Las Vegas fallen-cop charity spent more on accounting than cops

Injured Police Officers FundI’m starting to sound like a broken record here. The Injured Police Officers Fund, the Las Vegas-based charity that covers certain out-of-pocket expenses for families of fallen law enforcement personnel in southern Nevada, continues to have an overhead problem. In its latest public tax filing, for calendar year 2019, the nonprofit spent more on accounting alone than it handed out to families.

According to the filing, IPOF made a total of $26,266 in grants to 15 recipients. The charity spent $30,600 on accounting. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, pardon for Trump would be admission, thanks to long-ago scandal and media

pardon for Trump

Sample Trump self-pardon

Now that the presidential election is decided, the Chattering Classes are now fixated on other pressing issues. Will President Donald J. Trump pardon himself? Can he pardon himself? If not, will he resign on January 19 and let president-for-a-day Mike Pence pardon him? Would the politically ambitious Pence really be willing to risk pulling a President Gerald Ford, who lost his own bid for election in 1976 after pardoning disgraced president Richard Nixon two years earlier?

And whatever the source, would any valid pardon in favor of Trump amount to an admission of his culpability for a wide range of  issues? Issues that include obstruction of justice, tax fraud, campaign finance irregularities involving ex-paramour payments and wholesale violations of the Emoluments Clauses?

As a student of constitutional law long before becoming New To Law Vegas, I would tell you Trump can’t pardon himself, for two simple reasons. First, self-pardons were unknown in English common law, on which our Constitution was based, with substantial modifications, upon its creation in 1787. Second, the specific wording of the relevant Constitutional clause–giving Trump the “Power to grant … pardons”–bars a self-pardon because by dictionary definition one can only “grant” something to someone else. (i.e. taking money from your left pocket and putting it in your right pocket is not a “grant” to yourself).

Still, should Trump end up with a self-pardon and later be federally indicted, it would be up to the courts to sort that out. And probably, eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court.

But on the cultural/political issue of whether accepting a pardon would an admission of personal culpability on the part of the recipient, the Supremes already have spoken. It is. Quite strikingly, the century-old case establishing this tarring proposition involved reporting by major-media investigative journalists producing what Trump might call  “fake news.” They bravely stood up to a president (Woodrow Wilson) in coverage touching on suspected tax fraud and marital infidelity. These are all topics not unassociated with Trump.

Folks, it’s hard to make up stuff like this. If I’ve caught your interest, read on. It’s a pretty good yarn. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas, prosecutors use 109-year-old law to charge critic of governor

charge critic of governor

Feeder’s criminal complaint

With its constant, often mindless criticism of all regulation and taxes–in a state with crushing unmet social needs–the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial page is often a hard read for me. But I find myself in agreement with its recent criticism of efforts by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford to shut down a vociferous critic of his fellow Democrat, Governor Steve Sisolak.

State prosecutors filed three criminal misdemeanor charges against Steve Feeder, a 60-year-old Las Vegas resident, for his strong rant, mainly on Sisolak’s official Facebook page, against Sisolak and his early handling of the coronavirus pandemic in closing certain kinds of businesses. A Las Vegas judge, Karen Bennett-Haron, threw out two of the charges–interfering with a public official and provoking commission of a breach of the peace. But she ordered a trial next spring on the third charge, publishing matter inciting breach of peace or other crimes.

This raises obvious First Amendment freedom of speech issues. The Review-Journal editorial declared, “There’s no evidence that Mr. Feeder did anything other than post his incendiary bluster on social media.”  I fully agree. But for me, the biggest problem with Ford’s bid to shut up criticism of Sisolak is the very law itself. Any century-old law–this one was enacted in 1911, and not one word has been changed since–is susceptible to challenge, especially one that criminalizes speech. However, it strikes me that this one has a serious constitutional deficiency, which I haven’t seen raised in the court filings I see online and which I will explain below. Continue reading

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Las Vegas locals are told to stay home and let tourists face coronavirus

let tourists face coronavirus

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (via Wikipedia)

I am hunkered down in the New To Las Vegas world headquarters waiting out the worsening coronavirus pandemic per the explicit request of our governor, Steve Sisolak. Yet he also says it’s okay for tourists to wander around the Strip and other places like casinos, presumably spending money brought in from out-of-state.

