Advocacy group fined for pro-Sandoval ads

Geoff Dornan

The advocacy group Alliance for America’s Future was slapped with $109,560 in fines for advertising to push Brian Sandoval’s candidacy for governor while refusing to register with the Secretary of State’s Office or reveal the sources of its funding.

Carson District Judge James Wilson ruled AAF was clearly a political action committee and ordered the group to register with the state and file the required contribution and expense disclosures.

AAF is expected to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Wilson said AAF received contributions and used them to advocate for Sandoval’s election. He added that the political ad that ran 320 times on Nevada TV stations was “express advocacy” that was “designed to affect the outcome of an election.”

AAF is a Virginia-based committee that raised and spent some $7.8 million during the 2010 election cycle. It spent $189,225 in Nevada.

AAF lawyers argued the law doesn’t apply to the group and is unconstitutional. They said Nevada expenditures made up just 2.4 percent of AAF’s budget in 2010 and therefore can’t be ruled as a major influence in the state’s elections. They also argued Nevada has no legitimate right to demand disclosure of AAF donors whose money wasn’t spent in Nevada.

They stated in court that there was only one donor responsible for buying the Nevada TV ad.

Wilson agreed the group only needs to report the source of the contributions spent in Nevada, along with all spending related to the TV ad. But he ruled AAF must pay $15,000 — the maximum $5,000 for each of three contribution and expense reports the group refused to file — plus $295.50 per violation. And Wilson ruled that each of the 320 times the ad ran constitutes a separate violation.

Added together, that comes to $109,560. In addition, however, the group must pay interest from May 2010, when the suit was filed, at the prime rate plus 2 percent. That amount has yet to be calculated but must be paid within 30 days.

Wilson said the Secretary of State’s Office could seek legal fees and costs. Elections Deputy Scott Gilles said his office will file for fees and other costs.

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