Iffy police-themed PAC mocks regulators by soliciting illegally and lying in Las Vegas

Iffy police-themed PACOn October 1, 2021, a new law known as Senate Bill 62 took effect in Nevada. The measure, now codified as Nevada Revised Statutes NRS 82A.025 et seq, required most fundraising causes–specifically including those promoting law enforcement–to refrain from asking for money within the state until they first made filings with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. That agency was given the initial duty to enforce the new law by issuing civil penalties and cease-and-desist letters, or by referring offenders to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.

On October 12, 2021, 12 days after the law took effect, I was cold-called at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters by American Police Officers Alliance PAC, a law enforcement-themed outfit (based in Arlington, Va.) if I ever heard of one. The caller went by “Paul.” I am using quotes because “Paul” was not a real person, but a computer controlled by a human using what is known as soundboard technology. “Paul,” referred me to “Mary”–another soundboard voice. I asked if APOA was registered with Nevada to solicit in the state. “Yes,” Mary replied. I immediate checked with the Nevada Secretary of State’s website. APOA was not registered. So APOA’s representative was a fibber in the Great State of Nevada.

I also reviewed APOA’s filings with federal regulators. It was quickly apparent APOA was what I call a “faux charity.” That’s a political action committee that presents as a charity but isn’t, spending almost all of the money raised in raising it and very little on the stated mission, supporting candidates and causes favoring law enforcement priorities. Others call them “scam” charities.

I wrote up my interaction with APOA at the time, which you can read in the update at the end of the post. I concluded, “We’ll see if Nevada regulators invoke their brand new law requiring registration before solicitation.”

Nearly two years later, I am bringing up APOA again due to an interesting convergence of events that may help provide insight on my query. Continue reading

Why did old story about Hawaiians moving to Las Vegas make New York Times front page?

Hawaiians moving to Las Vegas

New York Times front page,      Sunday, May 21, 2023

There it was on the front page of at least some editions of the Sunday New York Times, perhaps the world’s most prominent journalism forum. “They’re ‘Priced Out of Paradise’ But Hawaiians Thrive in Desert,” read the print headline I saw yesterday above a breathless story about how natives of Hawaii for some time have been relocating to Las Vegas for economic reasons. The article jumped to a full inside page festooned with pictures of ex-Hawaiians rowing on Lake Mead or wearing native garb, and a supermarket shelf full of cans of Spam, part of a Hawaiian delicacy.

My question: Why is this such big news now? My first answer: Stuff about Las Vegas gets written simply because it’s about Las Vegas. That is both the joy and bane of America’s gambling capital.

My second answer: It was a Beauty and the Beast tale of folks leaving an idyllic paradise for what even the Times story called “an affordable faux version of the islands” rather than “the real thing.” At another point, the story by Eliza Fawcett cited the “migration from the impossibly lush natural landscape of the islands to the brash desert of Las Vegas.” In that context, the “beast” Vegas gets the short end of the stick–also a persistent theme of national media coverage.

Continue reading

It Didn’t Stay Here: Seattle non-profit official spent embezzled funds in Las Vegas

See update at end of story

In 2017 Susana Tantico, a nonprofit official from Seattle, spent $546.66 at the buffet in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for her family and herself. How do I even know this, and why do I care? Well, last week, Tantico admitted in Seattle federal court that she paid for the repas with funds she embezzled from a former employer.

The meals at the towering Mandalay Bay are only a tiny portion of the more than $3 million Tantico fessed up to stealing over 12 years from two Seattle nonprofits she served as finance director. That wasn’t anywhere near the total of all the ill-gotten gains Tantico acknowledged spending in Sin City, which apparently included unsuccessful gambling. But it was a specific amount of Las Vegas Strip excess that federal prosecutors in Seattle chose to include in the plea agreement she signed. There’s nothing like a specific amount of Las Vegas Strip excess to spice up any story.

Tantico, 62, becomes the newest candidate for my long-running list, It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of folks who have been in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in that bug light of mischief called Las Vegas (in this instance, the spending of money stolen from someplace else). The list is a pointed refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority used for many years. Continue reading

Does multi-billionaire deserve huge public hand-out to move the A’s to Las Vegas?

huge public hand-outAccording to Forbes, John J. Fisher, owner of the Oakland Athletics, is a billionaire. And not just one of those barely-there billionaires that dot the fruited plain of America, and for that matter much of the planet. Forbes pegs his net worth at $2.3 billion, ranking him No. 1,312 in the entire world. Fisher is from the wealthy family that founded The Gap retail chain. Were he living in Las Vegas rather than San Francisco, he would be the fifth-richest man hereabouts behind casino magnate Phil Ruffin, Panda Express co-founder Andrew Cherng, and mixed martial arts/casino owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III.

