Close the loophole in Nevada's ethics laws

The Nevada Legislature should quickly close the ethics loophole that apparently allowed Controller Kathy Augustine to use state employees on her re-election campaign.

We say "apparently" because we still can't believe the logic that led legislative lawyers to conclude there wasn't any prohibition against having a state employee fill out required campaign-finance disclosures. If you walked into a state agency and asked employees to fill out your forms, we bet their bosses would find a reason they couldn't.

Nevertheless, first-term senator Steven Horsford, a Clark County Democrat, has introduced Senate Bill 162, which specifically excludes preparation of financial disclosure statements from the activities state employees, public officials and members of the Legislature may conduct for their own purposes on state time and with state equipment.

Closing the loophole will help protect the public from the squandering of tax dollars on personal campaigns, to be sure, but the main beneficiaries of the amendment will be state workers themselves.

The misguided opinion rendered in the Augustine impeachment case opened the door for political bosses to misuse their employees. Horsford's bill, which has bipartisan sponsorship in both houses, should quickly slam it shut.

State workers should feel confident they can stand up to their supervisors when they believe their work has crossed the line into political favoritism.

It's a real shame the Nevada Senate whiffed on its opportunity to take such a stand on behalf of the controller's employees. Reading SB162's amendments, we're reminded just how clear the language already was:

"A public officer or employee, other than a member of the Legislature, shall not use governmental time, property, equipment or other facility to benefit his personal or financial interest."

Seems pretty plain to us.


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