By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: The Nevada Secretary of State’s office today ruled in favor of the Assembly Democratic Caucus regarding a complaint about its failure to report the receipt of funds from its members.
The caucus did not report more than $120,000 received from Assembly Democrats on its campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed this year.
In a response to Dan Burdish of Las Vegas, who questioned the failure of the group to report the funds from its members, Deputy Secretary for Elections Matt Griffin said the payments are not campaign contributions as defined by Nevada law.
Instead, the funds sent by Assembly Democrats to the caucus are to cover dues and expenses.
Because the payments are not contributions, the acceptance of the funds by the caucus from its members are not subject to the law prohibiting campaign contributions before, during and after legislative sessions either, Griffin said.
The practice of the Assembly Democratic Caucus of not reporting the payments from its members, which Speaker John Oceguera said has been followed for more than a decade, is acceptable, Griffin said.
In a separate letter to Burdish sent earlier this month, Griffin also determined that Oceguera individually did not violate any campaign laws in reference to funds he gave to the caucus in excess of $10,000. State law limiting campaign contributions to $10,000 does not apply to the expenditures of a candidate, only contributions, he said.
Burdish said he is not satisfied with Griffin’s response and is seeking further clarification.
“I think they are trying to find a loophole,” he said. “The definition of a contribution is any payment, and a payment was made to the Assembly Caucus. So yes, I think the payments need to be disclosed.”
Burdish said it appears that Griffin’s letter just copied from the caucus response to his complaint.
“It does not appear that there was an independent investigation,” he said.
Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said he is pleased with the decision.
“I felt strongly that we had complied with the law and reported correctly and we are pleased that the Secretary of State has concurred,” he said. “We are glad to have this issue resolved so that we can focus on the critical issues facing Nevada.
“While we believe in the right of citizens to legitimately question the actions of elected officials and candidates, it is disturbing that too often now this is done for political purposes simply to discredit individuals,” Oceguera said. “With so many serious issues facing our state, the public deserves and should expect better.”
The issue of payments by Assembly Democrats to the caucus arose just before the Nov. 2 election.
Reports filed by Assembly Democrats showed more than $120,000 paid to the caucus, but the caucus did not report the funds on its report.
Oceguera said at the time the caucus was not required to report the funds because they were reimbursements to the caucus for salaries of legislators’ staff and to pay the legislators’ dues in the caucus.
Griffin’s letter to Burdish upholds this interpretation.
Griffin said a legislative caucus is a support organization for its members, and as such has the ability to charge and collect from the members for the operating costs of the caucus for that service.
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