To me, this is not okay at all. But it’s the kind of mentality on which the Las Vegas economy has been based since gambling and quickie divorce (as well as quickie marriage) were all legalized in the same fateful year of 1931. Profit from the moral shortcomings of others, and to hell with the consequences. Continue reading

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A punchier headline for today’s big presidential election news

With apologies to the current Web front page of The New York Times, which reads, “BIDEN BEATS TRUMP”:

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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‘None of These Candidates’ line on Las Vegas ballot is set to dump Trump

None of These Candidates

Las Vegas ballot

See important updates at end of story

Exactly one month ago, on October 4, I wrote about the possibility that two enduring characteristics of Nevada elections–a ban on write-in votes and inclusion of the option to vote for “None of These Candidates”–could determine the next president of the United States in a close national race.

My scenario is on the verge of coming true. Continue reading

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With Salt Lake City losing its dailies, can Las Vegas be far behind?

Salt Lake City losing its dailiesSalt Lake City losing its dailiesThe Internet-driven ad meltdown in the daily newspaper industry continues with word that BOTH daily newspapers in Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, are ending everyday print publication after a century-and-a-half of such operations. For those of you elsewhere whose knowledge of the West’s geography comes mainly from Saul Steinberg’s famously warped 1976 cover in The New Yorker, “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” Salt Lake City is just 420 miles north on the interstate from the New to Las Vegas world headquarters. There’s not a lot in between the two metro areas.

Which begs this question today, the annual state holiday celebration of Nevada Day: Can Las Vegas be far behind? Continue reading

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Dr. Fauci might have a lawsuit against the GOP in Las Vegas

Fauci might have a lawsuit

Exhibit A: Nevada Republican Party mailing

The New To Las Vegas world headquarters today received a political flyer in the mail from the Nevada Republican Party. It plugged the re-election of President Donald J. Trump on the clearly false grounds that he’s done a terrific job fighting the coronavirus.

Except that the two-sided flyer sported a far larger photo image of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Federal Government’s leading expert on infectious diseases. Along with this quote attributed to him, “I can’t imagine … anybody could be doing more.” An image of the flyer is nearby.

Fauci has gone on national TV to complain about the use of a video clip of him saying this in national Trump advertising, noting he wasn’t talking about Trump himself but rather the White House coronavirus task force. He also noted he said this way back in March, when coronavirus was a fraction of the disaster it has become. The Trump political organization essentially told him to pound sand.

I have an idea for the good doctor, especially if Trump loses his re-election bid. Fauci should consider suing the Nevada Republican Party right here in Las Vegas for its false advertising. There’s no shortage of competent plaintiff lawyers in Las Vegas. I’m also not sure how many good lawyers work for the local GOP, given how many cases its operatives have lost over the years (the latest was just today). Fauci might have a very interesting lawsuit.

Allow me to explain. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas, a cold call from a brand new faux charity?

brand new faux charityIn this space I’ve been writing about what I call “faux charities.” These are outfits that cold-call me on the telephone at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters asking for donations for what seem like charitable causes for health care or first responders. In reality, they aren’t charities at all. They are political action committees, or PACs, purportedly raising money to give to favored candidates for public office. Except that these faux charities spend almost all the money raised for fundraising and very little in political contributions, ostensibly the raison d’être for the organization in the first place.

PACs are very thinly regulated by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service (a PAC can be registered with either agency), and basically not at all by most state charity regulators. This may be the reason why operators of some sketchy charities have moved into the “faux charity” PAC business. There simply is a lot less scrutiny and legal risk.

