(Chuck Muth) – “Get Joe Lombardo!”
That’s been the “Allahu Akbar”-like rallying cry for the hyper-partisan – usually toothless, now weaponized – Nevada Commission on Ethics. And on Tuesday in a split 4-2 ruling, it hit the Republican governor with a $20,000 fine for…wearing his police uniform.
For context, let’s hop into the Wayback Machine…
In 2011, Rory Reid (son of late Sen. Harry Reid) – then a Democrat candidate for governor – paid a piddling $25,000 fine for illegal campaign donations. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the time…
“Reid was accused of funneling more than $900,000 to his gubernatorial campaign last year through 90 shell organizations in an effort to bypass limits on political donations. …
“Reid created the Economic Leadership PAC, which took in $933,300. The money was disbursed in smaller chunks through 90 PACs that all shared the same address at 716 Kelso Way, according to the statement.”
Almost a million dollars in laundered campaign donations resulted in a fine amounting to the cost of a decent used car these days. Essentially, a slap on the wrist for the wealthy former Clark County commissioner.
Back to Lombardo…
It all started in October 2021 when Matthew DeFalco, a Democrat lawyer with ties to then-Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak, filed a clearly politically-motivated complaint with the Ethics Commission accusing Lombardo of illegally wearing his police uniform in photographs used by his campaign.
In an article today, the Las Vegas Sun notes that Elizabeth Bassett, an attorney representing the Commission, said, “This commission has consistently held that the ethics law prohibits Nevada sheriffs from using their uniforms, badges and other equipment of their office in support of any campaign.”
However, the Sun also reports that “attorneys on both sides said current state law was unclear because no statute about a sheriff’s political conduct exists.”
In fact, as Lombardo’s attorney, Colby Williams, pointed out at the hearing, it would have been one thing if the former sheriff had worn his uniform in campaign ads if he was running for re-election as sheriff, but in this case he was running for a totally different office in which the state’s ethics laws are, to say the least, cloudy.
As reporter Carly Sauvageau noted in an article yesterday, the Lombardo decision “marks the latest ruling by the commission in a long string of cases where sheriffs have used their uniforms and badges in campaigns despite a lack of clarity in state law.”
So in the absence of any clear law relating to Lombardo wearing his uniform in his campaign for governor, the commission just made up its own interpretation.
Before getting to the slimy details of how yesterday’s fine was leveled, it should be noted that Mr. DeFalco asked the Commission TWICE to rescind the complaint that he simply served as the patsy for…
“I did not personally write the complaint,” DeFalco said in an interview with the Sun. “I was given a letter to submit with it. I personally asked the Commission to withdraw the complaint, but on both occasions, the Commission refused to allow me to withdraw the complaint. In hindsight, if I had a redo, I would not have done this.”
This is nothing more than political hit-job in which Lombardo is playing the part of Moby Dick to Commission executive director Ross Armstrong’s Captain Ahab. Indeed, Armstrong – a Sisolak sycophant – became obsessed with getting Lombardo.
In fact, Armstrong initially proposed walloping Lombardo with a jaw-dropping $1.67 MILLION fine for…wearing his police uniform. His proposed fine was so outrageous that one of the commissioners appointed by Sisolak resigned in May…
“In a resignation letter obtained by The Nevada Independent,” reports Sauvageau, “(Commissioner Damien) Sheets called the investigation into Lombardo ‘unacceptable’ and wrote that though the commission is ‘supposed to investigate complaints without bias, prejudice, or preference, the Commission’s recent actions have shown it has little desire to do so.’”
Speaking of Armstrong, he’s no stranger to controversy and ethical questions himself.
Armstrong was head of the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) under Sisolak until getting run out of office by a Justice Department investigation and media reports detailing complaints about how his office handled mentally ill children and the use of pepper spray at the state’s juvenile detention facilities.
Upon his “resignation,” a person reportedly in a “leadership position” at DCFS wrote to News3 KSNV that “child welfare and juvenile justice are better off now that Ross has found a new career. Hopefully, the new administrator will clean up his cabinet and put in child advocates versus the cronies he has currently serving.”
This is clearly a career government bureaucrat with a partisan ax to grind. Even with the complaint withdrawn, Armstrong continued his jihad
And Bassett seconded his emotion. According to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story this morning, she said that “by wearing his sheriff’s uniform in campaign materials, Lombardo gave the appearance that the law enforcement agency was backing him.”
This, the commission maintained, gave Lombardo an “unwarranted advantage” in his campaign for governor.
First, while the Metropolitan Police Department itself doesn’t issue endorsements, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, and at least 13 other law enforcement associations around the state, DID endorse Lombardo over Sisolak.
Secondly, how did wearing his police uniform give him an “unwarranted advantage” with the multitude of voters out there who back the “Defund the Police” movement? With that bloc of blockhead voters, wearing the uniform was decidedly a DISADVANTAGE.
In fact, as Williams pointed out, Sisolak himself featured photos of Lombardo wearing his uniform in attack ads claiming Lombardo “had failed in his capacities as sheriff.”
What do they say about people in glass houses?
And what about all the advantages then-Gov. Sisolak enjoyed using official gubernatorial events, press conferences and appearances that were clearly conducted to boost his campaign?
Lastly, Williams noted that this issue isn’t anything new and that state legislators could have acted to clear up the ambiguous language in the state’s ethics laws but have chosen not to do so.
Indeed, Sauvageau reports that…
“During the 2021 legislative session, then-assemblywoman and current state Sen. Robin Titus (R-Wellington) proposed AB218 in an attempt to clear up ambiguities in state statutes around law enforcement using accoutrements on the campaign trail. The bill would have allowed sheriffs to use badges and uniforms in campaigns, but died without receiving a vote.”
“If the Legislature believed that a sheriff engaging in political activities was so problematic and created an appearance of impropriety,” Williams told the Commission, “there’s an easy way to solve it: make sheriff a resign-to-run position.”
But the Legislature has NOT done that. So the Commission decided to just make up its own interpretation of the law and slam Lombardo for breaking it even though it’s easy to argue he hasn’t actually broken any law.
Comparatively-speaking, the $20,000 fine is peanuts – as was the $25,000 Rory Reid fine.
But the attorney fees for Lombardo’s defense are likely to reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And of additional concern, the Commission also issued an official “censure” – which is totally meaningless, except in a political context.
The Commission’s unprecedented “censure” will clearly be used to create campaign ads for Democrat Attorney General A.Ron Ford’s expected challenge to Lombardo’s re-election campaign in 2026.
This whole kerfuffle isn’t about “ethics.” It’s about politics. It’s yet another weaponization of a government board or agency to give political opponents of Lombardo an unwarranted advantage. It is, in itself, unethical.
And stinks like yesterday’s diapers.
P.S. At press time, it was unclear if Gov. Lombardo will appeal this unethical Ethics Commission decision.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“They impeached Trump for a phone call! Are you trying to tell me Biden’s conduct isn’t as significant as that? It’s WAY more significant. [House Republicans] are absolutely within their rights to [impeach]. The corruption that’s surrounding this family is really unprecedented in the modern history of our country.” – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.