Republicans Slam Berkley with Ethics Allegations

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Republicans are hitting Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley with new allegations of misconduct.

Washoe County Republican Party Chairman David Buell told The Associated Press he filed a federal election law complaint Friday against Berkley and the Nevada Democratic Party for coordinating on her U.S. Senate campaign.

Berkley is running against four little-known Democrats in the June 12 primary, but Nevada Democrats have been helping her campaign for months because she is the presumptive nominee.

Buell said federal campaign law only allows state political parties to coordinate with their official nominee. He points to two campaign mailers promoting Berkley's work with veterans and paid for by the Nevada Democratic Party as a sign that the Democrats are not following federal law.

Democrats responded by accusing Washoe Republicans of filing the complaint to help Berkley's likely general election rival, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller. The coordination is allowed under federal law, rendering the Republican's complaint invalid, said spokesman Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party who has been working closely with Berkley's campaign.

Berkley is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee after the Nevada GOP filed a complaint alleging that she used her office to help her husband's medical business. Committee officials have said they will determine whether to conduct a full investigation on or before July 9.

The allegations come as Berkley is running against Heller in a race that is expected to be one of the closest in the country. It could determine whether Republicans win back control of the Senate.

The Berkley campaign has said she was merely in step with other members of the Nevada congressional delegation when she called on
federal officials to reverse a decision to close the kidney transplant program at University Medical Center. The closure would have left Nevada without a kidney transplant center.

Berkley's husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, administers kidney care at UMC.

Berkley's primary rivals include Steve Brown, Barry Ellsworth, Louis Macias and Nancy Price.

Washoe County is a crucial area for Berkley because she is unlikely to win over many voters in the rest of northern Nevada, which is largely conservative and has elected Heller before.

In other words, she needs Washoe to win the state.

Buell, a former Nevada GOP treasurer, said the Nevada Democratic Party has never funded a candidate's campaign before a primary. In 2010, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also had the party's support before the Nevada Democratic primary.

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