Yet Fisher is asking the state of Nevada in effect to give him nearly $400 million of taxpayer money toward constructing a $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat baseball stadium to move the As–one of the worst major league baseball teams in the entire world, including Japan–from Oakland to Las Vegas. By all accounts, the deal–the fine print of which hasn’t been spelled out, at least to the public–would give him all the upside should things work out while giving Nevada taxpayers zero upside, and plenty of downside if things head south. Forbes values the struggling team now at $1.18 billion, about half of Fisher’s net worth. The team value–and Fisher’s net worth–would surely increase dramatically in Las Vegas.

Using Other People’s Money, of course, is one way mere billionaires become multi-billionaires. (See Trump, Donald J. and bondholders, Atlantic City casinos.) For me the question here is why Nevada–a small-population state with crying unmet needs in education, healthcare and a bunch of other things–should even consider coughing up this kind of public loot.

I’d say the reason is that Fisher, 61, is counting on the pathological desire that cities have to be considered Big Time when it comes to sports. The A’s even alluded to this psychological concept yesterday when touting what it said was its own poll of Clark County voters showing overwhelming support for the stadium. Team president Dave Kaval was quoted as saying in a statement, “We look forward to delivering a world-class ballpark and all the benefits Major League Baseball brings, including … civic pride.”

Fisher is hitting up the government for loot not because he has to, but because he can. As I see it, it’s not unlike a drug dealer selling meth to an addict, who has a crying need. So what if the product isn’t top-notch? The addict is hooked! Continue reading

A dodgy police-themed PAC is back illegally soliciting in Las Vegas

dodgy police-themed PACI suppose this sounds like a broken record. Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC is one of the dumbest police-themed advocacy organizations in the country. Maybe the world. Using the front name of Police Officers Support Association, LEFSA has regularly called the New To Las Vegas world headquarters over the years requesting donations. This even though I several times have written up the really dreadful financial efficiencies and even suggested the outreach to me violates Nevada law. I’ve actually called this operation a faux charity–a political action committee that wants you to think it is doing substantial good for society like Salvation Army, but isn’t.

This is why LEFSA and its doing-business-as name are listed nearby as candidates for my list of America’s Stupidest Charities. Calling a known critic to seek money: Really, in the world of fundraising can it get any more moronic than that?

But when you’re largely a fake, I suppose hope springs eternal. Ergo the recent call I received from “Charles Davis.” I’m using quotes because it’s a fake name. This is not surprising since “Charles Davis” is a fake persona, a voice generated by a computer oversee by a human operator using what is known as soundboard technology. But I recognized the quivering voice, which in previous outreaches identified itself to me as “Eddie,” “Andrew” and “Andy Bautista” (perhaps the last two are the same computer).

“Charles” said he was calling for Police Officers Support Association and in an emotional timbre–the computers are getting better from a theatrical standpoint!–made the usual pitch about the desperate need to help law enforcement by supporting friendly politicians. I asked where Police Officers Support Association was headquartered. “Charles” then rattled off a Washington, D.C., address for what he called “Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC.”

OK, I said, you said you were calling on behalf of the Police Officers Support Association. What does Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC have to do with that?

His brusque reply: I would be put on the Do Not Call list. Followed by the click of a hang-up.

Certainly sounds legit, doesn’t it? Continue reading

Las Vegas odds: Joe Biden more likely to reach age 86 than Nikki Haley–or Donald Trump

Joe Biden life expectancy

Nikki Haley (via Wikipedia)

It was a stunning comment. Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador running to be President, actually envisioned the death of the current officeholder for personal gain. Last week, she told Fox News this:

I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden you really are counting on a President [Kamala] Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely.

From the New to Las Vegas world headquarters, in the land of odds and bookmakers, I beg to disagree on that probability–but, unlike Haley, with no self-interest and by using hard statistical data. According to standard life expectancy tables used by actuaries, the 80-year-old Biden indeed is likely to make it to age 86. Believe it or not–and this may be the real stunner–he is more likely to do so than the 51-year-old Haley, or for that matter the soon-to-turn-77 Donald J. Trump. Continue reading

Las Vegas killer gives Nevada Supreme Court second chance to make world history exactly a century later

Las Vegas killer

Zane Floyd (courtesy Nevada Department of Corrections)

Once again, the Nevada Supreme Court is deciding whether the State of Nevada may execute a convicted killer in a way never precisely used anywhere in the world. Exactly a century ago, the very same court decided the very same issue and held–no problem. Except that the resulting execution by the planet’s first use of lethal gas for capital punishment was botched and drew wide scorn.

Will history repeat itself?