All this is background for a call I received recently from “Anna.” I put her name in quote because Anna wasn’t a real person, but a computer-generated voice likely monitored by a real human. “Anna” said she was soliciting a contribution for something called the U.S. Breast Cancer and Women’s Health Initiative. I asked where her organization was located. She said Washington, D.C. Continue reading

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‘None of These Candidates’ line on Las Vegas ballot could affect national outcome

None of These Candidates

Ballot in a Las Vegas precinct

John Bolton is the mustached conservative stalwart who served as President Donald J. Trump’s national security advisor for 17 tumultuous months and then wrote a best-selling book attacking his boss, The Room Where It Happened. In a recent interview, Bolton says he won’t vote for Trump, and of course not for Joseph R. Biden Jr. Instead, he declared he would write in the name of a “Republican conservative yet to be determined.”

It’s a good thing for Bolton he lives in Maryland and not here in Nevada. That’s because the Silver State, alone among the 50, prohibits write-in votes. Instead, for statewide races voters are given the option of choosing “None of These Candidates.”

In the past the NOTC option has influenced the outcome of races in Nevada. This year it could even do so nationally in the presidential contest. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas suburb, Home Depot stops blaming governor for masks

Home DepotMaybe Home Depot is showing a little sense.

Two weeks ago in this space, I showed a photo of a big, crudely hand-lettered sign outside the Home Depot store on Marks St. in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson. Mask-wearing in the store is “mandated by the governor,” it declared.

I opined that blaming Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, seemed to me more a way to stir up even more mask-wearing opposition following the unfortunate lead of Republican President Donald J. Trump. And also a reason why the coronavirus pandemic might last awhile. In addition, the language of the sign struck me as consistent with the pro-Trump sympathies of Bernard Marcus, a Home Depot co-founder and one of Trump’s biggest contributors in 2016.

Accordingly, I declared a personal boycott of Home Depot.

Now, I’m still New To Seattle. But this blog does get read and sometimes shared. And whadayaknow! Today, I passed by the Home Depot store as I headed to the Costco across the street. The offending (to me, anyway) sign was gone and replaced by the one shown nearby.

“All customers must wear facial coverings while shopping in our stores,” it says. No blame. No finger-pointing. A simple matter-of-fact statement.

So my Home Depot boycott is now over. Time for new light bulbs.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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In Las Vegas, Forbes 400 roster continues to thin

This morning, Forbes Magazine published its 39th edition of the Forbes 400, the heaviest hitters (by net worth) in the country. The rich have never been so rich, with a collective net worth valued in late July of $3.2 trillion, up $240 billion in a year.

But the Las Vegas contingent isn’t doing so well. Once numbering as high as nine entries, the Las Vegas roster is down to four. One fell off this year, while most of the others saw their fortunes decline.

The latest to drop: Elaine Wynn, 78. Last year, she was ranked tied for No. 388 with a net worth of $2.1 billion. Then came coronavirus, which knocked 68% off the value of shares of Wynn Resorts, which she co-founded with (twice) ex-husband Steve Wynn and remains the largest shareholder of. Forbes values her down $400 million at $1.7 billion. That’s not chump change, but it’s $400 million below the $2.1 billion cutoff for this year’s list. Continue reading

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In Las Vegas it’s Jason–or Greg–on the line from Energy Advocates

Energy AdvocatesSee update at end of story

At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters I’m getting as many as 10 telephone calls a week from someone who says he’s with Energy Advocates, marketing home solar energy systems. Most of the time he says his name is “Jason;” occasionally, it’s “Greg.” But it’s the same voice every time, which may not be surprising because the voice is generated by a computer using technology and probably a real person to monitor how I respond.

Now, I would tell you that any outfit using a computer to call me 10 times a week is not on the up and up. Another reason for my thinking this: The local telephone number that shows on the caller ID generally is nonexistent, as I find when I call that number after the call to me is over. Judging from complaint postings on the Internet, Energy Advocates is plying its scheme nationally. Continue reading

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Far from Las Vegas, fitting venues for GOP speeches

Francis Scott Key

fitting venue for GOP speeches

Andrew W. Mellon

For me, still New to Las Vegas, part of the fun watching the convention-less Republican National Convention that wrapped up last night was not only the speakers, but where they spoke.

