What do you know about candidate finances?
Besides his $192,000 salary as Clark County sheriff and his wife’s earnings as a commercial real estate broker, gubernatorial hopeful Joe Lombardo and his wife Donna Alderson earn their money through “investments according to Lombardo’s financial disclosure statement.
Under state law, voters have no right to know what those investments are.
Nevada law requires officials and candidates to annually file a Financial Disclosure Statement (FDS), a form intended to provide transparency by informing the public of potential conflicts of interest. They are not required to list monies derived from investments or income, except for their public salary.
But with few demands from candidates and officials for specificity, and even less scrutiny from the supposed watchdog of anything related to elections, the secretary of state, disclosures turn out to be largely inconsequential.
The SDS must be submitted by:
- All candidates for public service who are entitled to receive $6,000 or more per year
- All Candidates for State Legislature
- All holders regardless of salary
Sometimes applicants ignore the requirement.
Dean Heller, himself a former secretary of state, missed Monday’s deadline to file an SDF as a gubernatorial candidate. His campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Lombardo, Clark County’s top law enforcement official, married Alderson in 2015, but did not include his job as a source of household income in his 2016, 2017 and 2018 statements.
“Donna has completed over 1,400 transactions valued at over $2.4 billion, including the sale of over 1,800 acres of land and over 48 million square feet of real estate transactions,” the website said. of Alderson’s employer at the time, CBRE.
In 2019, the Current reported Lombardo failed to file financial disclosure by the January 15 deadline. Failure to file is subject to civil penalties under NRS 281.581. Lombardo would have owed at least $2,000 had he been fined.
But the secretary of state’s office has not fined any official in recent memory, Undersecretary of Elections Wayne Thorley said at the time.
“It happens very rarely. I can’t think of one. And it has to be a deliberate violation — intentional and knowing — and it’s not always readily available,” Thorley said in 2019.
The man Lombardo hopes to face in November, Gov. Steve Sisolak, has filed a relatively detailed FDS that includes a dozen sources of income for Sisolak and his wife, Kathy, as well as real estate investments held by the first lady of Nevada and from Utah.
State law requires applicants and officials to list any real property, other than their personal residence, located in Nevada or an adjacent state, in which they or a member of the household have a beneficial interest of at least minus $2,500.
“These are elected or appointed officials who wield a good deal of authority in government and the disclosure forms are there to inform the public of any potential conflicts of interest – whether through the giving of gifts or through affiliation with an entity,” Thorley said in 2019. “They (financial disclosures) provide information to the public if the public official is not acting in the interest of the government they represent.”
Sisolak’s FDS also discloses trusts in which his wife has an interest, but not their contents. Nevada law makes no mention of trusts with respect to campaign disclosure, and even if it did, “we don’t have the resources” to investigate, says current election deputy Mark Wlaschin.
Former Governor Kenny Guinn, a prolific investor in real estate trust deeds, formed a blind trust when he took office in 1999, which he used to avoid disclosing a beneficial interest in more than 300 loans (including many to campaign contributors) brokered by his son, Jeff, during Guinn’s eight years in office. After Guinn’s death in 2010, his son Steve revealed during litigation that his father was fully aware of the dealings involving his “blind trust”.
In 2012, a lawsuit filed by Henderson trailblazer Selma Bartlett against former mayor Jim Gibson for unpaid personal loans totaling $750,000 revealed that Gibson had failed to disclose the loans on her SDS since he had started borrowing from Bartlett in 2004. Gibson, now Clark County Commissioner, Recount the Las Vegas Sun at the time said this disclosure was not required because the loans were “secured by real estate.”
The FDS does not have an exemption for loans secured by real estate other than a personal residence. Gibson noted at the time that his residence had been used as collateral for another loan.
Does anyone in the Secretary of State’s office review the SDSs to make sure they are completed correctly?
“As things stand, we don’t. You’re probably looking at more than just one full-time compliance auditor,” Wlaschin said in an interview, adding that the staff increase would present a budget request. in the 2023 legislature. “It would be a few people to go through and clean up those kinds of files. There’s a lot of change and a lot of discussion that needs to happen before that happens.”
“Unfortunately, many legislators who design the laws that are there to oversee their activity like to keep offices underfunded because it ensures a lack of control over their activity,” says Common Cause’s Beth Rotman, a watchdog. Washington, DC-based organization “To have absolutely no one looking is, I would say, atypical. It’s more typical to have a very lean staff.
Applicants and officials are required to list business entities “with which you or a member of your household are involved as a trustee, beneficiary of a trust, director, officer, owner in whole or in part, limited partner or general partner , or holder of a class of shares or securities representing 1% or more of the total shares or securities outstanding issued by the business entity.
Henderson Councilman Dan Shaw’s FDS lists two companies in which he has an interest. Shaw is also listed in the Secretary of State’s corporate filings as a director of Nevada Impact Management LLC, which is listed as the manager of dozens of businesses, including a call center in Utah and 17 payday loan companies across the United States. Shaw is also listed as president and director of a Utah insurance company. His wife is also a director.
A manager is considered an officer, according to Wlaschin.
None of these entities are disclosed by Shaw on its SDS. He declined to comment.
“We rely on the public to verify everyone,” says Jennifer Russell, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State. “Elected officials check on each other and they will let us know if there is anything we need to look into to file a complaint. We focus our attention on trying to get to the bottom of whatever the issue is.
“We are all big believers in transparency at all levels,” says Wlaschin. Financial transparency, he says, is no exception. “Are there ways we can improve? Certainly.”
Note: Dana Gentry is the author of a book on former Governor Guinn’s blind trust.