Nevada’s 3rd District Deserves Better than A Candidate Propped Up by DC Operatives and Bankrolled by the Wealthy Elite.
Susie Lee can’t have it both ways, simultaneously boasting about her massive fundraising haul and pretending to want big money out of politics. Apparently, $1.5 million spent on a 2016 failed primary bid is not big money to her, or she would recognize the hypocrisy.
Despite outspending her opponents, Lee suffered a crushing 3rd place defeat in that contest. Criticized for her multiple homes, questionable investments, and a $658,000 personal campaign loan, Lee had a reputation as an “out-of-touch” socialite living a lavish lifestyle. Accusing her of trying to buy a seat in Congress, the Culinary Union made it known that she did not represent its members’ values. The voters in Nevada’s 4th District agreed.
This time around in Nevada’s 3rd District, Lee is attempting to downplay her family’s wealth and to recast herself by playing up her modest origins in her stump speech and on her website. Part of this makeover consists of repeating dubious claims of running a grassroots campaign when, in fact, the opposite is true.
In January 2018, Lee’s campaign cited “a median contribution of $50 and over 1,000 individual donors in the past 3 months alone.” Was this a deliberate effort to dupe voters by misrepresenting Lee’s donor base? The only reason to speak of the median rather than the average donation is to deflect attention from the way money was flowing into her campaign from a small number of wealthy donors.
According to Lee’s 2017 FEC filings, while she did have $41,000 in small unitemized individual donations, she raised $549,964 in large donations averaging $1,403 from just 392 individual donors. Two-thirds of these contributions were from just 101 donors totaling $372,673, with an average of $3,689. This is anything but grassroots, more like the Who’s Who of the Las Vegas Elite making $2000, $2700, and $5400 contributions. Additionally, Lee received $111,500 from PACs and other committees, and $92,150 came from top contributors linked to the gaming industry.
Is this someone you would trust to fight courageously for Democratic values? Does this sound like someone with the instinct to fight for meaningful campaign finance reform who wants to get big money and special interests out of politics?
More troubling is the amount of Republican money Susie Lee has accepted. Twenty-nine percent of Lee’s itemized donations in Clark County, $113,279, came from Republican households. Why are Republicans so enthusiastic about Susie Lee? Is it the talk of reaching across the aisle to work with them, despite the fact that nearly every one of them in Congress has been complicit in pushing forward the Trump agenda and freezing out Democrats? In fact, we should not be shocked that Susie Lee has close associations with many Republicans. Her husband, casino CEO Dan Lee, is a former trusted advisor to both Donald Trump and Steve Wynn, and her long-time friend and mentor, Elaine Wynn, is a registered Republican.
None of this is an accident. If she sounds like Republican-lite, that’s because the Washington D.C. and Nevada Democratic establishment anointed Susie Lee for her ease of access to large amounts of money. In the 2018 cycle, the Washington-based Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is being widely criticized for its routine practice of recruiting (often losing) candidates solely on the basis on their ability to amass a six-figure treasure chest early in the campaign. A leaked DCCC memo revealed that candidates have been advised not to mention an assault weapons ban or state positions in favor of Medicare for All.
When will Democrats ever learn? The DCCC should stop meddling in the primary process and let the voters of the district decide for themselves. If Democrats think that they can keep choosing uninspired, centrist candidates for their fundraising prowess without listening to the real concerns of working people, then they risk a repeat of 2016. Republican Danny Tarkanian is already lambasting Lee as “Socialite Susie.” Backing someone who is out-of-step with the electorate, Nevada Democrats risk letting the Trump-endorsed candidate assume the role of the anti-establishment agent of change.
The American people are clamoring for candidates who are ethical, fair, and modern, who understand their core concerns about jobs, wages, schools, and retirement. They are tired of the corrupting influence of money in politics, and Nevada’s 3rd District is no exception. The voters are disgusted by a process that favors the wealthy and powerful and the money that drowns out their voices.
Political candidates should be chosen based on a contest of ideas not the size of their bank accounts. Unfortunately, Nevada’s Democratic machine decided to back the well-connected candidate, Susie Lee, for the wrong reasons and overlooked the many negative aspects of her candidacy. Susie Lee’s self-portrayal as a progressive, grassroots candidate is not credible. She is not the candidate who best relates to the issues of hard-working Nevada families. We merit better than a rubber-stamped candidate handpicked by a small committee of political insiders.
In the current political climate, voters want a candidate with backbone and a willingness to stand up and fight, someone to take a strong public stance on the need for an assault weapons ban and a single-payer system that guarantees health care as a basic human right. The answer is not middle-of-the-road, corporate Democrats taking instructions from their consultants and the DCCC.
The good news is that the voters of Nevada’s 3rd District still have a choice. Democrats can have a candidate who is uncompromising and unapologetic about the values we defend, someone who is not afraid to take on the GOP agenda squarely and forcefully. For example, my campaign is about real, bold changes including Medicare for All, reallocating resources from unwinnable wars to investments in infrastructure and the American people, free college tuition, and a living wage. I am beholden to no corporate or special interests and cannot be bought. It is not too late for the people of Nevada’s 3rd District to reject the corrupting influence of money and to choose a candidate who represents their values.