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ACLU Says Del Papa's Actions Motivated by Politics

25 September 2000

by Cy Ryan and Ed Koch

CARSON CITY, Nevada – Sept 25, 2000 -- The American Civil Liberties Union says Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa is playing politics in her decision to prosecute those involved in the planning and financing of an anonymous campaign flier that sought to damage the reputation of Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone.

Del Papa issued a statement Friday that her office intends to pursue civil enforcement action against Station Casinos, Station Executive Vice President Mark Brown, political consultant Tom Skancke and possibly others.

Skancke filed a lawsuit the same day seeking to stop Del Papa and Secretary of State Dean Heller from enforcing the Nevada statute that prohibits anonymous political fliers. Station Casinos and Brown filed similar complaints last week.

The local chapter of the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in March to test the constitutionality of the state law, and ACLU lawyers want the attorney general to wait until the constitutionality of the law is decided before enforcing it.

The suits by the ACLU, Station Casinos, Brown and Skancke all contend the law violates the constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom to associate with others in order to criticize public officials.

Del Papa's decision to move ahead anyway, said Gary Peck, director of the ACLU, shows "the attorney general is motivated by politics rather than legal and policy considerations."

The state will seek civil fines that could be more than $15,000 each against the gaming company, Brown and Skancke. She said both Station Casinos and Skancke have admitted in press releases to violating the law.

Heller also is demanding that they name others involved with the preparation and payment of the flier.

"Unless a court rules otherwise," Del Papa said in her statement, "this statute is presumed constitutional."

She added that the state will pursue enforcement, "because it is our duty to uphold the law and because it is the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, Station Casinos has agreed to pay a fine of $475,000 plus $23,000 in legal costs on a complaint filed by the state Gaming Control Board that it failed to properly supervise Brown, who hatched the plan to discredit Malone.

Station admitted the allegations in the gaming board complaint could be proven, and it agreed to settle, rather than contest the case. It could have been fined up to $600,000.

It will be up to the state Gaming Commission at its October meeting to decide whether to accept the settlement.

The case centered on a County Commission vote to allow a neighborhood casino in Spring Valley. Malone had received a $40,000 contribution from the casino company, which raised another $80,000 for him. He initially opposed the Spring Valley project, then changed his mind and voted for the zoning change.

Station had opposed the project by the Boyd Gaming Group, which would compete with a casino it planned nearby.

The project has since been stopped by a state review panel created by the 1998 law that restricts neighborhood casinos.

After Malone's flip-flop, Brown devised a plan with Skancke for an anonymous campaign flier questioning the honesty of Malone. It was mailed to about 39,000 homes in Malone's district.

The U.S. attorney's office and the Clark County district attorney's office have declined to prosecute Brown criminally.

Malone was defeated in the Sept. 5 primary election.

The stipulation says Station "admits and acknowledges that the Nevada Gaming Commission could determine from the allegations in the complaint that violations of Nevada Gaming Commission regulations occurred."

It also requires the casino company to change its "compliance program plan" to exert more supervision over Brown's operation.

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