Watchdog Group Says 15 Congressmen Wanted Red Rock CEO to OK Unions at Palms Resort in Quid Pro Quo

Posted on: August 25, 2019, 12:24h. 

Last updated on: August 25, 2019, 12:35h.

An ethics watchdog organization filed a complaint Thursday with the US Office of Congressional Ethics, seeking an investigation on 15 House members it claims pursued a tit-for-tat arrangement with a prominent Las Vegas casino executive.

Members of the Culinary Workers Union pickets outside the Palms seeking to have the union recognized. Last week, a watchdog organization accused 15 House members of trying to get the Palms to accept the union in return for their support of a tax credit legislation. (Image: John Locher/AP)

In a statement, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) cited two May letters from lawmakers to Frank Fertitta III, CEO and chairman of Red Rock Resorts Inc. The letter states that two Red Rock casinos, the Palms Casino Hotel and the Green Valley Ranch Casino Hotel, have work forces that have formed unions. However, Red Rock has failed to recognize either one.

The lawmakers also note in their letter that Fertitta signed a letter calling for lawmakers to revise a section regarding building improvements in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TJCA).

Each of us has spoken out loudly and frequently about significant problems with the TJCA, and we believe that all the parties adversely affected by the bill deserve a chance to make their voices heard,” the Congressmen wrote. “We also believe that employees at your facilities deserve a chance to make their voices heard.”

A third casino has since chosen to unionize.

Quid Pro Quo

In the complaint, FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold said the Congressmen were trying to coerce Fertitta, calling the ploy “horrific behavior” and why the public lacks trust in elected officials.

“The Members did not need to explicitly state their support of the legislation hinged on Fertitta’s action—the implication was obvious and clearly had an improper purpose,” Arnold stated.

“The House Ethics rules prohibit this type of implied blackmail or quid pro quo—the Members specified the exact type of action they sought from a citizen and referenced pending legislation the Members could vote for that would benefit the citizen. The connection and implied threat alone were sufficient to breach the ethics rules—it does not matter whether the Members followed through with their threat.”

While the OCE can investigate claims, it cannot recommend any sanctions against elected officials. It can, however, refer cases to the House Ethics Committee, which can then recommend how the House of Representatives should proceed.

Spokesman Calls Claim ‘Baseless’

The lawmakers signing the letter are: US. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), Darren Soto (D-Florida), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alan Lowenthal (D-California ), Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania), Steven Horsford (D-Nevada), Dina Titus (D-Nevada), Susie Lee (D-Nevada), Linda Sanchez (D-California), Barbara Lee (D-Texas), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-New Jersey), and Donald Norcross (D-New Jersey). US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) sent a separate letter as well.

In a statement to, Pocan’s spokesman called it a baseless allegation. Soto issued his own statement to

“The letter at issue complied with ethics rules as stated in Rep. Pocan’s response,” Soto said. “We will continue to stand up for American workers and encourage all stakeholders to come to the table to negotiate.”

A month after the Congressmen responded to Fertitta’s letter, representatives from the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 began picketing the Palms and Green Valley casinos to spur recognition.  Earlier this month, US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called on Fertitta’s company to abide by federal labor laws.