Political porno: who's doing what, with which & to whom

Expanded from the 2-13-00 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

"No matter how cynical you become, it's hard to keep up."
— Lily Tomlin

Even if we're forced to admit to living in a second-rate political porno movie, at least the actors will look better with a good tanning.

So light the burning question: Is the casino industry about to form one Gaming Party to openly control Nevada government? For those who think they don't already, I submit evidence for the record.

EXHIBIT ONE: Former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones has thrown her hair into the ring as a candidate to represent Nevada on the Democratic National Committee. Her opponent will be longtime party activist Nancy Harkess.

They don't have a hard act to follow. The position was recently vacated by a Las Vegas woman now about to surrender to authorities to begin a prison sentence. (She allegedly embezzled into six figures from an association of gambling industry lawyers. Justice has been done.)

Since losing her second statehouse bid to Gov. Dudley Do-Right and his casino millions, Ms. Jones, a multi-millionairess/heiress in her own right, has gone to work for — surprise — the gambling-industrial complex. She is now Vice-President In Charge of Looking Out the Window for Harrah's.

Her former honor has been given new responsibilities by the industry's enforcers at the Nevada Resort Association: designated hitter against State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas. Last Friday on a Las Vegas TV show, she debated Neal on his initiative petition to raise the world's lowest gaming tax.

The gambling industry originally committed to send either Nevada Resort Association President Bill Bible, Mandalay Bay (Circus Circus) Vice-President Mike Sloan, or longtime Steve Wynn major domo Alan Feldman. All scratched.

The maneuver is a textbook public relations power play employed by major corporate entities such as the Tobacco Institute. Send a female spokesperson to present a soft, motherly face when an exploitive industry comes under fire.

Jan gave a good account of herself, as always. However, anyone who saw the program now knows why she broke her campaign's promise and refused to debate Neal when they were opponents in the 1998 Democratic primary.

Smokin' Joe twice playfully asked Ms. Jones if she would sign his petition. Her answers were "no" and "absolutely not!" (Read the details.)

EXHIBIT TWO: U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently endorsed his 1998 opponent, former Rep. John Ensign, R-Las Vegas. Reid staffers spent the next week trying to convince shocked Democrats that he didn't say what Sam Shad taped him saying on KOLO TV-8 last November.

This newspaper carried the Associated Press story by veteran reporter Tom Gardner on Nov. 15, but few others did.

Judge for yourself: "I have the greatest respect for John Ensign and his family. He's a good man. His family has supported me for years," Reid told Shad. (Ensign's dad, Mike, is bossman of Circus Circus.)

Of Ensign's likely Democratic opponent, Reid said "Ed Bernstein I've known for many, many years. He's developed a great business practice. He's a person who's a self-made man...

"You have two very fine people. The state of Nevada is going to be served very well," Reid added.

Shad expressed shock at Reid's statement. I was flabbergasted, too, especially when the senior senator apparently confessed to spending the 1998 election in a parallel universe of political courtesy.

"You never heard John Ensign and I blasting each other," Reid said. "We were overwhelmed by all these outside ads...John Ensign and I never had the opportunity to have a campaign against each other, talking about our merits and how we'd like to do some good things."

Last year, shortly after reports of Reid's active fundraising for Bernstein got into the Nevada media, the Democratic frontrunner, Atty. Gen. Frankie Sue Del Papa, got cold feet and withdrew.

While the GOP supports its candidates, Democrats get elected in spite of the party. Bernstein's campaign so far has been to feature himself looking senatorial on tax-deductible TV spots for his law firm. Polls show Bernstein with high negatives because of his personal injury lawyer public image.

Nonetheless, Bernstein's candidacy remains viable against a guy like Ensign who has so many vulnerabilities on women and labor issues.

I would not be surprised if Reid's conduct gives Bernstein second thoughts about staying in the race or pulling a Del Papa and dropping out.

EXHIBIT THREE: Sen. Reid's son, Rory, was recently installed by dear old dad as successor to the senator's previous handpicked Democratic state chairman, New England lawyer Paul Henry. Reid the younger has been getting an earful over the way papa ran roughshod over party regulars last season. Several county chairpersons resigned rather than put up with six — count 'em — six different Democratic campaign organizations, none working with the others. This type of disharmony has opened the door to success for Gov. Kenny Guinn's plan to control both houses of the legislature and redistrict the Democrats into permanent minority status.

EXHIBIT FOUR: According to Nevada State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, Gov. Dudley Do-Right hisself is rumored to be putting together a summit between Sen. Neal, leaders of both parties and the gamblers. The industry is trial-ballooning acceptance of a two percentage-point tax hike on the largest, most profitable casinos — exactly the increase called for in Neal's bill, SB 88, which the industry assassinated last year. Neal's initiative would impose a five-point hike beginning in 2003.

I remember the good old days when this newspaper would let me have 3,000 words if I had a hot scoop. I'm outta room and I'm just getting warmed up. For the story of how labor and even some conservatives are breaking Neal's way, look me up on the web.*

Or look me up this Friday at 5:00 p.m. I'll be out on the streets with casino workers marching for justice at the Flamingo Hilton and Circus Circus. We start at the giant clown at Fifth and N. Virginia.

Which is also a good place to end.

Be well. Raise hell.


*Note to web readers: I'll be expanding on these issues and others either in a special web edition later in the week or in next week's column. Things have been hitting hot and heavy lately. | U-News
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 2000, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past three years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988 where an earlier version of this column appeared on 2/13/00.

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