Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve today said that she returned contributions to her mayoral re-election campaign after being made aware that the Silver Legacy and Eldorado Resort Casino contributed to her campaign above legal limits.
According to information provided to ThisisReno, a complaint was filed with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office about the illegal contributions.
“I have been made aware that a contribution was accepted by my campaign for the previous election cycle,” Schieve said. “I was not aware that the amount exceeded the requirements for the current election cycle. When brought to my attention the contribution was immediately returned.”
Wayne Thorley, deputy secretary of state for elections, said that the secretary of state’s office is investigating the issue.
“It does appear that both the Eldorado and Silver Legacy each gave $11,500, which is over the statutory contribution limit,” he wrote.
Thorley added that the overage is a criminal felony and that both the candidate and the donor could be guilty of the crime if it was willful. He also said that this situation is not uncommon.
“Generally an individual just makes a mistake,” he said.
The cycle of donations for city offices runs from 30 days after the last election to 30 days after the next election. Any overlap in donations in this period, therefore, could violate campaign finance laws. Donors may give up to $5,000 in the primary and again in the general election.
The remedy is to return the money, Thorley said. The Secretary of State has already issued a letter to Schieve’s campaign asking for an explanation.
As to whether the Eldorado and Silver Legacy, recently rebranded with Circus Circus as The Row, can make separate contributions, Thorley said yes.
“There’s an AG’s opinion from 1994 that says a business entity can give a contribution up to the maximum irrespective of other related businesses,” he explained.
The casinos refused to respond.
“No comment,” said publicist Sara Robbins.
Schieve is running for re-election against Eddie Lorton, but the complaint was filed by a citizen. Lorton has been critical of Schieve’s ties to downtown properties.
In a statement issued today, Lorton criticized the mayor.
“I am disappointed in Hillary Schieve, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “I have seen her abuse the office of mayor more than once. I am not involved with the complaint, though I am happy to see another citizen taking action.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include additional comments from Thorley and comment from Lorton.