Although each election cycle in Nevada typically sees the same major contributors — gaming companies, the real estate industry and unions that lead state lawmakers in campaign contributions, more than a dozen smaller industries supported legislators’ campaigns last year.
Still, even among smaller categories of donors like the mining industry and education groups, politically powerful organizations helped drive six-figure contributions to dozens of campaigns.
These include Nevada Gold Mines — the state’s largest mining company headquartered in Elko, which contributed $193,500 to 47 lawmakers, ranking fifth among all legislative contributors — and the Clark County Education Association (CCEA), a teachers union representing teachers in one of the nation’s largest. School districts contributed $107,500 to 16 lawmakers.
14 categories of legislative campaign contributors have not been explored before of the Nevada Independent In the 2023 “Follow the Money” series, 944 donors raised nearly 2,800 contributions totaling more than $2.8 million – the same amount contributed by smaller categories in the 2021 cycle.
Those categories included the alcohol and tobacco industry ($329,191), lobbyists ($316,530), the mining industry ($306,431), telecommunications companies ($269,250) and others explored below.
This is part of the story Nevada Independent“Follow the Money” series tracking money in politics. This installment, and others published during the legislative session, will analyze the fundraising activities of state lawmakers, including deep dives into various industries and how top contributors spent their money. Find other installments here.
The statistics provide a look at how the state’s most powerful companies and political organizations contribute to policymakers making laws that affect businesses and residents alike. It also provides context for the 120-day legislative session, as lawmakers face pressure from the same groups and individuals who donate to their campaigns.
Breaking down the top contributors
Alcohol and tobacco companies gave slightly more in the 2022 cycle ($329,000) than last cycle ($319,000).
Again leading the industry was Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris Companies, one of the world’s largest producers of tobacco products and cigarettes. The company gave $85,000 to lawmakers, down from $95,000 in the previous cycle.
Other top contributors included Anheuser-Busch ($77,000) and the Nevada Beer Wholesalers Association ($57,000). The Wholesalers Association opposed a bill this session that would have given craft breweries the power to move product from their breweries to their own tasting rooms or taprooms without having to sell the beer to a distributor. Wholesalers had criticized the measure as a threat to the state’s ecosystem of beer distribution, which separates producers, distributors and retailers.
After an initial hearing in March, the bill failed to receive a committee vote and died before the Friday deadline for first committee passage.
Although lobbying and lobbyist class contributions were driven by smaller donations of less than $7,000 from individual lobbyists, the group’s top donor was major lobbying and advertising firm R&R Partners ($80,500), which has 10 registered lobbyists this legislative session.
The firm is followed by lobbyist Alyssa Neve-Worth ($53,000) whose clients include Red Rock Resorts and Southwest Gas.
Contributions from the state’s mining industry were almost entirely dominated by two donors: Nevada Gold Mines, the country’s two largest mining companies, Barrick Gold and Newmont ($193,500), and the Nevada Mining Association ($64,500)—a combined 84.2 percent. All industry donations.
The closest industry donors – Kinross Gold and Coeur Mining – gave $20,000 and $15,000 respectively. An additional 11 mining-related donors gave a combined $13,431.
This session, the industry has strongly opposed AB313, a conservation measure that would require mining companies to backfill old and unused pit mines to prevent them from creating “pit lakes” when such mines fill groundwater laden with acids and heavy metals. .
The measure was amended and passed out of committee last week, clearing a critical initial bill deadline on Friday.
Donations from the telecommunications industry came primarily from a group of major national companies, including AT&T ($84,500) and Cox Communications ($68,500).
About 81 percent of all contributions from telecommunications companies went to Democratic lawmakers, led by Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) ($24,000) and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) ($20,250).
The CCEA ($107,500), sitting alone in the education category, was the major teachers union with significant political weight. This session, the group has supported efforts to repeal parts of the so-called Restorative Justice Act of 2019 that would have placed restrictions on student suspensions and expulsions. That includes attacks aimed at Democratic lawmakers who voted against bills that would make those changes.
