Nevada’s primary electric utility company, NV Energy, has given to all of Nevada’s major 2018 gubernatorial candidates since 2014, but Democratic Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak is the only gubernatorial candidate to receive money from the utility ($10,000) during this election cycle.

NV Energy’s preference, at least thus far, of Sisolak may not be surprising since he is the only major gubernatorial candidate who has not publicly supported the Energy Choice Initiative (ECI) in 2018. This ballot question would change the way Nevadans buy electricity through a proposed constitutional change opening the state to a competitive retail energy market and ending NV Energy’s regulated monopoly. The utility has signaled that it opposes the ballot measure.

Each candidate has also accepted money from casino giant Sheldon Adelson and his family, as well as his casino empire, Sands. Adelson, Sands and other parts of Nevada’s powerful gaming industry supported the Energy Choice Initiative, but fought against a 2017 effort to increase Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030, which would have held them accountable to meet that same standard if they left NV Energy for a competitive electricity supplier. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval ultimately vetoed the RPS bill. NV Energy officially remained neutral during that RPS fight, though it fought behind the scenes to undermine the effort.

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt has accepted by far the most money from Adelson’s family and Sands ($125,000) throughout his career. In 2017 alone, Laxalt received $20,000 from the Adelson family and no other candidates received any donations from them during 2017. Democratic Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who is running against Sisolak, received donations from Sands earlier in her career ($5,000). Sisolak has received $50,000 from the Adelson empire throughout his career. The Adelson family’s $30,000 of support to Sisolak is odd given Adelson’s traditional support of conservative politicians and causes.

Campaign contributions to major gubernatorial candidates in current cycle (Nov 9, 2016- Jan 17, 2018 filing)

  Laxalt (R) Schwartz (R) Sisolak (D) Giunchigliani (D) Supports ECI?  Supports RPS increase
NV Energy 2000 0 10,000 0 No No
Sands/Adelson 20,000 0 0 0 Yes No
Wynn 0 0 0 0 Yes No
Switch 10,000 0 10,000 0 Yes Yes

During their careers, each candidate has accepted contributions from the Wynn casino group, which, like Sands, fought for the ECI, but against the increased RPS last year. But Chris Giunchigliani has received notably less at $10,000, while Sisolak has taken $45,000 and Laxalt has received $41,000.

Another company that was a key driver of the ECI was the data center operator Switch, which also signed onto a letter of support for the effort to increase the RPS. Over his career, Adam Laxalt has accepted $55,000 from Switch, compared to $20,000 that Sisolak received from the company and $5,000 that Chris Giunchigliani has received. In 2017 neither Sisolak nor Giunchigliani received money from Switch, but Laxalt accepted $20,000.

Giunchigliani currently has roughly less than one million on hand; Sisolak has about $5.9 million to spend on the campaign. Giunchigliani’s contributions have come in large part from smaller individual donors, whereas Sisolak has taken more sizeable donations from the gaming and casino industries. In the Republican primary, Dan Schwartz is running against Laxalt, and is in large part self-financed.


Posted by Charlotte Grubb

Charlotte was a Research and Communications Manager at the Energy and Policy Institute. Prior to EPI, she was the staff economist for three years at Oceana, where she provided economic analysis for marine habitat and fisheries policy and mentored staff on campaign strategies. She has published work in newspapers, academic journals and technical reports. Charlotte earned a Master’s in Ecological Economics from the University of Edinburgh and a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University.