sisolak would be a rubber stamp.

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Michael Roberson, who backed Gov. Brian Sandoval’s record-breaking tax hikes, might not be our first choice for the office or even second or third, but letting Democrat Kate Marshall preside over the state Senate in 2019 and cast tie-breaking votes would not bode well either. Roberson as the Senate minority leader has tried to rein in lobbyist and special interest influence in Carson City and advocated for economic development and school choice. Roberson is the better choice.

During her first term as secretary of state, Republican Barbara Cegavske has worked tirelessly to assure the integrity of Nevada’s elections and record keeping. She has worked to increase voter registration and turnout.

Cegavske says that during a second term she will work with county officials to increase cyber security of county registration databases, improve audits and physical security of voting equipment. She is the obvious choice, because her 30-year-old Democratic opponent Nelson Araujo lacks the experience and credentials.

In the race for state treasurer, Republican Bob Beers — a certified public accountant, former legislator and Las Vegas city councilman — is the clear choice over Democrat Zach Conine. The treasurer is the state’s chief financial officer and is responsible for investing state funds, maintaining the state budget, managing college savings plans, keeping records of unclaimed property and maintaining records of the state’s accounts.

Beers has experience managing public money because of his five sessions on the Legislature’s Finance Committee and five years on the city council, plus many years in private business. His integrity is unquestioned.

In his first term as the state’s controller, Republican Ron Knecht has introduced cost-savings and increased transparency in the handling of the state’s funds. The controller is essentially the state’s chief fiscal officer, responsible for the state’s accounting system, settling claims against the state and collecting debts. The office protects the citizens’ money by ensuring that it is properly accounted for and spent in the most efficient and cost effective manner at all times.

Knecht boasts that he has cut the controller’s office spending by more than 13 percent, returning more than $1 million to the treasury and increased debt collection by $1.3 million a year. As a legislator he was a staunch opponent of higher taxes in general and still favors a repeal of the complicated and burdensome commerce tax. Knecht also published the state’s first annual report on the fiscal management of state funds, put the state checkbook online for direct inspection by citizens and has worked to improve data security.

Knecht has the credentials and experience that his Democratic opponent Catherine Byrne lacks.

The major party contenders to be the state’s next attorney general are Republican Wes Duncan and Democrat Aaron Ford. The attorney general is the state’s top lawyer, representing citizens of Nevada in civil and criminal matters. The attorney general also serves as legal counsel to state officials, providing opinions on how to interpret the law.

Duncan has been Attorney General Laxalt’s assistant attorney general and has served as an assemblyman and a county prosecutor and Air Force judge advocate. Ford is an attorney and former state senator who has advocated for higher taxes, though the IRS has filed liens against him for unpaid taxes. Duncan has the experience and conservative philosophy fitting for our next attorney general.

There are two contested Nevada Supreme Court seats on the ballot. The nonpartisan contests pit Nevada Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Tao against Clark County District Judge Elissa Cadish and Supreme Court Judge Lidia Stiglich, appointed to the court two years ago, against Clark County District Judge Mathew Harter.

Both Tao and Harter have vowed to be conservative arbiters of the law and have been rated well by lawyers appearing before them and are worthy of support. Stiglich also dissented from a recent decision strengthening access to public records.

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.

Greens are turning red over these Trump nominees

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson nominated for secretary of State. (Reuters pix)

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson nominated for secretary of State. (Reuters pix)

Now, I’m no fan of braggart-in-chief Donald Trump, but you’ve got to love three of his cabinet choices, if for no other reason than they are making the green acolytes turn red with rage.

Today Trump named Texas oilman and Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson to become secretary of State and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department Energy. Add these to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and you can see why the climate change Chicken Littles are running around like their heads have been cut off.

Rick Perry nominated to head Energy Department. (Getty pix)

Rick Perry nominated to head Energy Department. (Getty pix)

The grease orchard cartel is sure to be angrily opposed by those who have been getting rich on renewable energy subsidies and their Democratic Party allies in Congress.

Though there has been considerable angst about Tillerson’s ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, you can count on the greens to thump him on allegations that Exxon has concealed its research on climate change, despite the fact Exxon has bought into the Paris climate deal.

“At a time when the climate crisis is deepening, both the United States and the world deserve much better than having one of the planet’s top fossil fuel tycoons run U.S. foreign policy,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune bellowed in a statement challenging the appointment. “We urge senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the country and the world and oppose this nomination.”

With Perry named to head a department he once proposed be eliminated, the greens will be gunning for him since he has long been a climate change denier.

Scott Pruitt nominated to head EPA. (KFOR pix)

Scott Pruitt nominated to head EPA. (KFOR pix)

Brune said the designation of Perry to head Energy is “an insult to our functioning democracy. Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do.” The Energy Department was created by Jimmy Carter following the oil embargo in the early 1970s. The U.S., due to fracking, is no longer relying on Middle Eastern oil.

Pruitt over the years has challenged the EPA’s regulatory overreach repeatedly, often joining with other states, including Nevada, to file lawsuits.

Pruitt said in a statement released following his nomination that Americans “are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

The folks at the Sierra Club call him a puppet of polluters and that his appointment is like “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

Can anyone remember this much ink being spilled over provious cabinet appointees? Trump might not be draining the swamp but he is sure stirring the waters.



Newspaper column: Forcing group to reveal donors flies in the face of American tradition and philosophy

A Carson City judge this past week ordered a Virginia-based conservative group to pay a fine of $109,560, plus interest, plus attorney fees for violating a Nevada law that requires any group that engages in “express advocacy” in elections to register with the Secretary of State and report donors and expenditures, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Lawyer’s for the group — Alliance for America’s Future (AAF), which spent $189,223.50 airing a 30-second television commercial 320 times praising Brian Sandoval’s conservatism during the gubernatorial campaign of 2010 — had argued that the law is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

AAF ad calling Sandoval a conservative (screen grab)

AAF ad calling Sandoval a conservative (screen grab)

They told the judge the group had only one Nevada donor.

The commercial clearly carried a disclaimer saying: “Paid for by Alliance for America’s Future.” It concludes with a still photo of Sandoval and the words: “Brian Sandoval. No tax increases. No government waste. Just Conservative.” It never expressly calls for viewers to vote for Sandoval.

The Judge James Wilson wrote of AAF’s protest of the size of the penalty, “No amount of civil penalties can redress the injury to Nevada voters caused by refusal to timely provide them with the information to which they are entitled, thus there is no adequate remedy at law.”

The adequate remedy is that voters can decide for themselves the merits of a communication and whether to discount it if donors remain anonymous. They don’t need the state forcibly outing contributors. The Founders often wrote anonymously or under pseudonyms because they did not want the message to be dismissed as self-serving.

Though various appellate courts and even the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC have upheld laws such as Nevada’s as constitutional, it is clearly an abridgment of free speech to force people to surrender their right to anonymously express their views about elections, candidates and issues with donations to like-minded groups.

Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent in Citizens United spoke directly to the topic of forcing people to reveal their identities as a prerequisite to speaking out about issues and candidates, saying such laws have spawned a cottage industry that uses forcibly disclosed donor information to intimidate, retaliate, threaten and boycott individuals and businesses with whom they disagree.

Thomas wrote: “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 …’”

An email to AAF asking whether the group would appeal has not garnered a reply.

Free speech is a right, not a privilege that requires prior government permission.

Read the entire column at Ely or Elko sites.