CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Democrats on Wednesday called for a public hearing after a state official provided a sworn statement saying that meetings Attorney General Adam Laxalt held with a Republican political donor and Laxalt’s subsequent legal advice may have amounted to corruption.
Federal authorities have dismissed questions of corruption or other illegal activities that Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett first raised against Laxalt last year, Burnett said in an affidavit that Assembly Democrats provided Wednesday.
Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton called information about the meetings, which she subpoenaed last week, “unsettling” and said it warrants a thorough probe.
Laxalt has said his meetings with representatives of Las Vegas Sands Corp., owned by conservative political donor Sheldon Adelson, were routine, work-related activities that other attorneys general have also conducted. He accused Democrats calling for the hearing of engaging in a political stunt.
“Nearly every outside independent analyst has recognized how partisan this Legislature has become,” Laxalt said in an emailed statement.
Laxalt is considered the front-running Republican candidate for governor in 2018, though he has not declared his candidacy.
Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature plan to convene a hearing as soon as possible because the findings could affect budget decisions for the attorney general’s office or the gambling regulatory agency, Assembly Democratic caucus spokeswoman Sarah Abel said. The Legislature faces a deadline to resolve state budget differences in two weeks.
In his April 27 notarized statement, Burnett described his disbelief last year when Laxalt, unaware of his own staff’s advice to the contrary, pushed for the state’s gambling regulator to intervene in a civil lawsuit in a way that might have benefited the Sands.
Burnett and the gambling agency declined to intervene, and Laxalt did not take his own advice to file a legal opinion in the case.
Burnett said he had learned “oddly enough” that Laxalt did not invite a gambling regulator to multiple meetings with Sands representatives coinciding with a legal battle that painted an unflattering picture of Adelson’s allegedly close tie to organized crime in the Chinese gambling mecca of Macau.
The case later resulted in the Sands paying tens of millions of dollars in settlements and fines, and admitting no wrongdoing.
When Laxalt insisted on an urgent meeting with Burnett just ahead of a key court hearing in the case, Burnett said he determined it was in his best interest, as well as the state’s, to record the audio of his subsequent conversation with Laxalt.
“I was shocked and in disbelief due to the nature of these unusual circumstances,” Burnett said in the affidavit.
He later sent that recording to federal authorities to vet whether Laxalt’s actions constituted corruption or any other criminal activity.
Laxalt committed no criminal violations, Burnett said the authorities told him after reviewing the recording.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesman Ron Reese declined to comment Wednesday.
Carlton, who represents Las Vegas, subpoenaed Burnett’s statement last week.
“We will work with the chairman of the Gaming Control Board to bring more light to this situation,” she said in an emailed statement.