Earlier this week the court heard oral arguments in Las Vegas on a lawsuit by Zane Floyd, 47. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection more than two decades ago for killing four persons in a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999. It took jurors barely two hours to convict him of all counts, which included a prior sexual assault. The quick decision was attributable to Floyd’s recorded confession played in open court along with store video of the killings.

In 2002 the Nevada Supreme Court upheld Floyd’s conviction and death sentence. But subsequent lawsuits and appeals on the state and federal level have blocked imposition of the sentence.

His lawyers now seek to bar the lethal injection of a precise mixture of chemicals never before used in a execution anywhere. They claim the process will create prolonged suffering that violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eight Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” The lawyers instead have suggested a firing squad, saying death would be instantaneous.

The specific point before the court is whether the Nevada legislature properly delegated to the head of the prison system complete authority to determine the lethal injection execution protocol, including what kind of drugs to use. Prison officials have had to scramble developing their deadly brew because of difficulty in legally obtaining a supply of all the needed drugs before their expiration dates. Continue reading

It isn’t news Las Vegas COVID-19 death rate was so high

Las Vegas COVID-19 death rate

Las Vegas Review-Journal front page, March 24, 2023

There it was, stripped yesterday across the top of the print-edition Las Vegas Review-Journal front page. “State had high virus deaths,” the headline said, citing a new study published in the esteemed British weekly medical journal The Lancet. The study reckoned that over two years Nevada had the eighth highest per-capita death rate from COVID-19 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

At the New to Las Vegas world headquarters, I am trying to figure out why this suddenly is such big stop-the-presses news in Nevada’s leading newspaper. Maybe because it doesn’t matter as much anymore?

More than two years ago, in the throes of the pandemic, I started writing in this space about how Clark County–home to Las Vegas and more than 70% of Nevada’s population–was continually experiencing higher COVID-19 death rates than the national average. The Las Vegas media dutifully reported the official local data. But I saw little effort to put the numbers in any kind of national context or draw meaningful conclusions–or contrast and compare, as my New Jersey high school teachers used to command. (With so much of the state’s population, Clark County seems like a good representative proxy for all of Nevada, and anyway, this blog isn’t called New To Nevada.)

I’m thinking the other locals didn’t want to scare off the tourists, the only real economic engine here despite years of claimed business diversification. But visitors ended up being scared off for awhile, anyway, perhaps after being officially informed, as I wrote in late 2020, that being out-and-about along the Strip was okay for them but not for Vegans.  Continue reading

It Didn’t Stay Here: Las Vegas angle to Trump’s New York legal woes

It Didn't Stay Here

Trump International Hotel Las Vegas

For years the New To Las Vegas world headquarters has compiled a list called It Didn’t Stay Here. The roster consists of folks big and small who found themselves in some kind of trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. It’s my cheeky refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the celebrated tourist marketing slogan once promoted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The list, which now tops 40 names, can be found nearby on this page along with underlying links to the original posts.

One of those big names is Donald J. Trump. I put him on years ago after a video surfaced of him partying in Las Vegas in 2013 with–Russians! Along with their cronies like Rob Goldstone. He’s the British publicist who several years later for his clients sent the now-infamous email lauding “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” to Donald J. Trump Jr. The note became public after Trump père became president in 2017, but the issue caused the family no small amount of problems in Washington, D.C. You know that story. The video is still posted on CNN’s website.

Just because one is already on the list doesn’t preclude a repeat appearance. Ergo Trump again. This time it’s because of a 222-page civil fraud lawsuit that New York State Attorney General Letitia James brought against Trump, family members and their businesses late last year in a New York state court. Part of the lawsuit involves alleged tax and valuation machinations by the Trumpers over their sole property in Las Vegas. Trump et al deny all wrongdoing. Trump himself called the lawsuit racist because, it seems, he is white and James is black. Continue reading

Thoughts on a proposed bill of rights for Las Vegas homeless

For years, rare has been the day I take an early morning walk with the dog from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters without encountering homeless folks.

Las Vegas homeless

Homeless encampment, East Las Vegas

Sometimes, it’s a person sleeping alone on a sidewalk, with or without a covering. Sometimes, it’s someone seeking protection under an awning of a shuttered Bank of America branch. Sometimes, as seen in the nearby photo, it’s a growing encampment in a vacant lot.

Sometimes, it’s all three.

This comes to mind as I ponder the proposed “Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rights” recently introduced in the Nevada Legislature by six Democratic senators. The bill has created quite the controversy. Continue reading

Not first time Las Vegas casino table game allegedly played on despite stricken patron

Las Vegas casino table gameThe recently filed lawsuit by the family of a deceased Florida lawyer claiming the Wynn Las Vegas casino kept dealing cards after he collapsed from a heart attack at a blackjack table has gotten a lot of national attention. In the five days since the Las Vegas Review-Journal broke the news–in a story by David Wilson buried on an inside page of the Sunday paper–the account has been picked up widely. At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters, a Google search found more than 11,000 mentions on the Internet, in places as far-flung as the websites of The New York Post, The Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle.

