Democratic PAC says Laxalt violated campaign finance law

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A political action committee supporting Democratic candidates filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that Nevada Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt violated campaign finance laws by using an annual barbecue. of the GOP to promote his campaign while he was chairman of the PAC which organized it.

The Basque Fry is run by the Morning in Nevada PAC, of ​​which Laxalt was president until August 2021, when his candidacy for the U.S. Senate was announced. By allegedly controlling a state PAC as a federal candidate, he violated Federal Election Commission guidelines, End Citizens United said in its complaint.

Laxalt’s campaign says he had “nothing to do with the PAC” after announcing his candidacy a day after last year’s event.

The barbecue, which features live music, an inflatable rodeo ride and Basque cuisine, is inspired by the barbecues of Adam Laxalt’s grandfather and former Nevada Governor Paul Laxalt. The eldest Laxalt was the son of Basque immigrants.

It has become an annual tradition attended by Nevada GOP leaders and national headliners, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Trump administration adviser Kellyanne Conway.

In Nevada, state political action committees are allowed to receive unlimited contributions, unlike PACs that fall under federal election rules, which have a maximum contribution of $5,000 per donor each year.

The Democratic group said in its report filed with the Federal Election Commission that Laxalt violated federal campaign finance laws by raising and spending well over the $5,000 limit for in-kind contributions from the Morning in Nevada PAC after becoming a federal candidate for election. He argues that since Laxalt’s campaign was touted at both events, it should be recorded as a contribution.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton announced that Laxalt would appear at the 2021 Basque Fry on August 14, which “triggered the federal bid,” according to the complaint. Laxalt filed documents announcing his candidacy the following day, August 15. According to the complaint, his name appeared on the state recording of Morning in Nevada until August 31.

“Adam, I guess he’s not supposed to say he’s going to be your next United States Senator. There are campaign finance rules against that,” Cotton said at the 2021 Basque Fry. “But what do I care about some stupid rules like that? Adam Laxalt will be heading to the United States Senate for Battle Born State in 2022.”

End Citizens United argues that Laxalt violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 by controlling a “soft money organization” — typically a PAC that does not exceed federal spending limits — as a federal candidate. And he received “excessive, undeclared and potentially prohibited in-kind contributions” from Basque Fry. In-kind contributions are non-monetary goods and services.

He also alleges that Laxalt’s speaking slot at this year’s Basque Fry, which was used to promote his campaign, should count as an in-kind contribution. Laxalt did not report any contributions from the Morning in Nevada PAC during its campaign.

“He was a guest speaker at this year’s Basque Fry, along with a number of other federal and state elected officials and candidates,” Laxalt spokeswoman Courtney Holland said in an email. “His presence at the event was certainly authorized, despite frivolous claims by a leftist and black money group” that backs his opponent, incumbent U.S. Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Holland said.

One of Laxalt’s longtime advisers, Robert Uithoven, is the new chairman of Morning in Nevada. Laxalt for the Senate said it has paid Uithoven and his political consulting firm nearly $330,000 to date. In an email, Uithoven called the complaint “baseless.”

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Stern is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Stern on Twitter @gabestern326.