By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada GOP state treasurer candidate Steve Martin and Democrat incumbent Treasurer Kate Marshall engaged in a war of words this week over her management of the office for which she is seeking a second term.
Martin, a former state controller, initiated the exchange on Tuesday with a release criticizing Marshall on several issues including putting the Millennium Scholarship program at risk and running commercials for the Nevada College Savings Plans featuring her name and voice in an election year. She was also criticized for using her state office for her re-election efforts.
Martin said Marshall has shown failed leadership stemming from her “improper stewardship of the public’s money.”
Martin said Marshall has not been upfront about the deteriorating fiscal health of the Millennium Scholarship fund, suggesting it could have a $3.4 million shortfall by June 2011. He also said Marshall has not kept lawmakers and the public informed of the status of the fund.
On Thursday, the Marshall campaign issued a lengthy point-by-point rebuttal on the Millennium Scholarship issue, calling Martin’s criticisms false and distorted misrepresentations. The response also accuses Martin of violating the code of fair campaign practices which he signed March 3. The code prohibits malicious and unfounded accusations.
The Marshall campaign said it was the Legislature’s decision to take nearly $28 million in funding from the Millennium Scholarship program over three years to balance the state budget that has put it at risk. The response also says Marshall warned the governor and lawmakers about what taking the funds would do to the program, and that she has continued to communicate with them and the public on the status of the scholarship program.
Marshall has been open and honest with the governor, Legislature and Nevadans and has “repeatedly advised against under-funding and removing funds from the Millennium Scholarship,” the response from her campaign said.
“Steve Martin has misrepresented, distorted and falsified information through malicious and unfounded accusations,” the response said.
Martin’s campaign team on Friday pointed to a discussion at the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Thursday as evidence lawmakers have not been fully informed as to the health of the scholarship fund.
At the meeting, Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, both said they believed the scholarship was to be funded through 2014 through an infusion of $4 million from the College Savings Plans account over two years based on Marshall’s testimony during the special session that ended March 1.
The five-member College Savings Plans board rejected the idea of transferring $2 million to the fund, however, approving only a $200,000 transfer to keep it funded through the 2011 fiscal year.
“If legislators were properly informed, as Treasurer Marshall’s campaign claims, then why at yesterday’s IFC meeting did a bipartisan group of legislators seem to state otherwise?” Martin’s campaign team asked. “This is just another item in the growing list of scenarios where Kate Marshall and her team are literally and figuratively writing checks they can’t cash.”
Marshall’s office has already responded to the radio ad issue, saying the expenditure of non-taxpayer money to promote a contest to school children publicizing the College Savings Programs managed by her office is appropriate and was approved by the board.
Martin said the $12,000 worth of ads are running on radio stations and programs aimed at voters, not children.
“How many ten year olds listen to KOMP Rock or Sunday morning talk radio sports programs on KBAD?” asked Martin. “These ads are targeted to parents who are voters, and for Marshall to claim otherwise undermines even basic credibility.”
“The give away will award $529 to just six children, so she is spending more on the advertising than the actual prizes,” said Martin.
Marshall’s office has also discounted a Nevada State Republican Party ethics complaint over the alleged use of her official office for her campaign, saying the issue was the result of an error in posting information by the secretary of state’s office.