Detail in candidate spending reports varies
November 1, 2014
LAS VEGAS — Nevada's statewide candidates vary widely on how they report their campaign trail spending, with some detailing every coffee shop meeting, taco run and plane ticket and others reporting tens of thousands in spending simply as large credit card payments to the bank.
Listing bulk credit card payments is not a new issue in Nevada, and is likely to appear on a new batch of reports due to the Nevada Secretary of State on Friday. Transparency advocates describe the aggregated payments as an example of the state's vague disclosure law.
"Candidates should unbundle these expenses so people can follow the money," said Barry Smith, director of the Nevada Press Association. "This seems to be an example where the statute is so vague that the information isn't helpful to voters."
An Associated Press analysis of campaign finance reports covering spending from early June through mid-October shows Democratic attorney general candidate Ross Miller listed $79,222 in payments to Chase bank or payroll processing company PayChex, without listing individual vendors or staff members paid by the payroll service.
Spending is labeled in broad terms such as "office expenses" and "expenses related to volunteers," and some line items are labeled with nine different categories. The non-itemized expenses account for about 5 percent of the $1.4 million Miller reported spending during the period.
Gov. Brian Sandoval listed paychecks to staff members by name, but about $47,044 in spending was listed only as payments to Bank of America Card Services and labeled under one of several broad categories. That accounts for about 3 percent of his spending during the period.
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"Our campaign lists the category for all expenses," said Sandoval campaign manager Jeremy Hughes. "Expenses paid for via credit card also have categories and range from parade candy, food for volunteers, airfare between Reno and Las Vegas, and other travel expenses."
Smith said the labeling is inadequate.
"Broad categories such as 'office expenses' or 'expenses related to volunteers' don't really tell us much," he said.
By contrast, other statewide candidates itemize virtually all of their spending. Lieutenant governor candidates Lucy Flores and Mark Hutchison, Democratic secretary of state candidate Kate Marshall and Republican attorney general hopeful Adam Laxalt all have less than $200 in expenses labeled as bank payments, according to AP's analysis.
The rest is highly detailed. Flores' report, for example, lists spending at Starbucks, Little Caesars and hotels. Marshall lists spending on Southwest Airlines and at the post office.
Laxalt criticized Miller on the credit card payments during a debate earlier this month.
"Where is all that going for Mr. Transparency? You know, he wants to claim he's transparent, yet $80,000 is an awful lot of money to most voters," Laxalt said.
Asked about the payments, Miller campaign officials called Laxalt's criticism hypocritical.
"It's laughable that Adam Laxalt, who has been propped up by out-of-state dark money groups who refuse to follow the law, wants to talk about transparency," said Jocelyn Steinberg, Miller's campaign manager. "Both Gov. Sandoval and Ross Miller understand and follow Nevada law. By now, it's clear Adam Laxalt does not understand the law."