Adam Laxalt, left, shakes hands with Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller before a debate in Las Vegas.
By Ciara Matthews | Watchdog.org
LAS VEGAS – Intermountain West Communications Company and three of its local NBC news stations donated $40,000 to the campaign of Democratic attorney general candidate Ross Miller, according to the latest contribution and expenses report filed by Miller.
KRNV in Reno, KENV in Elko, and KSNV in Las Vegas and their parent company gave $10,000 each, the maximum contribution allowable by law, on Oct. 17, the day before early voting began in the state, the report says.
Miller, Nevada’s current secretary of state, is in a tight race with Republican Adam Laxalt. Laxalt received no money from media companies during the reporting period.
Intermountain West donated to other candidates, all of them Democrats, for secretary of state and candidates running in nonpartisan judicial and university board of regents races.
Neither the stations, the company nor Miller campaign manager Jocelyn Steinberg responded to requests for comment.
Media contributions to candidates are legal in Nevada, even if they’re somewhat unusual.
“More than half of states allow corporations to give directly to candidates. Nevada is one of them,” Denise Roth Barber, managing director for the National Institute on Money in State Politics tells me. “So, to the extent that they can give to candidates, they usually do.”
The Institute operates followthemoney.org, which allows for a comprehensive search of contributions to candidates for public office made by media outlets. A search of these numbers indicates that a little more than $1 million has been given to state and local candidates in Nevada since 1990.
The media ethics of such contributions is more controversial.
“We do not take a position regarding the question of the ethics behind this practice, but we do believe the public should know the donations are being made,” Barber says.
Laxalt campaign consultant Robert Uithoven provided the following statement very late Monday night:
“The fact that local television news stations are shoveling bundles of cash by way of maximum campaign contributions to a political candidate is appalling, irresponsible and shameful. The attorney general’s race in Nevada is the biggest, most-expensive race of the 2014 cycle. These NBC stations have been reporting on this race and never once disclosed the fact that they are in bed with one of the candidates. It’s really unbelievable.”
In a detailed report in 2010, CNN reported that News Corporation, Fox News’ parent company, had contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.
CNN acknowledged in its report that its own parent company had made political donations and that News Corp. was “not alone among media corporations who donated to political parties and candidates,” Republicans and Democrats.
The Center for Responsive Politics examined the practice of media companies contributing to political organizations and candidates. They found “the parent companies of six major media outlets have all donated anywhere from five to seven figures to political organizations during the 2010 election cycle alone.”
However, “Campaign donations made by media companies and the bigwigs who run them were primarily funneled to Democratic campaigns and organizations,” according to a look at those donations by Huffington Post in late 2012.
Capitol City project took a look at these contribution numbers earlier this year and found not much had changed since the last election with the vast majority of money funneled from news outlets to political causes benefitting Democrats.