Nevada Democratic Party Pushes for State AG Adam Laxalt Ethics Investigation

Posted on: March 2, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: March 2, 2017, 01:35h.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt could be investigated by the state’s Commission on Ethics over allegations he attempted to influence the state gaming regulator, with the alleged goal of intervening on behalf of Sheldon Adelson in a high-profile court case.

Nevada AG Adam Laxalt Democratic Ethics Committee push
Nevada State AG and Republican Adam Laxalt’s confidential conversation last April with chairman of the Gaming Control Board A.G. Burnett was taped by the latter and passed on to the FBI. Now the state’s Democratic Party wants to know why. (Image: Ethan Miller/Getty)

The Silver State’s Democratic Party announced on Tuesday that it had asked the Commission on Ethics to look into the truth of reports that Laxalt violated conflict-of-self-interest rules during a conversation he had with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett last April.

Burnett is understood to have surreptitiously taped the conversation and handed the recording to the FBI, which found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Dems Want FOIA

But Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange wants to know what was said in that tape and why Burnett was sufficiently concerned to pass it on to the FBI. She said this week the party had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, demanding the Bureau release the recording by the end of the month, plus any other details it has on the case.

“On behalf of the Democratic party, I think it should be investigated as an ethics complaint,” Lange said in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. “Nevada voters need to know if our attorney general is involved in unethical behavior.”

Speaking to the Associated Press this week, Laxalt condemned the “false and baseless complaints” that he said were part of a “two-year smear campaign” to derail his potential Republican bid for governor.

But veteran Las Vegas journalist and political commentator Jon Ralston says his sources claim Laxalt had “plaintively requested” a meeting with Burnett to “discuss a Las Vegas Sands court action and the state’s potential role in publicly agreeing with Adelson that certain government documents should be kept private.”

Burnett taped the meeting “out of an abundance of caution and in order to protect the agency and the state because of previous pleas by Las Vegas Sands lawyers to have the state intervene in a highly contentious wrongful termination lawsuit in which hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake.”

Former Sands China CEO Steven Jacobs sued LVS for wrongful dismissal shortly after he was fired by the company in 2010. Adelson has said Jacobs was sacked for “incompetence,” but Jacobs claims it was for whistleblowing on alleged company improprieties in China and Macau.

After a long legal battle, LVS settled with Jacobs in May 2016 for an undisclosed sum, which a Wall Street Journal source claimed was $75 million.

Power Behind Laxalt?

Adelson was a major personal and corporate donor to Laxalt’s 2014 campaign and political action committees. Laxalt himself was castigated by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval last year for adding his name to a list of AGs asking the federal government to ban online gambling, presumably at Adelson’s behest.

The move was particularly vexing in light of the Silver State being the first in the nation to make gambling online both legal and regulated. Sandoval, himself a former state AG, questioned how someone purporting to represent the state’s legal interests could “speak out against current state law in our leading industry.”

The Adelson family-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal, meanwhile, has not reported any details of Laxalt’s latest controversy.