RENO, Nev. (KOLO) You may have seen billboards across the Reno area calling attention to, "non-partisan RenoElections.org."
The group claims it formed the site to inform local voters about the candidates and issues.
“Two goals, to have more people vote, in the general election rather than about 25% from the primary. And to help educate the voters about the issues,” says Paul White from Renoelections.org.
White says contributors are from all walks of life. He says they call themselves non-partisan because issues like homelessness are non-partisan.
“Not as advertised,” says Fred Lokken Ph.D.. professor of political science at Truckee Meadows Community College. Lokken says he's looked into the group. He says the website contains profiles for candidates running for city and school board offices. But the list is incomplete. Incumbents are not contained on the website.
“Large red flag I can think of. Because the candidates realize this is a sham. This is not a truthful non-partisan group,” says Lokken.
Still the group insists it is non-partisan. White says incumbents who did not answer his questionnaire are not on the website.
We talked to Reno City Council incumbent and candidate Naomi Duerr, who says she found the questionnaire sent to her to be premised on inaccuracies. She says she had a 45-minute talk with White about RenoElections.org, and found White focused on the homeless problem.
Duerr claims White expressed interest in contracts for himself to assist the homeless. Duerr says White indicated to her that if she didn't fill out the questionnaire, she would not be invited to any future events sponsored by RenoElections.org.
Neither Duerr nor another incumbent, Paul McKenzie, who also chose not fill out a questionnaire submitted by White, said they had been formally invited to a RenoElection.org October 20th debate -- one White promises will be the largest in Reno history. White contacted KOLO after the story aired to say he did send an invitation to both, though as a blind carbon copy (BCC). Sending an email to BCC recipients often results in the email being caught in the recipients' "spam" filters. Both Duerr and McKenzie have confirmed to KOLO that the invitations had, in fact, been sent to their email account spam folders. As a result, neither had seen the invitations prior to our inquiry.
“The biggest organized debate for Reno offices in Reno History,” says White.
White says RenoElection.org is a non-profit group. It is affiliated with Scientific Being Research Foundation. According to Councilman McKenzie, a major contributor to that non-profit gave his opponent $10,000 during her primary run.
Both Duerr and McKenzie say they are not adverse to debating or speaking about their work in office thus far, and their plans for the future. They’ve talked to Rotary and other community organizations when asked. And they say the will continue to do that up to Election Day.
You just won’t find them on RenoElections.org.
You can find the RenoElections.org questionnaire to candidates here.