I am referring in particular to two of the venues, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., and Fort McHenry in Baltimore. In this time of economic distress and racial strife, they both have compelling back stories that are especially fitting—although perhaps not in ways calculated to win over uncommitted voters that Donald Trump needs to overcome his current deficit in the polls. Continue reading

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In a Las Vegas suburb, store blames government for the masks

blame for the masksThis sign–outside a Home Depot store today on Marks St. in the upscale Las Vegas suburb of Henderson–helps to show why the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is going to last for awhile.

Rather than simply stating masks are required for entry, this Home Depot management decided to blame it all on government. “Mandated by the Governor,” the crudely hand-lettered sign says in a way calculated to stir up even more mask opposition.There already is an anti-mask group in Las Vegas.

It’s worth noting that Home Depot’s lead founder, Bernard Marcus, is a prominent Republican who was one of anti-mask Donald Trump’s biggest financial supporters in 2016, while Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak is a Democrat.

I’ll leave it to others to explain how the age-old and proven technique of wearing a mask in a pandemic has become a political issue. Meanwhile, my home improvement patronage will go elsewhere.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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In Las Vegas, Trump tries to rig Nevada election outcome–like Abe Lincoln did

Nevada election

Donald J. Trump

See update at end of story

For a man who owns half of the Las Vegas Strip hotel that is the state’s tallest non-casino building, you’d think President Donald J. Trump would know more about Nevada. He mispronounces the state’s name at every opportunity–saying “nev-AH-da” (schwa A in the middle) when those of us who live here say “nev-ADD-a” (short A in the middle). During a 2016 presidential campaign rally in Reno, he actually lectured the locals on their pronunciation. So maybe it wasn’t all that surprising that he lost the state’s six electoral votes to Hillary Clinton.

Nevada election

Abraham Lincoln

Although he still mispronounces Nevada, Trump is trying to avoid the same electoral result this year. He says Democrats are working to rig the state’s election results by passing a law temporarily turning Nevada into a vote-by-mail jurisdiction. This would be similar to the long-standing practice of a number of other Western states (including adjoining liberal Oregon and conservative Utah). The stated motivation in Nevada is the coronavirus pandemic and the avoidance of long lines outside polls on Election Day.

Trump’s campaign just filed a lawsuit in federal court in Las Vegas challenging the Nevada changes. His operatives clearly believe a broader franchise would work against him, so Trump is simply trying to rig it his way. Democrats now hold a statewide registration edge. But it is also a fact that Nevada as a whole has gone Republican in eight of the past 13 presidential elections and hasn’t voted against an incumbent since 1992.

I am still New To Las Vegas. But as far as I know, there is no sweeping history here of election fraud. (That’s assuming you don’t include the time in 1940 when Democrats covered up the fact that incumbent U.S. Sen. Key Pittman was on his deathbed until after Election Day so the governor, a fellow Democrat, could appoint Pittman’s replacement upon his death five days following his “re-election.”) Certainly there is nothing like the Republican operative in North Carolina now under indictment for election shenanigans that forced a Congressional election to be rerun.

But it is historically fascinating to me that Team Trump is obsessed with election rigging in, of all places, Nevada. Why? Because, as I wrote in this space four years ago and repeat below, Nevada actually became a state to rig an election for Abraham Lincoln. As it turns out, he is a man with whom Trump regularly compares himself and apparently would like to join on Mount Rushmore.

Fake news, you think? Read on.

Continue reading

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Faux volunteer firefighter cause trolls Las Vegas and nationally

The recent cold caller to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters used the name Shawn (or maybe Sean). He said he was soliciting a donation for something called National Committee for Volunteer Firefighters.

In my view, he made it sound like a charity and pressed real hard for me to commit to a specific dollar pledge before mailing me written materials. Shawn was also not a real person, but a voice generated by a computer, most likely with an actual human monitoring the conversation and hitting keys to provide canned responses.

All this is a common m.o. for what I call a faux charity–a purported cause that spends almost all the money raised on fundraising and overhead and virtually nothing on the stated cause, while implying it operates with charitable motives. They are hoping that would-be donors won’t ask up front about financial efficiencies or won’t know how to find the answers for themselves.

