April 14, 2011

Transparency Review (4/11 - 4/15)

A beach in
the Bahamas
• Last year, the Legislative Counsel Bureau gave the okay to three Nevada lawmakers to take trips paid for by Internet poker company PokerStars because of the likelihood that online poker would become an issue in the upcoming legislative session. Assembly members William Horne, D-Las Vegas, and Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, spent 2 1/2 in London while Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, was flown to the Bahamas to meet with the company. Maybe I'm looking at this wrong, but wouldn't it make the most sense to forbid these trips precisely when companies might have future business in front of the Legislature? I wonder what will happen when Nevada's brothel industry has some upcoming business in front of the Legislature. I bet that will be a pretty popular "fact-finding" mission.

• Steve Sebelius calls for a full-time, professional legislature to help reduce potential conflicts of interest between legislators and industries in the state.

Clark County District
Attorney David Roger
• The coroner's inquest, the procedure that gained valley-wide attention following the officer-involved shootings of Erik Scott and Trevon Cole, would be scrapped under a new bill introduced in the Legislature and supported by the Clark County District Attorney and the local police union.

• Jon Ralston laments the sorry state of Nevada's campaign finance laws and wonders if incumbents will ever accede to more transparent state elections. And to highlight just how important campaign finance transparency is, here is his follow-up to last month's story on former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid creating nearly 100 shell PACs to circumvent campaign donation limits.

• The Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections narrowly approved a major campaign finance bill last week sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller. The bill would move filing deadlines up and make contribution-and-expense reports electronic. A provision instituting a two-year cooling-off period for former lawmakers before they could lobby the Legislature drew some criticism from Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, because it might deter qualified people from running for office.

James Huffman makes the case (click the first link) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that campaign finance laws requiring donor disclosure actually work to harm challengers and protect incumbents. Huffman, the Republican nominee in Oregon's U.S. Senate race last November, says that donors often wished to support him but worried about the repercussions once their donations would become public knowledge. The Sunlight Foundation offers a rebuttal and notes the public is the best judge of how political contributions affect our politics.

• The Center for Public Integrity isn't impressed with the White House visitor logs. A review of the logs finds the "event" description blank for over 200,000 visits; names included of people cleared by the Secret Service who never actually showed up; and hundreds of thousands of names included as part of guided White House tours.