With the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary out of the way, attention is now turning in a big way to the next contest—Nevada’s own presidential caucuses on Saturday, February 22. Candidates, their handlers and the national media are pouring into the state and mainly Las Vegas, since almost all the state’s Democratic voters are here and it’s a lot more fun when on an expense account.
Here’s what they will see: giant billboards promoting excessive drinking, human sexuality (some in rather crude terms, to boot) and law firms making over-the-top claims.
Where else across the fruited plain can one experience a cityscape festooned with billboards openly lauding drunkenness, like the one displayed nearby from Lee’s Discount Liquor: “Booze is the answer. I don’t remember the question.”? Another from Lee’s reads, ” ‘Trust Me, You Look Great’–Alcohol.”
Or erectile dysfunction billboards loudly beseeching, “Don’t Let Your Meat Loaf.” Or a strip club billboard on a major freeway prominently displaying the image of a pussycat? Or giant ads promoting “The Love Store,” which sells sex toys?
Or billboards unjudiciously advertising “Guard Dog Law,” “Battleborn Injury Lawyers” “Powerhouse Injury Attorney,” “More Lawyer, Less Fee,” “Lowest Priced Lawyers,” and “Half Price Lawyers”? (The last two appear to be somewhat mutually exclusive.)
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority finally has gotten rid of the catchy, wildly successful marketing slogan that made up in cheekiness what it lacked in truth. I am referring, of course, to “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” which the taxpayer-funded promotional agency rolled out in 2003 to emphasize, I suppose, the adult freedom found in Sin City.
In its place, formally unveiled last month and touted in a network ad before yesterday’s Super Bowl LIV, is a subtle modification: “What Happens Here, Only Happens Here.” Frankly, I don’t know if this will be as successful. But at least it will have the advantage of being more true.
However, that could be a double-edged sword. It might emphasize events occurring here that other places wouldn’t want at all, like Britney Spears’ 55-hour marriage in 2004. Or, tragically, the 2017 massacre along the Las Vegas Strip that killed 58 and injured more than 500–most of them tourists–the deadliest mass shooting by one person in U.S. history.
As visitors to this space know, I have been spoofing the former slogan for years since becoming New To Las Vegas. Under the running title, “It Didn’t Stay Here,” I recounted story after story of folks getting in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. You can see a list elsewhere on this page. In my view Las Vegas is quite the bug light for mischief. Continue reading →
Readers of my blogs know well my view of John C. Frémont. He’s the 19th century military adventurer and politician for whom Fremont Street in Las Vegas is named, as well as a great number of other places around the country. Long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I considered him a rank war criminal, guilty of massacring Indians and Latinos in the run-up to the Mexican War to open the American West to greedy East Coast gringos.
The previous telephone call to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters came from Eddie. The latest a few days ago came from Andrew. But the message was the same. Police Officers Support Association, part of something called Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC, needed my money for law and order and wanted me to pledge a specific amount before mailing me any literature.
I couldn’t pin down Andrew on whether I legally could back out of a purported pledge if I found problems with the mailing. So I asked to speak with his supervisor. Here was Andrew’s complete response:
“I understand.” Pause. “Goodbye.” Click.
Andrew, of course, was not a real person but a computer-controlled voice imperfectly using artificial intelligence to simulate a meaningful conversation with me. I got the impression that Andrew was used to abruptly hanging up on people who asked too many questions. But maybe not often enough.
According to federal filings I just consulted, in its latest six-month reporting period, Law Enforcement for a Safer America, or LEFASA, raised nearly $3½ million from folks like you and me. And how much was spent on the stated mission of supporting law enforcement?
Zero. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
I wrote about this in detail last spring after Eddie called and also hung up on me. And because of that, I’m nominating LEFASA and its d/b/a, Police Officers Support Association, for my list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is pretty simple: nonprofits that call asking for money despite a previous critical post by me. I mean, can it get any dumber that that? You can find the list nearby. Now, strictly speaking, LEFASA is not a charity but a political action committee intended to support or oppose causes and candidates for public office. But in its pitches LEFASA sounds like a charity as it portrayed itself as acting in the public interest. Continue reading →
Lisa M. Moore (courtesy Chester County PA District Attorney’s Office)
Ah, the lure of Las Vegas. The gambling. The entertainment. The allegedly embezzled loot.
