op-ed

Dean Heller Is A Textbook Case On Why It’s So Tough To Drain The Swamp

swamp ShutterstockPierre Jean Durieu

Danny Tarkanian Contributor

DC swamp creatures love the swamp, and they won’t leave it quietly. You have to drag them out by their feet, kicking and clawing and screeching like a banshee.  And when one of their own is threatened, the other swamp creatures rush to their defense.

That’s exactly what’s happening in my Republican primary campaign challenging incumbent Nevada U.S. Sen. “DC Dean” Heller.

Heller is a career politician who’s been in one political office or another for 28 long years – the last dozen in Congress.  He loves the swamp.  Boy, does he love the swamp!

And he’ll do anything to stay there – including attacking the non-profit basketball academy I started with my dad in 2003 which helps low-income, disadvantaged kids.  Heller’s attack even went so far as to call the organization my “personal slush fund” and claim I’d “looted” over $700,000 from it.

Want to know what that money really is?

My salary to run the organization from 2005 through 2017, which averaged just $56,600/year.  That excludes the first two years in which I “took” no salary whatsoever. The actual compensation I received for starting, building, and operating the nonprofit actually totals $680,000 over the entire dozen years.

But rounding the figure up to $700,000 makes it look worse, even if it’s inaccurate and misleading.  Par for the DC swamp course.

By comparison, over approximately the same period of time DC Dean has “looted” over $2 MILLION from taxpayers – including his current taxpayer-funded salary of $174,000 per year.  Feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?

But Heller isn’t alone in attacking me and our family’s community non-profit organization.  We’ve also been attacked by the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) – a Political Action Committee (PAC) funded by lobbyists and other special interests which is affiliated with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

According to a report in the Nevada Independent last August, SLF intends to “spend seven figures” defending DC Dean in my race against him:  “We were Senator Heller’s biggest independent supporter in 2012,” said Steven Law, McConnell’s former chief of staff who now oversees the Senate Leadership Fund, “and we expect to be in 2018.”

Part of that seven-figure support includes an attack video on the Tarkanian Basketball Academy posted last week on YouTube urging people to “Follow the Money.”  OK, let’s do that…

According to OpenSecrets.org, sponsored by the Center for Responsive Politics, DC Dean has raked in over $20 million in campaign contributions in his congressional career, including over $7 million – more than a third of his total haul – in special interest PAC contributions.

His top contributors – from individuals and/or their PACs – are gaming giants MGM Resorts ($179,200), Station Casinos ($131,200), Caesars Entertainment ($93,300) and Wynn Resorts ($78,700).

The special interest industries that have fed DC Dean’s campaign war chest include:  $970,745 from the Gaming industry, $932,432 from the Securities & Investment industry, $929,118 from the Real Estate industry, $705,133 from the Insurance industry and $670,722 from the Health Care industry.

In addition, he’s received $528,573 from Lobbyists and another $502,725 from Lawyers/Law Firms.

It’s also interesting to discover where, geographically, Heller’s loot has come from…

  • In his first race to defend his House seat in 2008, 84% of his donations came from inside Nevada.
  • In 2010 his in-state donations dropped to 74%.
  • In 2012, the last time he was on the ballot, his in-state vs. out-of-state donations dropped to 50-50%.
  • In non-election cycles 2014 and 2016 his in-state money increased to 54%.
  • But in this current election cycle, that trend has been reversed.  So far in 2018, 54% of Sen. Heller’s donations have come from OUTSIDE the state of Nevada.

Now, while we’re on the subject of “follow the money,” let’s look at one other phenomenon: Sen. Heller’s “Estimated Net Worth” from 2006 through 2015…

  • Heller was elected to Congress in 2006.  At the time, his estimated net worth was $2.7 million – which was about $760,000 over and above the average net worth of a U.S. senator.
  • In 2010, the year before being appointed to the U.S. Senate, Heller’s estimated net worth actually dropped down to $2.43 million – about the same as the average for other U.S. senators.
  • But in 2011, after getting that appointment to the Senate, Heller’s estimated net worth shot up to $3.27 million, with the average senator’s estimated net worth tabbed at $2.74 million.
  • It has since skyrocketed, as of 2015, to $6.63 million (the 33rd wealthiest in the Club of 100) while the average estimated net worth for his colleagues is “languishing” at $3.13 million.

Talk about enriching yourself while in public office!

No wonder Dean Heller loves the swamp, and no wonder why our GOP primary effort to drag him out of it has the man kicking and clawing and screeching like a banshee.  Nobody said draining the swamp would be easy.  But drain it we must.

Mr. Tarkanian is a Las Vegas businessman running in the Republican primary for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat.  You can get more information at DannyTarkanian.com


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.