A Nevada newspaper owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson published an editorial endorsing an Adelson-funded ballot initiative campaign -- and failed to disclose the connection.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an editorial on October 18 officially endorsing Nevada’s Energy Choice Initiative, or Question 3, a ballot initiative that would end utility NV Energy’s monopoly on electricity generation in Nevada and open up the state’s electricity market to competition. The editorial board failed to mention that the newspaper is owned by casino magnate and GOP campaign contributor Adelson, whose company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., has contributed millions of dollars to the PAC supporting Question 3.
Adelson's newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is now promoting his pet political cause
The Review-Journal endorsement of Question 3 argued that it would benefit Nevada’s consumers. But the editorial did not disclose that the newspaper is owned by Adelson, Question 3's biggest backer.
The Review-Journal now has this editorial pinned to the top of its Twitter feed:
“Ending the NV Energy stranglehold on the retail market would empower consumers and providers by promoting competition and choice. Vote “yes” on Question 3.”https://t.co/O8mA4byhke
— Las Vegas RJ (@reviewjournal) October 18, 2018
Additionally, the Review-Journal sent the editorial out as a “Breaking News” alert to its readers:
Sheldon Adelson's newspaper sent out a “Breaking News” alert to its readers this morning that the newspaper he owns is endorsing a ballot initiative he funded. I kid you not. Breaking. News. pic.twitter.com/uZOPRAwbCS
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) October 18, 2018
The editorial board’s position should not come as a surprise, as the paper has given favorable treatment to Adelson ever since he bought it.
Adelson purchased the Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, in December 2015 for $140 million. Soon after he bought the paper, Politico reported that “stories involving new owner Sheldon Adelson are being reviewed, changed or killed almost daily.” When Adelson lost an attempt to have a judge removed from a lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands, the paper's leaders told its journalists that they must monitor the judge, and when the journalists protested, they were told that the directive came from above, according to The New York Times. Adelson is also a major supporter of President Donald Trump, and the Review-Journal was one of the first major newspapers to endorse him for president in 2016.
Question 3, which would transform Nevada’s energy market, is largely funded by Adelson's Las Vegas Sands
Utility NV Energy currently serves about 90 percent of Nevada with electricity. According to Ballotpedia, Question 3 would require the state legislature to pass laws establishing “an open, competitive retail electric energy market”; prohibit the state from granting electrical-generation monopolies; and declare that a person or entity in Nevada has a “right to choose the provider of its electric utility service.”
The issue of competitive markets arose in 2014 when data company Switch and several other large companies, including Las Vegas Sands, explored opportunities to stop buying electricity from NV Energy and instead purchase it on the open market. Switch was allowed to leave NV Energy’s monopoly in 2016 after agreeing to pay a $27 million exit fee determined by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. Las Vegas Sands refused to pay a similar $24 million exit fee, and so remained a customer of NV Energy. Both companies helped form the Energy Choice Initiative campaign in 2016, leading to Question 3 first appearing on the ballot and passing with over 72 percent of the vote. Because Nevada law stipulates that constitutional amendments need to be approved in successive even-numbered election years, Question 3 is appearing on the ballot again in 2018.
This year, Las Vegas Sands and Switch have both bankrolled the Energy Choice Initiative. As of October 12, the Yes on 3 campaign had raised more than $32.9 million, with Las Vegas Sands donating over $20 million and Switch giving close to $11 million. On the opposing side, NV Energy has largely bankrolled the No on 3 campaign, donating about $63 million in 2018. NV Energy is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which is controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
Claims that Question 3 would lead to the expansion of clean energy in Nevada are dubious
Las Vegas Sands and the Yes on 3 campaign argue that Question 3 would expand Nevada’s clean energy options. However, in a July 2018 report examining the potential impacts of Question 3, the nonprofit Guinn Center found, “There is no correlation between restructuring electricity markets and increased renewables. And Question 3 does not explicitly require that more renewables are integrated onto the grid.” The study concluded, “The type of retail market model in a given state matters less than policy choices, such as a state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).”
When there was an effort last year to increase Nevada's RPS, Las Vegas Sands opposed it. The company testified in opposition to AB 206, a Nevada bill that would have made the state's RPS more ambitious by requiring utilities to produce 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040. The bill was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).
Nevada voters will decide on Question 3 on November 6.