Brager took $20,000 from one med pot applicant shortly before hearing; Jay Brown wins three

On May 20, Clark County commissioners decided how the medical marijuana dispensary licensing process would work: Two weeks later, in a series of hearings, they would award the golden tickets.

Two days earlier, Commissioner Susan Brager, under siege by ex-state Sen. Mike Schneider in a primary, accepted four $5,000 contributions from members of a group lobbying for a license -- one from ex-Henderson Mayor Bob Groesbeck and three from companies contolled by ex-Henderson Councilman Larry Scheffler. Their lobbyist in the endeavor is ex-Las Vegas Councilman Michael McDonald, now the chairman of the state GOP and who used to work for Scheffler and used his influence to help him when he was in elective office.

They did not get the license.

Even though the large investment appeared not to pay off, the question remains: Why take the money, especially from entities that usually do not give and obviously intended to influence one vote, so close to the decision? It was nearly half what Brager raised in the last three weeks.

"There has never been any connection between my votes and financing my campaigns, and there never will be," Brager said.

During the same time period, on May 23, Brager received $1,000 from former Assemblyman David Goldwater. That came before she told the Sun's Conor Shine that she didn't want to accept contributions from companies applying. She claimed to have returned a $1,000 check -- as did colleague Mary Beth Scow -- from the company Goldwater created, Sweet Goldy LLC, which gave to both commissioners earlier in the year.

So it's not kosher to take from the company, but all right to take from the guy who formed it? Parse that.

Goldwater's company was awarded a license Friday.

Brager also took $10,000 on May 14 from JT Moran III, who represented one of the winning bidders, longtime businessman Jim Hammer. Moran also gave $10,000 on May 6 to Scow.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, also up for re-election, took $1,000 a week before the hearing from Stephanie Sibley, who was up before her as part of a group asking for a license Friday. Sibley's group, which includes her ex-assemblyman husband and other Carson City-connected folks, won a license.

Giunchigliani also took three separate contributions -- $4,000 in all and one was an in-kind -- from the Mexican restaurant Lindo Michoacan one week before the hearing in which the owners applied for a med pot license. They did not win.

UPDATED, 4:40 PM: Giunchigliani responded: "Some contributions may have come from my earlier solicitations to known or previous donors prior to my knowledge that they would be applying.  Once I knew they were applicants, I did not solicit from them.  As the campaign report shows I did accept from some who became applicants. As Friday's voting record shows, the applicants were chosen on merit. As you know, I have always been independent."

Note also that CW Nevada, which as Shine reported had the largest number of campaign contributions, also won a license. That company is partly owned by longtime developer Hank Gordon and attorney Jennifer Lazovich, a lobbyist who regularly appears before local governments.

Also, by my count, superlobbyist Jay Brown represented at least three licenses that were awarded -- ex-state Sen. Mark James, businessman Jim Hammer and another less well-known business group, Nevada Organic Remedies. I have told you just how much he has contributed. He gets nine perecent of those businesses for 10 years.

Finally, remember that because of Nevada's relatively opaque campaign disclosure laws, we will have no idea how much money from these applicants that four of the seven commissioners accepted until next year. Convenient, eh?