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Sen. Horsford: Conflicts Up the Wazoo

horsford2At the big Barack Obama and the Hollywood All-Stars fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at Caesars Palace last night, the president referred to Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) as “an unbelievable warrior, an extraordinary young talent, soon to be on the national scene.”

The last Nevada Democrat wunderkind to be praised so effusively was Reid protégé and former Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera – who I believe is still serving time in a federal prison for political corruption in office.

Now I’m not saying Sen. Horsford is corrupt, but his conflicts of interest in the state Legislature dwarf anything even remotely attributed last week to Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio (R-Reno) who almost was forced to recuse himself from voting on the tax hike bill because a member of his law/lobbying firm testified on it.

A new anonymous website popped up yesterday which lays out a pretty comprehensive and well-sourced case raising legitimate questions about the Majority Leader. According to information appearing on the website:

“Steven Horsford’s campaign website does not tell what he does for a living. This is unusual for a Nevada legislator, as being a senator only pays $2,000 per month for four months full-time work every other year. Legislators must have “real” jobs to support themselves the other 20 months of each 2-year cycle.

“Most people think Horsford is the CEO and President of Nevada Partners, a longtime non-profit agency helping the disadvantaged. The problem is the tax return of his charity (http://horsfordtool.com/2006nvpart.pdf) reports his compensation is zero. Hmmm…

“So, off to the Nevada Secretary of State’s website… where we find Sen. Horsford’s ‘Financial Disclosure Report.’ Here, he lists his employer as ‘Culinary Training Institute’ – apparently, a for-profit partnership. Who is the Culinary Training Institute? From the ‘about’ page, linked above:

‘Participating employers represent a ‘Who’s Who’ of Nevada’s largest employers, including: Bally’s Las Vegas, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Circus Circus, Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Flamingo, Four Seasons, Harrah’s Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas Hilton, Luxor Hotel & Casino, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York Hotel & Casino, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood (formerly the Aladdin), Rio Hotel & Casino, Riviera Hotel & Casino, Sahara Hotel & Casino, Stardust Hotel & Casino (to be reopened as Echelon), Stratosphere, Treasure Island, Tropicana Resort & Casino, and Wynn Las Vegas.’

‘The Culinary Training Academy (CTA) is a nationally and internationally recognized labor-management partnership between the Culinary Union Local #226, Bartenders Local #165, and major resort/gaming properties on the famed Las Vegas Strip….

“The Strip – Big Gaming – directly employs Nevada’s senate (majority) leader. Nevada has never had a legislator directly and exclusively employed by Big Gaming.”

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Recall also last week that Sen. Warren Hardy (R-Las Vegas) also was initially deemed too conflicted to vote on the tax hike bill because one member of the board of directors for the association he works for is also a lobbyist who testified on the tax hike bill. But wait’ll you get a load of the members who serve on the board of directors for Sen. Horsford’s Nevada Partners organization.

Jan Jones is senior vice-president of Communications & Government Relations for Harrah’s Entertainment. Harrah’s was one of the three large gaming companies (the other two were Wynn and Stations) pushing hard for that three-percent room tax hike earlier this session. Sen. Horsford voted for that room tax hike.

D. Taylor is Secretary/Treasurer of Culinary Workers Union Local #226 and Danny Thompson is Executive Secretary/Treasurer and paid lobbyist for AFL-CIO Nevada. Has Sen. Horsford acted in any way on any legislation which might affect Big Labor in Nevada?

Rose McKinney-James is President of Energy Works Consulting and is a paid lobbyist for The Solar Alliance. Tony Sanchez is NV Energy’s senior vice president for public policy and external affairs and is the company’s paid lobbyist. Both have obvious self-interests in any legislation having anything whatsoever to do with energy, including new “green” and renewable energy. Has Sen. Horsford acted in any way to affect any energy-related bills?

McKinney-James is also a paid lobbyist for Barrick Gold mining. Did anyone see any mining tax bills come up for a vote in the Senate this session? Me neither.

Taylor and Jones also serve on the board of trustees for the Culinary Training Academy which pays Horsford’s salary.

I thought I’d also take a look at Sen. Horsford’s campaign finance reports to see if any of his board members also gave money to his campaign, but when you search the Secretary of State’s website looking for Sen. Horsford’s three C&E reports, they’re mysteriously missing – a full nine months after the first one was due. Go figure. Maybe he filed his 2008 C&E’s under an assumed name.

I did, however, find Sen. Horsford’s 2004 C&Es on the SoS page where they belong. And board member Sanchez, McKinney James client Barrick Gold, Culinary Local 226, Harrah’s, and Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific (now NV Energy) all coughed up dough that year.

Let’s just follow one strand here: The Culinary Union is a primary funder of the Culinary Training Academy and Culinary union boss D. Taylor serves on the board of trustees which pays Sen. Horsford’s salary. Taylor also serves on Sen. Horsford’s board of directors for Nevada Partners which gets a ton of taxpayer funding and where Sen. Horsford reportedly works 20 hours a week without pay when not serving in the Nevada Legislature where the Culinary union helps fund his campaigns and where issues of interest to organized labor come up over and over and over again.

No. No conflicts here whatsoever.

All of which makes it all the more outrageous that it was Sen. Horsford who led the charge last week to suspend the rules and give the entire Legislature what amounted to a blanket amnesty to vote on any and all budget and tax bills regardless of potential conflicts of interest. It was reported that Sen. Horsford did this so as to allow Sens. Raggio and Hardy to vote for the billion dollar tax hike, but considering the above, maybe Sen. Horsford was just trying to cover his own keister.

I know we have a “citizen legislature” where occasional potential conflicts of interest are inevitable, but Sen. Horsford has taken this to an outrageous new level.

Why isn’t more hell being raised about all of these conflicts by the same folks who reported on the Raggio and Hardy conflicts? Could it be that black Democrats are held to a different standard from white Republicans? Or is that too much of a racially-tinged politically incorrect question to ask?

Probably. So pretend I never said anything about this, OK?