The latest drawn-to-that-bug-light-known-as-Sin-City tale is that of Lisa M. Moore, 46. She was the appointed manager of Kennett Township, a rural municipality of 8,000 people 40 miles west of Philadelphia where she worked for more than 20 years. If the Chester County District Attorney’s Office is to be believed, despite Kennett Township’s small population, Moore embezzled $3.2 million over six years. Some of that was spent, in the words of the official press release issued last month, “on travel to Las Vegas.”
Her lawyer has told reporters he will be “fully defending” against the charges. Moore was fired last year after the supposed fraud was discovered. She is out on $500,000 bail facing a preliminary hearing next month on 140 counts of theft, forgery, computer offenses and tampering with public records.
While I have no idea where the criminal case will go, the charges alone are more than enough to make Moore a candidate for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. This is a roster of folks who have gotten into trouble somewhere else for something that happened in Las Vegas. My list is a direct rebuff of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the celebrated marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. You can see all the names elsewhere on this page. Continue reading →
Once again, the less-than-transparent Injured Police Officers Fund spent far more on overhead than the charity’s sole stated mission of aiding southern Nevada law enforcement families in the event of line-of-duty injury or death.
In its recently filed tax return for calendar year 2018, the 37-year-old Las Vegas-based IPOF said it made grants of $67,886 to 15 individual cases, while spending another $9,269 in office expense classified as in direct furtherance of the charitable mission, for a total of $77,155. But the nonprofit spent nearly double that–$121,699–in management and general expenses. These included accounting, payroll, travel, promotion, rent and insurance.
Under normal charity evaluation metrics, this would generate a charitable commitment ratio–the proportion of expenses in direct mission support to total expenses–of 39%. That’s way under the 65% minimum set for reputable charities by such charity watchdogs as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. A low charitable commitment ratio has been characteristic of the IPOF since its beginning. Continue reading →
Need evidence the news-consuming public needs more than one source to help sort out the truth in a given contentious matter? Look no further than the December 5 editions of Las Vegas’s two suing-each-other daily newspapers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun.
The papers were reporting on a hearing the day before in state court on litigation concerning contract issues arising from the 30-year-old joint operating agreement under which the Sun is published as an ad-free section of the RJ. In the RJ, the headline was “RJ-Sun JOA lawsuit stayed.” The Sun‘s headline was, “Judge affirms arbitrator’s decision favoring Sun in dispute with R-J.”
Were they even covering the same hearing?
The answer is yes–sort of.
In my view the Sun‘s headline and story far better captured the main news element–the RJ got caught in an arbitration cooking the books on miscalculating how cash flow is divided between the two papers under the JOA and is going to have to pay up big-time. But the RJ headline and story weren’t incorrect. District Judge Timothy Williams did halt the other parts of the litigation pending resolution of a somewhat similar lawsuit the Sun filed in federal court, which arguably has jurisdiction because JOAs operate under an exemption from federal antitrust laws. That lawsuit contends the RJ is unfairly trying to put the Sun out of business and silence a opposite viewpoint.
The RJ disclaims such motivation, saying that JOAs are obsolete and the Sun would be free to publish on its own–if it could. In effect, the RJ is arguing greed–not editorial differences–drives it. Not a good look.
Of course, the RJ story didn’t mention the arbitration matter until the sixth paragraph and never got around to fully explaining it. This is not surprising, since it also is not a terribly good look for the conservatively inclined paper owned since 2015 by conservative casino billionaire mogul Sheldon Adelson. The liberal-leaning Sun has been owned since its founding in 1950 by the Greenspun family.
Indeed, the sharp contrast in how the two papers covered the same hearing may well cut against the RJ and in favor of the Sun, which argues that the purpose of the federal law granting JOAs antitrust exemption was precisely to allow competing editorial voices. Were I a lawyer for the Sun, I would put both articles into the court record and say “See what I mean?” Continue reading →
Readers of my last post will find this one very familiar.
At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently, I received a telephone cold call from someone calling herself Christine soliciting in the name of Breast Cancer Health Council PAC, a d/b/a of Community Health Council PAC. “Can the women with breast cancer count on you to return a small donation?” she asked.
I politely said, “Where is your organization located?”
Christine: “Okay. Goodbye.” Click. She hung up.
As I wrote in my last post, about American Coalition for Injured Veterans PAC after a computer-built voice named Bob Malone hung up when I asked the same question, “Now that sure seems like a deal on the up-and-up, doesn’t it?”
