Monday, June 13, 2011

The Corruption of Lake Tahoe... LITERALLY!

OMG, I'm going back to #California! #fb on Twitpic

The rest of the country may be shocked when learning of today's US Supreme Court ruling overturning The Nevada Supreme Court's ruling that invalidated our state ethics law, but here in Nevada what's shocking is that someone is finally declaring something is wrong with our system of open bribery "influence in government".

Mr. Spectator has a great blog today on R&R Partners, the lobbyist powerhouse that essentially runs the state. Apparently, he felt the same sense of nausea upon reading Jon Ralston's latest column and catching this snippet that I did.

[Nevada Governor Brian] Sandoval [R-Corporate Lobbyists] not only was a superb salesman for his own policies, but he also showed another discerning quality of an effective leader: He put excellent people around him. With longtime, successful consultant Pete Ernaut always orbiting the office, Sandoval also installed Heidi Gansert as his chief of staff and Dale Erquiaga as his senior adviser. It seemed almost a triumvirate at times because they meshed so well, with the governor giving voice to policies and numbers provided by Erquiaga, a nonpareil wonk who jousted with the media on a weekly basis, and Gansert, who had legislative relationships that were important and has the ability to not answer a question with a smile as well as Sandoval.

And don't get me wrong, Ralston is 100% correct. It's easy to see Republican Governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Florida's Rick Scott as complete douchebags when they display their vileness so openly and constantly make public displays of affection with the teabaggers. Nevada's Brian Sandoval, however, is snart enough not to do that. Instead, he has this slick crew of PR geniuses manage his public image while simultaneously ensuring the corporate power players' agenda IS his agenda.

The Spectator explains in further detail.

What really troubles me about this paragraph are the names, Pete [Ernaut] and Dale Eriquaga. Mr. Ernaut is “President of Government and Public Affairs and Principal” of the PR and lobbying firm R&R Partners. So to hear Ralston describe it, this paid lobbyist and noted influence peddler is all but part of the Sandoval Administration. On the R&R Partners web site under “Government Affairs/Lobbying,” they describe their services:

Experience, access, and political intelligence. The three necessities to managing an issue. With a federal lobbying practice, as well as state lobbying in Arizona, Nevada and Utah, no one understands the dynamics of the playing field better than R&R.” [Emphasis mine.]

“Access”? So if I pay R&R money, they sell me access to elected leaders I would not otherwise have? Do they mean my representatives? The Governor? Whether you are a Socialist or a Tea Party stalwart, Governor Sandoval’s coziness with people who sell “access” for money is a big problem for regular Nevadans. For those who hump their Blackberries and iPhones while supping at Adele’s [the lobbyists' favorite Carson City hangout], corporate lobbyist connections to the highest office of state government are an apparent triumph; but for the family hoping their children can get a decent public education, not so good.

Clearly, R&R has direct access to the highest levels of Nevada Government. But wait, there's more! In addition, they're also IN Nevada Government!

Dale Erquiaga is referred to as Governor Sandoval’s “Chief Advisor.” Mr. Erquiaga is not listed on the R&R web pages as a current employee, but was once “Vice President of Brand Services.” Ah the challenges of managing the Sandoval brand. Here is what R&R says it can do for their clients regarding “Media Relations.”

“We’ve placed stories everywhere from The Washington Post to MSNBC. Our deep Rolodex of “inside the Beltway” journalists, producers and editors will allow you to leverage your message in the press.”

Excellent. Sounds like they have reporter friends in high places indeed. And of course, what’s good for the R&R client list is good for Nevada, right? Man, Ralston is correct, that team in the Governor’s office is just humming like an oily machine. Yes, the message discipline they exhibited when attempting to destroy schools for corporate profit was very impressive. And I’ll add, a governor who is too tight pals with any group or individual who sells access and influence is no better than Sandoval, Democrat or Republican. This is not a partisan issue. Corporate influence over state government needs to be reined in; but that can only happen unless you, the Nevada citizen and constituent, demand to know if the people who represent you have been swayed by R&R or any shark paid money to change minds.

And if you don't think this matters, pay close attention. Because powerful corporate lobbyists, like good ol' R&R, wanted more development at Lake Tahoe, Nevada is now threatening California and the federal government with withdrawal from Tahoe's oversight agency (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or TRPA) if they don't agree to weakening the agency's regulatory authority so more development can be approved. Essentially Nevada is threatening to allow for the full trashing of Tahoe if California and the feds don't agree to R&R's desire for more of whatever their clients want (casinos, McMansions, malls, etc.).

Back in March, I had a chance to finally see Tahoe in person. I just can't appropriately describe in words the amazing natural beauty that is Tahoe. Hey, a picture is supposed to be worth 1,000 words!

#Snow #WinterWonderland @ #Tahoe #California :-D #Reno #fb on Twitpic

Moi @ #Tahoe #California! I'm in #snow :-D #Reno #fb on Twitpic

First glimpse of #Tahoe #California! :-D #fb on Twitpic

Plenty o snow in #Tahoe #California #fb on Twitpic

Once one sees the glory of Tahoe for oneself, one knows. That's why it pains me to see this great jewel of The West essentially being put up for auction. And why? Because a certain Nevada State Senator owns property in Tahoe? And because R&R has both its own lobbyists and clients clamoring for more development at Tahoe? Even though TRPA has already been approving plenty of development and redevelopment plans, apparently it's not enough for R&R.

Lake Tahoe is supposed to be OUR LAKE! Public land is supposed to mean that it belongs to the public and it's preserved for the public. What Nevada's Legislature and Governor did in approving SB 271 showed that most of them simply don't care about this... Simply because they care more about private profit than public good.

However, this war is far from over. Both houses of California's Legislature must now vote on Nevada's SB 271, then it must gain approval from California Governor Jerry Brown (D), Congress, and President Obama before becoming law. If you live in California, please contact your legislators and ask them to oppose the weakening of TRPA and the trashing of Tahoe. Tell them that Lake Tahoe is a vibrant treasure that Californians, Nevadans, and really all of America want to see preserved. We can't let a few corporate lobbyists and corrupt politicians take Lake Tahoe away from us.

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