A Chair in the lobby

Some Reno Democrats are apprehensive of the fact that the chair of their state party is a lobbyist working with the gambling industry’s most influential and powerful voice in the Nevada Legislature.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last week that Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Rory Reid has signed up as a lobbyist, working with Harvey Whittemore, an attorney with the largest statewide law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins.

“It sets up the potential for some interesting conflicts of interest,” said Martha Gould, a former officer for the Washoe County Democratic Party.

But Reid, son of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev, said he has been very selective of the clients he has chosen to represent, which include PG&E National Energy Group, a power-generating division of the beleaguered Northern California utility, as well as an alternative energy company. Reid also said that he would not represent the Nevada Resort Association, the lobbying arm of Nevada casinos.

“I have to make a living,” said Reid, who noted that chairing the Democratic Party is an unpaid position. “If I did think [there was a conflict of interest], I wouldn’t lobby.”

“Power is neither Democratic or Republican,” said Andrew Barbano, union activist and Democratic political consultant. “It’s big business.”

Barbano said that Reid’s predecessor as Democratic Party chair, Paul Henry, also an attorney and lobbyist, ended up enmeshed in high-profile cases. Henry once represented a Las Vegas bank on a controversial decision before the Las Vegas City Council. The decision, which blocked Nick’s Fish Market from opening near the bank, resulted in former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones—whose husband’s ties to the bank had not been disclosed—being called before the Nevada Ethics Commission.