Christine was another computer-generated voice working with artificial intelligence and a real person monitoring the call (although with the abrupt hang-up one might question the emotional intelligence part of this). But the similarities hardly stop there.
Both organizations are PACs–lightly regulated federally registered political action committees designed to support or oppose candidates and causes–posing as charities and soliciting nationally. Both route virtually no money to their stated areas of interest. Both have terrible financial efficiencies and little money in the bank for the upcoming federal election season in 2020. Both likely have no interest in making it easy for a would-be donor to check them out, hence the quick phone hang-ups at the first question. Both have misleading charitable-sounding names. Both have run into recent trouble with regulators. Both list as their address the same office suite in Washington, D.C.
And both have as their treasurer one Zachary Bass. He’s the mysterious Baltimore fellow who likely is paying himself more than is being spent on all political campaigns backed. I first encountered him last year after I was called on behalf of one of his other sketchy endeavors, Heroes United PAC d/b/a Association for Police and First Responders.
In my last post I detailed for you some disturbing things about American Coalition. Now let me detail for you some disturbing things about Community Health Council PAC d/b/a Breast Cancer Health Council PAC, which I’ll call BCHC for short. Continue reading →
At the New To Las Vegas world headquarters recently, I received a telephone cold call from one Bob Malone. He was calling on behalf of American Coalition for Injured Veterans PAC. “Our vets desperately need your help,” he declared in a light Southern accent as he asked for a contribution.
Great, I said. Where is the organization located?
The next sound I heard was a click. Malone hung up on me without uttering another word.
Now that sure seems like a deal on the up-and-up, doesn’t it?
I knew immediately Malone was not a real person, but rather a computer-generated voice working with artificial intelligence and a real human being monitoring calls ready to pull the plug at the first hint of an obstacle. American Coalition isn’t all that real, either, in the sense that virtually none of the money raised benefits ailing veterans. The outfit, ostensibly based in Washington, D.C., was founded by Zachary Bass, a fellow from Baltimore I know a little bit about, and who has gotten into trouble with regulators for other endeavors.
You might get a call from one of Bass’s enterprises. So read on and be warned. Continue reading →
On a wall at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters is a blown-up replica of arguably the most famous magazine cover ever. “View of the World from 9th Avenue” by illustrator Saul Steinberg, graced the March 29, 1976, issue of The New Yorker. Its careful distortion of diminishing detail and distance–still studied in art schools–perfectly captured the notion that elite New York City residents are haughty folks full of hubris wrapped up in their own surroundings and barely able to distinguish much of anything west of the Hudson River.
Take a close look at the cover, which I have reproduced elsewhere on this page. Past the thin band across the middle of my native “Jersey,” you can see Chicago, Texas, Los Angeles, something representing the Rockies, and in the far distance beyond the Pacific Ocean, China, Japan (as one island) and Russia.
The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan this morning announced an indictment of four men–including three born in the lands of the former Soviet Union–on campaign finance charges involving laundering of Russian-money contributions benefiting Donald Trump and Republican candidates to state office in Nevada. Among many other things, the indictment states that an alleged conspiracy involving the four included a 2018 meeting in Las Vegas and hints the goal of the Nevada contributions–which public records suggest were to the campaigns that year of Attorney General Adam Laxalt for governor and Wesley Duncan for attorney general–was to grease the skids to get a retail marijuana license.
I have no idea whatsoever about the merits of the allegations, and there is no public evidence now that Laxalt and Duncan, accused of nothing, knew anything about purported motives. But the four-count, 21-page indictment is more than enough to make the four named defendants–Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin–candidates for my list It Didn’t Stay Here. That roster consists of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas, refuting “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. I’d say an indictment brought by feared federal prosecutors in the Southern District Of New York qualifies as trouble elsewhere. You can see previous nominees nearby. (As it happens, they also include Trump for an earlier matter).
This indictment will get massive attention because two of the defendants, Parnas and Fruman, have been helping Trump attorney/fixer Rudy Giuliani gin up allegations concerning Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, over their dealings in Ukraine. But as someone New To Las Vegas, I prefer to focus on the sideshow of the local angle. Continue reading →
This morning, the 38th edition of the Forbes 400, the famous annual ranking of the richest Americans, was released, and again it was bad news for the Las Vegas area. Of the seven locals on last year’s list, two dropped off completely, and most showed a decline in their individual net worth.
