Nevada AG candidate calls foe’s campaign fundraising ‘extortion’

Attorney Craig Mueller talks outside the Nevada Supreme Court chambers in 2016 in Carson City. (Sandra Chereb/Las Vegas Review Journal).
Wes Duncan (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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Republican attorney general candidate Craig Mueller has filed a racketeering lawsuit against opponent Wes Duncan.

Mueller alleged that Duncan, a former first assistant attorney general, “solicited campaign contributions from the very businesses which he held regulatory and/or disciplinary authority over.”

Duncan, who has outraised Mueller by a considerable margin, fired back in a letter that called the complaint “frivolous.”

“Your decision to resort to the courts in the last two weeks of the election instead of the voters reminds me of the old adage that a desperate and drowning man will clutch a straw in order to save himself,” Duncan wrote. “Your lawsuit is that straw and nothing more. This kind of stunt is beneath the office that we are both seeking, and as an attorney practicing law in this state for 25 years you certainly know better.”

In April, the Review-Journal reported that prior to leaving his job in the attorney general’s office in September 2017, campaign finance reports show Duncan had raised some $190,000. Nevada law allows public employees to raise money for their political campaigns as long as they do so while away from their public job.

Mueller said he asked five other attorneys about his complaint before filing and personally asked Duncan to return the money.

“He’s been in politics too long,” Mueller told the Review-Journal on Friday. “He violated the law repeatedly. He has failed to act. I don’t know why he doesn’t see it. I don’t know why he hasn’t acted. I honestly expected him to write a check and quietly start getting the money back four months ago.”

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, A Democrat running for attorney general, raised $68,000 in that same time frame.

In total, Duncan’s campaign raised roughly $516,000 in 2017, and spent about $76,000, meaning that more than one-third of his campaign’s 2017 totals came before he left the attorney general’s office. Duncan’s campaign manager, John Vick, said that Duncan had been testing the “viability” of a run for office.

Through May 22, Duncan’s campaign has raised more than $417,000 this year, while Mueller collected just shy of $88,000, according to the latest records from the Nevada Secretary of State’s website.

Duncan served two terms in the Nevada Assembly before working as first assistant attorney general from early 2015 until, when he took a job at the law firm Hutchison & Steffen.

Mueller’s complaint, which was filed this week and alleges a extortion under the Nevada Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, states that Duncan collected $190,000 from businesses and entities including Station Casinos, Resort World Las Vegas, Nevada Power Company and Comcast Corporation.

From January 2017 to August, Duncan and his campaign committee “agreed to and did in fact conduct and participate in the conduct of the enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of continuous and related racketeering activity in a closed-ended scheme,” Mueller’s complaint states.

In an email, Duncan’s campaign advisor Jeremy Hughes wrote that “if Mr. Mueller follows through with this frivolous lawsuit then we will take every available civil litigation action, including whether a complaint should be filed with the state bar.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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