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Wynn's Money Is Still Out There--Who Will Give It Back?

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(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Casino mogul Steve Wynn during a news conference in Medford, Mass., Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

With Steve Wynn's resignation as CEO of Wynn Resorts, does that create even more pressure on Nevada politicians to return the money he gave them for campaigns?

Jon Ralston, publisher of the Nevada Independent, said some politicians have said they donated the money to charity but he's amazed that politicians haven't commented on the allegations.

"You have some of the biggest recipients of his donations such as Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV., and Attorney General Adam Laxalt... they won't comment on these very disturbing allegations against Wynn," Ralston said.

And Attorney General Laxalt's reason for not commenting seems strange to Ralston. Laxalt has said he won't comment because the Gaming Control Board is still investigating the matter and he might have to advise the board.

"This is a crazy standard to take," Ralston said, "I have talked about what I call the Laxalt Cocoon. This is a guy who is running for the most important office in the state who has only given very controlled interviews either to friendly interviewers at the Review-Journal or they give people just a few minutes with him."

Ralston wonders where Laxalt draws the line between what he can talk about and what he can't talk about. He pointed to the Attorney General's stance on the gun background check that was passed by the voters in 2016 but Laxalt came out against. 

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"If the Attorney General is going to say he can't comment on things because he's a counsel to a state agency, he can't comment on anything," Ralston said.

Ralston believes he knows where Laxalt draws the line on what he'll talk about: "... things he doesn't want to talk about, he has a conflict."

It's not the just the politicians who are finding it difficult to work their way through the fallout from the allegations against Wynn. Those on the Wynn Resorts board of directors are in a tough position, especially the only woman on the board former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority Pat Mulroy.

"She's in a very, very difficult spot to produce an investigation that will be credible," Ralston said, "I don't think it's an accident that they chose the only woman on the board to investigate this. Pat Mulroy is a very smart woman but she's in a real pickle here."

No one knows for sure what the board of directors knew about the allegations and when they knew it, but Ralston finds it hard to believe that some board members somewhere along the way didn't know because there had been a previous lawsuit and Nevada Public Radio contributor John L.  Smith had mentioned allegations in a book he wrote about Wynn.

Ralston also believes the new chair of the Gaming Control Board Becky Harris has her work cut out for her in this investigation.

"First female chair in the history of Nevada, suddenly this is thrown into her lap," Ralston said.

He believes this might be one of the most difficult issues the control board has ever dealt with. While many see gaming regulators in Nevada as the 'gold standard,' others see the Gaming Control Board as being a wing of the industry.

"A lot is at stake here," he said, "It's not just about what the Gaming Control Board does. This is going to send a signal... The Gaming Control Board is going to have to take a strong stand."

Ralston believes whatever the board does is going to be "the subject of tremendous scrutiny."

While what the control board does will be scrutinized, what the largest newspaper in Nevada did 20 years ago in connection to this story is under scrutiny right now.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last week that it had killed a story about allegations against Steve Wynn in 1998. 

Ralston believes the story the paper is telling about why the story was killed and who killed it has "holes in it." While he knows and respects the reporter who wrote the original story - Carri Geer, he doesn't think her story about not knowing who told her to kill the story is "credible."

And he doesn't understand why she didn't quit after being told the story was not going to be published or try to get the story to another news outlet in the 20 years since she wrote it.

Ralston also says it is "very bizarre" that Sherm Fredrick, the publisher of the RJ at the time, doesn't remember this story.  

Beyond all of that, Ralston doesn't think the Review-Journal has much of a leg to stand on:

"For Sheldon Adelson's newspaper to get up on their high horse now and go after a previous regime for their behavior when it is clear that management there has affected the coverage of the stadium, that they hired a big investigative unit and their first project is to go after Sheldon Adelson's biggest competitor the convention authority. They have no credibility in this."

Guests

Jon Ralston, publisher, The Nevada Independent

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