From a ranking standpoint, the biggest losers were brothers Lorenzo FertittaandFrank Fertitta, casino owners who last year were tied at No. 388 with net worths of $2.1 billion each year. Thanks to a 30% decline in the share price of their Red Rock Casinos, their stash is now assessed at $1.9 billion each, a 9½% decline. That put them below this year’s cutoff of $2.1 billion, and likely ranked in a tie for No. 404. But that’s no cigar on a list of 400. Continue reading →
Imagine two thieves who, after a heist, can’t agree on the division of spoils, and one of them actually sues the other in court. Outrageous, eh?
That’s sort of how I see the newest lawsuit brought by the Las Vegas Sun against the owners of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Sun and the RJ have been in an federally sanctioned agreement for 30 years that allows them carte blanche to violate antitrust laws. Yet after three decades of enjoying these benefits, the Sun now claims the RJ is–wait for it–violating antitrust laws.
Amid a continuing lawsuit over–what else?–money, the two daily newspapers in Las Vegas, which are distributed together, saw their average print circulation drop a staggering one-ninth in just one year.
The bad news was buried in tiny type in an obscure legal notice replete with typos (see update below) at the bottom of page 10-F in yesterday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal. The paper is owned by conservative Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. It is in a 50-year joint operating agreement with the Las Vegas Sun, which is owned by the more liberal Greenspun family and published as a separate section inserted in the RJ. The RJ handles all advertising, circulation and printing, as well as its own editorial project.
According to the notice, which is also submitted to the U.S. Postal Service under oath, the total average paid print circulation for the previous 12 months was 69,081. The year-earlier figure, published just as obscurely in the paper on September 23, 2018, was 77,826. Do the math, and that works out to a 11.24% drop–more than one-ninth. Because the 69,081 is a 12-month average of daily and Sunday, the current average print circulation for, say, last week, was probably even lower by several thousand.
Hawaiians call Las Vegas their “ninth island” because they love to visit, gamble and, thanks to the lower cost of living, even live here. By one account, every year 10% of all Hawaiians make the 5,550-mile roundtrip to Vegas, many traveling several times a year. Dozens of Hawaiian high school class reunions are held annually in Sin City. The California Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas caters mightily to this offshore market with Hawaiian signage and cuisine. As someone New To Las Vegas, I run into native Hawaiians around town all the time.
Among those frequent visitors has been the family of Brian Ahakuelo, a once-prominent union leader on the islands. However, there may be a problem with some of the travels. If a recent 70-count federal indictment in Honolulu is to be believed along with an earlier union investigation, some of the trips were financed with money stolen from his union.
Ahakuelo, 58, wife Marilyn Ahakuelo, 55, and sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion, 52, all have pleaded not guilty to all the charges, the result of a three-year federal probe. Their lawyer promises a vigorous defense. The allegations include embezzlement, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Some of the criminal charges carry prison sentences of up to 20 years.
That makes Ahakuelo and his wife the newest candidates for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Vegas. It’s my rebuttal to “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famously cheeky marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The list can be found elsewhere on this page. Continue reading →
Readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal opened their paper a week ago on August 30 to see this prominent headline in the lead upper-right corner of the front page: “Why we want to stop printing the Sun.”
The daily RJ is owned by casino tycoon and conservative Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sun, distributed as a skinny one-section ad-free insert in the RJ, has been owned since its founding in 1950 by the more liberal Greenspun family. Its founding patriarch, Hank Greenspun, had been a publicist for a mob-run casino as well as a convicted gunrunner (later pardoned by President John F. Kennedy). Since 1989 the papers have been in a joint operation agreement, sanctioned by a federal law that allows immunity from antitrust laws so long as one paper was in danger of failing (here, the Sun) and editorial operations remain independent. The Las Vegas JOA is scheduled to run until 2040.
The editorial–that’s what it was labeled–asserted that what was called the Sun‘s failure to produce a “high-quality metropolitan print newspaper” breached the JOA agreement, entitling the RJ to end the agreement. “The Sun would be free to have someone else print, sell and distribute their newspaper, if they wish,” the editorial asserted. That’s a facetious contention in my judgment since dissolution of a JOA almost always results in the demise of the weaker product, which the Sun surely is. In the past 40 years, all but five of the 30 or so JOAs around the country have collapsed, leaving a single paper in each remaining. And generally those survivors today are in worse shape than ever before.
