Reid skirts stupid law

Geoffrey Lawrence

The big news circulating on the blogosphere today involves Rory Reid’s apparent evasion of campaign finance laws during his recent gubernatioral bid. For those who have not seen it, Jon Ralston first broke the story here.

Reid and his staffers set up an Economic Leadership PAC and encouraged donors to contribute to the PAC, saying it would be “an effort to assist his campaign.” The campaign then set up 91 shell PACs and shuffled money from the Economic Leadership PAC, in $10,000 increments, through the collage of shell PACs and then into Reid’s campaign account. This effectively allowed Reid to skirt campaign finance laws that limit contributions from a single source to $10,000.

It’s clear that Reid’s scheme at least violates the spirit, if not the letter of the law. Reid claims the scheme was vetted with Secretary of State Ross Miller beforehand although Miller, according to Ralston, “could not confirm that the Reid campaign cleared the machinations with his office.”

However, while it is incumbent upon public officeholders and candidates (both roles filled by Reid) to uphold the law, I would be remiss not to point out the questionable constitutionality surrounding campaign finance laws that limit an individual’s freedom to contribute. Contributing to the campaign of a political candidate is a fundamental and essential component of individuals’ right to free speech, where those individuals are subject to democratic government. (I won’t get into a discussion here of Locke’s definition of natural rights and whether a democracy or a republic is the best means of safeguarding those rights. For those who are interested, see Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed.) As such, the majority of campaign finance laws are, in fact, a curtailment of individuals’ First Amendment right to free speech.

It’s possible that Reid’s campaign broke the law, but it’s also questionable whether the law itself is in conflict with constitutional provisions and/or the natural rights of individuals more generally. To put it succinctly: Reid may have broken the law, but the law may have broken the law first. If nothing else, this may give Reid standing to challenge the constitutionality of the tangled mess of campaign finance laws.

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.