Union contributions comprise nearly half of all contributions from the education category, and all of CCEA’s contributions, except for a $5,000 donation, went to Assemblywoman Heidi Casama (R-Las Vegas), a legislative Democrat.
Seven donors who contribute between $10,000 and $40,000 each make up the bulk (about 79 percent) of contributions from the transportation industry. That includes about $40,000 from the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association, a trade association that lobbies on behalf of the state’s auto dealers.
Close behind was Paul Enos ($33,000), chief executive officer of the Nevada Trucking Association.
Union Pacific Railroad Company, a national train operator, contributed about $26,000. The company has opposed efforts this session to limit the length of so-called “monster” trains in light of recent high-profile train derailments. The bill (AB456) was passed out of committee with amendments striking several important parts of the bill.
Small industries are destroyed
Among the categories of contributors who collectively give less than $200,000, the finance The industry contributed about $189,000 to lawmakers. The group was led by the Nevada Credit Union League ($54,500), the trade association for credit unions in the state that contributed heavily to Democratic lawmakers.
More than 30 Insurance Companies and agents contributed about $162,000, led by the Farmers Insurance Political Action Committee which awarded $49,000 to 12 lawmakers. The Farmers Group has led the category in years past, but last cycle saw contributions drop from $63,000 in the 2020 election cycle.
Information and Technology Companies led by Switch ($53,500), a Las Vegas-based data center company, was the last category to clear the $100,000 mark, reaching nearly $104,000.
Payday Loans The companies weren’t far behind, with just two companies — TitleMax ($76,500) and Dollar Lending Center ($10,500) — combining for $87,000 in contributions.
three tribes Collectively contributed $68,000, about 87 percent of which went to Democratic lawmakers. Those tribes are the Reno Sparks Indian Colony ($35,000), the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians ($22,500) and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe ($10,500).
Marijuana Industry donors followed closely behind, contributing $62,500. Only one contributor from this category gave more than a few thousand dollars — the Nevada Can Committee ($25,000), a group affiliated with the Nevada Cannabis Association.
At the bottom of the list are eight donors agriculture The class contributed an additional $25,000, led by FMC Corporation ($8,000), an agronomy company with various pesticide products.
There were 609 other Donors that cannot be classified as industry-specific or do not fit into one of the 25 main categories highlighted in this series. They contributed a combined $492,415. Many of these donors were retirees or private citizens, and many, 521, gave $1,000 or less.
Follow the explained money
Nevada Independent More than 8,000 donations of $200 or more were tracked and classified from January 1, 2021 through the end of the election cycle on December 31, 2022.
Donors are limited to giving a single candidate a maximum of $10,000, but large corporations easily exceed that limit by contributing through various affiliated organizations or businesses — a process sometimes called bundling.
Some wealthy donors, from lawyers to doctors to casino magnates, can also boost contributions to a single candidate by donating the maximum amount under their name and their spouse’s name.
Each donation was categorized by industry or sector of organization or contributor, and the entire set of donations was analyzed for patterns and trends. Our analysis sought to track bundled contributions where possible, linking contributions from LLCs or subsidiaries to their largest parent company or individual donor. MGM Resorts International’s total contribution includes not only money donated directly from MGM, but also from the properties it manages, for example.
The data collected does not include donations to losing candidates, nor does it break out smaller donations under the $200 threshold or fundraising activity for multiple PACs or political groups that spend in support of candidates.
It also does not include Assemblywoman Sabra Newby (D-Las Vegas), who was appointed after the election and did not raise funds.
Still, the $200 threshold captures the vast majority of all money contributed to elected lawmakers over the past two years. All legislative contributions under $200 in the 2022 cycle — 7,400 individual transactions — total just $221,000.
Roy Visuet contributed data analysis to this report.
This story is part of the Nevada Independent Weekly follow the money series, which examines the amount of money contributed by major industries to individual state lawmakers. For a list of all our Follow the Money stories, click here here.