A JOA is best understood as a stay of execution for the ailing partner. Or, using in this situation a Darwinian example, in a battle between two scorpions in a bottle, only one will survive–assuming the bottle doesn’t sink in water and also kill the victor. Continue reading →
About a year ago, the folks around Winnemucca, a city of 7,400 in northern Nevada near the Oregon line, had an invasion of Mormon crickets. The ugly creatures were swarming everywhere, coating structures and yuckily eating their brethren run over by cars. For a couple weeks, a big mess all around.
Don’t remember reading about what I might call the Winnemucca Wipeout? Then you should ponder why the entire world is hearing about the Grasshopper Grossout now winding down in Las Vegas. I have a theory about this.
My Google search for material containing the words “grasshoppers” and “Las Vegas” just returned nearly 3 million hits. My Google search for “Mormon crickets” and “Winnemucca:” only about 1,000.
The video nearby–with spooky music and a grasshopper closeup resembling Godzilla proportions–was put online by The Hindu. That’s the second-largest English language newspaper in far-away India (with a circulation five times greater than all Nevada dailies combined). There are scores of breathless other clips posted by foreign media outlets, all with horror-movie-like images. Continue reading →
In April, when I was called at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters by the Childhood Leukemia Foundation of Brick, N.J., the name of the caller asking for money was Grace Miller. When I was called again earlier this month, the name of the caller was Mary Thomas.
Both times, it was the same m.o., down to the interactive computer-generated voice that was not totally responsive to my comments and, frankly, seemed a little off. First Grace and then Mary asked me to pledge a sum of money in advance of sending me any literature. When I politely asked Mary for the organization’s tax identification number–a standard piece of public information–she hung up without so much as a goodbye. Grace gave up on me the same way: a rude click.
However, Mary had called me after I had written up the pitch from Grace along with the sad financial efficiencies of CLF. So I am now nominating the nonprofit to my list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The qualifications are simple: nonprofits that call me asking for money despite being the subject of a previous critical post by me. In the nonprofit world, can it really get any dumber than that? The list of other nominees can be found elsewhere on this page.
Since my April encounter with Grace, CLF has produced another year of financial filings for me to chew on. Things have gotten worse, at least if you’re not the charitable fundraiser. By the CLF’s own accounting, the charity spent 79% of the money donated on fundraising costs (up from 75%), about five times more than the amount spent on, say, fighting childhood leukemia. According to the filings, just 16% of total expenses went to the stated mission (down from 21%). Continue reading →
Here’s more proof the famous Las Vegas marketing phrase “What Happens Here, Stays Here” is a bald-faced lie. News, first broken two days ago by local media, that the Nevada Highway Patrol stopped a hearse riding in a two-person-minimum high occupancy vehicle lane with a live driver and a dead body has received insane publicity elsewhere.
By my review of the Internet, scores of media outlets outside of Las Vegas and indeed Nevada have picked up on the story that the hearse driver claimed he thought he was in compliance with the law because there was a second passenger, albeit not alive. The range is immense and varied.
Drivers caught trying to get around carpool lane rules by using inflatable dummies, rolled-up blankets or even pets are news-media staples. But you’d almost think from all this attention that no one has ever been caught using a dead body to avoid HOV rules. You’d also be wrong. In 1990, the Los Angeles Timesreported on such a case, also involving a hearse, that was later cited by Reader’s Digest.
So as someone New To Las Vegas, I think the main reason this story is getting all this pickup is that it happened in Las Vegas. It’s the town that openly promotes itself as the place where anything goes. So really stupid stuff gets magnified.
Do you really think such an incident would get this kind of wide coverage if it happened in Milwaukee, Philadelphia or Houston? In those places, what happens there truly often does stay there.
Thomas Malone of New Haven, Conn. just started serving a two-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to embezzling a tad over $1 million from a biotech company there he co-founded and was chief financial officer of. If you are a regular visitor to this space, you probably know already where this post is going.
Yep, he took some of the stolen loot and spent it in Las Vegas, on hotel rooms and who knows what else. Perhaps he was hoping to win back the funds and replace what he had taken. Or maybe he just wanted to have a good time.
Either way, he becomes a candidate for my list It Didn’t Stay Here. The criteria is simple: folks who got in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas (in this case the local spending of ill-gotten loot). It’s a cheeky refutation of that famous Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority marketing slogan, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”
You can see the list elsewhere on this page. Malone, now 49, is hardly the first on the roster who stole money and hot-footed it to Sin City. Since becoming New To Las Vegas a few years ago, I have been amazed at how so often this town is the bug light for people with such proclivities. Continue reading →