Ethics Commission dismisses Hansen complaint against Heller
October 24, 2002
The state Ethics Commission on Wednesday dismissed Independent American Party candidate Christopher Hansen’s complaint accusing Secretary of State Dean Heller of malicious campaign speech.
After the unanimous vote, Hansen called commissioners the “speech police” and said they should never have accepted and heard the complaint.
“It’s offensive that the commission is even in existence,” said Hansen, who is running against Heller.
Hansen filed a complaint against Heller for a comment in a news story that Hansen “wants to be secretary of state, but he won’t even follow the rules he’s supposed to enforce.”
Hansen charged that violates Nevada’s law prohibiting malicious, false campaign speech, which impedes an opponent’s campaign.
Heller said the comment refers to Hansen’s refusal to file his campaign contributions and expenses as required by Nevada law.
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“The statement was an opinion, but was in my capacity as secretary of state based on the fact that he had not filed his campaign reports,” he said.
Ethics commissioner and former state Sen. Ernie Adler of Carson City asked Hansen how he could say the comment damaged his campaign.
“Until Mr. Heller made this statement about you, nobody knew about your campaign, so this may have helped it,” said Adler.
Hansen agreed the comment did get him some publicity and that he couldn’t say it damaged his campaign.
Deputy Attorney General Jim Spencer, representing Heller, told commissioners Hansen failed to meet any of the requirements in the law and the complaint should be dismissed.
The commission agreed unanimously.
In defending himself, Hansen first refused to testify until commission Chairman Todd Russell administered a traditional “oath” to him including the phrase “under God.”
Then he criticized the commission for even accepting his complaint.
“You’re nothing but the speech police. That I was able to bring this forward and Mr. Heller was forced to respond to it is an abomination,” said Hansen.
He said the law should be thrown out as an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment free speech rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Press Association have filed a suit in Las Vegas seeking to scrap the law. The suit argues the law unconstitutionally infringes on free speech and impairs the ability of candidates to debate the issues fully and freely. The law was pushed through by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who objected to comments made about him in a campaign.