In this case NCVF, ostensibly based in Boston, is a political action committee. That’s not a charity at all, of course, but a so-called 527 organization–named after a provision of federal tax law–that says it takes contributions to support candidates for public office who will support its goals. Here, this presumably would have something to do with volunteer firefighters. 527 outfits are lightly regulated, to say the least.

I just dug up NCVF’s public record financial filings with the Internal Revenue Service from its creation last December 18 through June 30, just a few weeks ago. Some $241,027 was listed as donated from across the country, and $220,627 listed as spent. By my reckoning, here is how much of that $220,627 was spent supporting volunteer firefighters:

$0.

Here’s how much of that $220,627 was spent in fundraising and overhead expense:

$220,627.

The $20,400 difference between donations and expenditures–only 8% of the amount donated–isn’t going to help very many political candidates and is hardly commensurate with the amount contributed. And I imagine many donors would not be happy to know that 92% of their gifts have no chance of benefiting even a single volunteer firefighter. Continue reading

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Hey, Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine, proof-read your ad!

Since becoming New to Las Vegas four years ago this week, I have come to the conclusion that the Nevada state government is not a fountain of extreme competence.

For me, the latest example appeared today in a half-page advertisement placed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal by the office of Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine. The ad in the state’s leading newspaper concerned changes to the state’s unclaimed property law. (Yes, I do read boring stuff like that.)

Here is the bottom of the ad. The annotated yellow arrow was added by yours truly.

Now I imagine that most everyone in that agency is working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. That would include the grammatically challenged–as well as folks whose job it should be to proof-read material in its entirety before publication.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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Far from Las Vegas: How a 1980s management book explains Trump

As the November 2020 presidential election nears, we’ve all watched Donald J. Trump run the White House and the Federal Government for 3½ years. As he lurches from crisis to crisis, gaffe to gaffe, false statement to false statement and high-level firing to high-level firing, Trump has provided grist for a million pundits commenting on his, ah, unusual management style.

Or maybe not all that unusual.

For my money, the best analysis of Trump’s m.o. comes from a book I read in the 1980s–long before becoming New to Las Vegas–that doesn’t even mention him and isn’t really about politics.

I am referring to Unstable at the Top: Inside the Troubled Organization, by prominent international management consultants/academics Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries and Danny Miller. The pair combed through case histories of organizations both public and private run by clearly wacko leaders to define five varieties of neurotic, dysfunctional management: dramatic, suspicious, detached, depressive and compulsive.

Trump fits their description of the dramatic leader to a T, not unlike the delightfully off-balance letter on the cover, displayed nearby.

“The dramatic management style mixes aspects of two primary psychological orientations: the histrionic (theatrical, seductive, and showy) and the narcissistic (egotistical and grandiose),” Kets de Vries and Miller write. Continue reading

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Sketchy police cause that doesn’t engage is back trolling in Las Vegas

Sketchy police cause Last week, amid the outcry over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Andrew called me again at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters asking for a donation to his cause helping the families of officers “killed in the line of duty.” The conservation lasted less than a minute, but not because this is a hard time for police fundraising. When I politely asked how much has been spent in Nevada, Andrew abruptly hung up. This might be because the true answer is probably zero.

This was not the first time this year I’ve heard from Andrew. He called months before the Floyd killing making the same plea, using roughly the same language. Nor was this the first time this year he hung up on me after I asked something simple (the last time, to be connected with his supervisor).

Clearly, Andrew has deficient interpersonal skills. I can say this without fear of committing defamation because Andrew is not a person, but rather a computer monitored by a real human trying to use artificial intelligence to fund-raise. Artificial intelligence is definitely not the same as emotional intelligence.

Andrew raises money in the name of Police Officers Support Association. This is a trade name used by Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC. Yes, PAC, as in political action committee, outfits that usually support candidates. Based on recent filings, the money raised doesn’t actually go to next of kin, as Andrew implied in our brief chat. In fact, almost all of it goes for fundraising, and very little of it to anything that might be construed as the stated mission, like supporting sympathetic candidates or aiding grieving police families. Continue reading

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