Horsford says ethics aren’t important

Geoffrey Lawrence

After revelations yesterday that Senators Raggio and Hardy had been advised that they could not vote on the legislature’s proposed tax hikes due to possible ethics violations, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford introduced a resolution that would put political expediency ahead of ethical concerns. The resolution would remove the restraints of the legislature’s ethics rules in order to allow all legislators to vote on “legislative measures of immense statewide importance which globally impact all citizens of this State.”

Essentially, Senator Horsford’s resolution would change hard ethics rules into more of a limp array of suggestions for legislative behavior. According to this thinking, while ethics are good some of the time, they can be discarded at will when politicians really, really want to.

The resolution makes a mockery of the state’s ethics rules. If ethics rules can be discarded arbitrarily when legislators consider it to be politically convenient, then there is no point to having ethics rules in the first place.

Nevada’s Legislative Counsel determined that Senators Raggio and Hardy should not vote on the measures because individuals with whom they have close private business ties have testified, lobbied and taken strong positions on the measures. As such, there is legitimate concern that these two Senators face conflict between their duty to serve the public interest and their private interest in the success of their business partners. And this is not a new issue for Senator Raggio. A check of the Legislative website reveals at least four times earlier in this very session where Raggio recused himself from votes because his law-firm partners were vigorously active on the particular issues in question.

Senator Horsford would like to suddenly remove these ethics rules so that the votes of Senators Raggio and Hardy can help him pass the nearly $800 million in new taxes that Horsford wants as a central component of his government-growth package.

Yet, any attempt to sidestep these legitimate ethical concerns in service to political convenience is, in itself, unethical. And certainly those concerns do not go away, merely because the money at stake is much greater.

Such actions should not be permitted regardless of what type of bill is being voted on.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.