RENO — The latest expense reports for state candidates in Nevada hold a familiar pattern: Incumbent Democrats raised more than their Republican opponents in every statewide race. The reports give a glimpse into who has stakes in some of the tightest statewide elections in the country. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw, who are married, each donated $10,000 to Democratic state Attorney General Aaron Ford's campaign. Nearly two-thirds of Republican Secretary of State candidate Jim Marchant's funds this quarter came from himself. Jonathan Soros, a billionaire investor whose family of influential donors have become the subject of far-right conspiracy theories, contributed to Democratic candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer. Perhaps most notably, a PAC supporting Nevada Democrats and founded by some in Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak's 2018 campaign donated $685,000 to the Patriot Freedom Fund PAC — which ran ads in favor of far-right candidates and attacked Sisolak's challenger, Joe Lombardo, from the right. The donation, first reported by the Nevada Independent, follows a national trend of Democratic groups trying to influence GOP primary elections, funding far-right candidates who they may see as easier to beat in November than those with more mainstream views. The expense reports, filed Friday, document fundraising and spending from April 1 to June 30.
Joe Lombardo, Clark County sheriff and Republican candidate for governor, stands on stage during a primary-night party June 14, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Photo: John Locher/AP)
Governor's race Some of Sisolak's top donors include rideshare company Lyft, statewide utility NV Energy Inc., pharmaceutical firm Pfizer PAC, Women's Care Center for Nevada and Nevadans for Reliable Renewable Affordable Energy. Sisolak raised nearly $1.7 million through the quarter — more than double Lombardo's $822,000. In cumulative fundraising, Sisolak is leading Lombardo, with almost $3.3 million to $1.65 million. Yet Lombardo outspent Sisolak this quarter by just over $2 million. Lombardo's largest donor by far was aerospace company Bigelow Aerospace office, a Nevada-based outer space tech company that donated $5,000 a dozen times, often under similar names but all listing the corporate address in Las Vegas. Founder and CEO Robert Bigelow has contributed to several conservative campaigns and is Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' biggest donor. Bigelow also was a longtime donor and friend of Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who used part of the Pentagon budget to look into UFOs after Bigelow approached him. Lombardo also received large donations from the Nevada Auto Dealers Election Committee PAC and the Nevada Trucking Association. With the GOP primary behind him, Lombardo has $1.2 million in his fund balance. Sisolak has almost $11 million. Home Means Nevada PAC donated to influence the GOP primary in four increments in May and June. Elizabeth Ray, communications director for Lombardo, said in a tweet on Friday that the donations were "shameful and embarrassing." In May, the state GOP urged voters not to pay attention to American Freedom Fund advertisements and sent a cease-and-desist letter to the PAC after it sent mailers attacking Lombardo. Down-ballot races In the hotly-contested campaign for Nevada Secretary of State, Democrat Cisco Aguilar vastly outraised Republican Jim Marchant, particularly in larger donations. Aguilar had 15 contributions of $10,000 — all but one from out-of-state, including five from New York City. He also had another 15 contributors raise $5,000, though 13 of those were from out-of-state. Both David Rockefeller Jr. and Susan Rockefeller, who are married, donated $1,250 each to his campaign. Meanwhile, Marchant's nearly $164,000 self-contribution accounted for about 63% of his overall fundraising for the quarter. Aguilar outraised Marchant this filing period $451,000 to $258,000. His balance sits at just over $859,000 compared with Marchant's $15,000. One of the starkest differences in fundraising comes from the Attorney General's race, where incumbent Democrat Aaron Ford has outraised Republican challenger Sigal Chattah more than tenfold during the reporting period, $859,000 to $83,000. Just over 15% of Chattah's fundraising this period is from $12,650 that she loaned to her campaign. Ford has about $2.3 million in his fund balance and Chattah has about $62,000. In the state Treasurer's race, Democratic incumbent Zach Conine received almost $209,000 this period — with hotels and casinos among his largest donors — and spent about $57,000. Republican challenger Michele Fiore received about $159,000 and spent $168,000. Fiore currently sits on the Las Vegas City Council. Conine has nearly $350,000 yet to spend, while Fiore has just over $17,400. Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.