A major candidate for Nevada governor is shamelessly using the Las Vegas shooting massacre to raise his profile ahead of the 2018 state elections.
Steve Sisolak, a declared Democratic candidate for Governor of Nevada, made sure that his name and title prominently feature in a GoFundMe page titled “Las Vegas Victims’ Fund,” which went live less than 24 hours after the shooting stopped.
The first sentence that appears on the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund page isn’t a mention of the lives lost, or the urgent need for donations, or where those donations will go, exactly. Instead, Steve Sisolak makes the massacre all about Steve Sisolak. He writes, by way of introduction: “I’m Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas.”
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $9,000,000. It contains eleven paragraphs of detailed text explaining how important rebuilding the community is, when an announcement will be made concerning allocating the funds, and how to give blood. But even assuming most people didn’t bother to read all that text, it’s a good bet that they at least read the first sentence.
That’s a lot of free publicity for Steve Sisolak, the Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas.
On both his personal website and the GoFundMe page, Sisolak writes, “We are raising funds to assist the victims of the tragic Las Vegas shooting. Funds will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families of the horrific Las Vegas mass shooting.”
At no point on the GoFundMe page does Sisolak mention that he is a declared candidate to be the next governor of Nevada. Instead, he’s content to present himself as a dutiful Clark County Commission Chair interested only in helping out his community.
The arrangement narrowly avoids running afoul of Nevada campaign finance laws. The GoFundMe page indicates that it was posted by Sisolak “on behalf of Direct Impact Fund,” which is an independent nonprofit organization specializing in distributing funds to disaster victims. According to GoFundMe, the Direct Impact Fund — not Sisolak — receives contributions to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund directly.
Nevada State law defines a “contribution” as “a gift, loan, conveyance, deposit, payment, transfer or distribution of money or of anything of value other than the services of a volunteer.”
Many of the donations on the GoFundMe page are from anonymous contributors. Pursuant to Nevada law, “[a] candidate who receives a contribution of $100 or more from an anonymous or unidentifiable contributor shall, within 10 days after receiving the contribution, deliver the money to the State Treasurer or donate it to a nonprofit entity.” That’s true regardless of whether the candidate keeps the money, or ultimately forwards it along to another entity, like a nonprofit.
Campaign finance laws are often as much about reducing the appearance of impropriety, as much as actual corruption. Thousands of donors to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund are anonymous. Sisolak should have been, too.
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