The R-J story about the civil lawsuit said David Jagolinzer was “slumped over the blackjack table” in the Wynn Las Vegas casino for 15 minutes on April 6, 2022, as the dealer kept dealing before help arrived. The story said Jagolinzer died six month later as a result of the delayed treatment, at the age of 48. A quoted Wynn Las Vegas statement called the allegations in the lawsuit false. In an interesting twist, Jagolinzer, who practiced in Miami, was in town for Mass Torts Made Perfect, a periodic conference of plaintiff personal injury lawyers looking for new ideas and causes that I wrote about 15 years ago for Forbes.com.

I’m guessing the lawsuit is getting wide notice partly because it fits into a media narrative of Las Vegas as a damn-the-customer place where almost anything goes in the name of profits for the house. You know, the underbelly of that “What happens here, stays here” aura long promoted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

But indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened along the Las Vegas Strip, according a long-ago but well-known book about Sin City. Continue reading

Las Vegas health care woes make it apt venue for Super Bowl LVIII

Las Vegas health careNow that Super Bowl LVII is in the books, the countdown already has begun for Super Bowl LVIII. It will held on February 11, 2024, at Allegiant Stadium, the roofed edifice just seven miles from the roofed New To Las Vegas world headquarters.

The powers-that-be in the National Football League and Las Vegas are calling this the perfect marriage: the country’s most popular sporting event and the country’s most popular entertainment town. “Las Vegas knows how to do big things,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell proclaimed a day after Super Bowl LVII in a press release sent out by the booster Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “They have done an extraordinary job at understanding how we want to present the NFL in that community, and more importantly, how to do it Las Vegas-style.”

The union of the NFL and Las Vegas is fitting, all right, but to me for a far different reason. Both offer shameful healthcare to their constituencies, and have for a long time. Continue reading

Las Vegas casinos get to bet after hand is over

Las Vegas casinosWhen you wager in a casino along the Las Vegas Strip, you have to place your bet before the roulette wheel is spun, the dice are thrown or the slot machine arm is pulled.

The casinos themselves, though, play by different rules. They get to make bets after the outcome is determined. How else to explain the huge amount of “campaign” contributions that Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo received from casino operators following his narrow win in November for governor over Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak?

In the period from November 9–the day after Election Day–to December 31, Republican Lombardo received nearly $2 million in contributions, according to his report filed with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. By my New to Las Vegas count, more than a quarter of that came from prominent Las Vegas casino interests–many making campaign contributions for the first time this election cycle.

This form of influence peddling–other than bribery, what else can it be called once the campaign is already over?–is legal under Nevada law, and probably the laws of most other states, too, and is nothing new. But in a unique economy like that of Las Vegas, where cheating at a game of chance is a felony carrying up to a five-year prison sentence, and can get someone banned from a facility for life, it seems downright unsporting to allow such late wagers. Continue reading

Another cancer ‘faux charity’ solicits unregistered in Las Vegas

faux charityThe conversation was short but revealing.

The recent telephone caller to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters said her name was “Mary Brown.” The purpose of the unsolicited call: to seek a contribution to American Breast Cancer Coalition PAC.

OK, I said. Where is the organization located? “Mary” gave an address in Washington, D.C.

OK. I said. What will the organization do with my contribution? Here was the response in full: “Adding you to the do-not-call list. Goodbye.” I heard a click.

Now that sounds like something on the up-and-up, doesn’t it?

I’m using quotes around “Mary” because I wasn’t talking to a real person. Rather, I was conversing–if that’s even the proper term–with a computer generating a voice monitored by a real person using what is known as soundboard technology.

The abrupt ending led me to do a little digging about ABCC, which despite its political action committee status–that’s what PAC means–presents as a worthy charity. Here’s what I found: ABCC did next to nothing to fight breast cancer. In the 12 months ending September 30, 2022, ABCC spent almost all the money raised for fundraising expense and related overhead. Despite that period covering most of 2022, run-up to an important election, ABCC spent barely 1% of its budget on anything resembling advocacy or candidate support. And, oh yes, it appears to be soliciting me in violation of Nevada law.

ABCC is what I call a faux charity–a PAC that sounds meritorious but isn’t. By comparison it almost makes George Santos seem honest. Over the years I’ve written up a number of cancer-themed and other faux charities that called me. Click here and click here to see but two. Type the word “faux” in the nearby search box and hit enter to see more than a dozen others. Continue reading