Heller's unprofessional Senate office is embarrassment

I have held off writing this for some time, for reasons that will become obvious. But my patience is at an end.

Let me say this without hesitation: Senator Dean Heller’s office is the most unprofessional I have worked with (or not!)  in a quarter-century of covering politics.

So why should you care? Why is this relevant?

I acknowledge it is impossible to write about this topic without seeming self-serving, like a peevish, arrogant journalist not getting his way. So be it. .But I have never, in all, my years covering politics and government, felt it necessary to write something like this.

First, I want to be clear: I don’t really care that much if Heller comes on “Ralston Reports” or submits to an interview. I think it’s sad that he avoids tough but fair questioning. But that is his choice.

What I have never experienced is taxpayer-funded staffers who think they can pick and choose which journalists to favor with any information. Or a reply. Or even a NO COMMENT.

I have been hard on many politicians over the years. Some have reacted by refusing to talk to me or come on the program.

The most notable examples are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. But in all the years that Reid and Goodman snubbed me, I never had trouble getting responses from the government communications specialists who worked under them. That is, the staffs always were responsive even though their bosses had a problem with me.

Not so with Team Heller, which is behaving with the maturity and professionalism of high schoolers.

For months now, Heller’s chief of staff, Mac Abrams, and his chief spokeswoman, Chandler Smith, have refused to even respond to emails from my producer, Dana Gentry, or me. But it’s worse than that: Heller’s office has taken the unprecedented step of removing us from the blast news release list sent to all Nevada media so we are not immediately privy to his positions on issues.

Make no mistake: Abrams and Smith are not paid by Dean Heller. Their checks come from the federal government.

Granted, I have been quite critical of Heller’s performance at times. I think his “No Budget No Pay” idea, seemingly the centerpiece of his legislative agenda, is hollow pap. I observed that his support for a so-called congressional exemption on Obamacare, one that doesn’t actually exist, is a terrible form of pandering to the lowest common denominator. Nevada's junior senator often seems intent on sacrificing long-term effectiveness for short-term political gain.

But it never ceases to amaze me when politicians, who have gone through campaign travails and personal trials, behave in such a petulant manner toward journalists they consider unfriendly or hostile or….tough. Wouldn’t they relish putting forth their points of view on important topics, displaying the righteousness of their positions?

Ask Congressman Joe Heck, who always is ready to take on difficult questions. Or ex-Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who submitted to trying inquisitions during difficult times in her career.

I'll be clear about something else, too: I don't expect this to change Team Heller's behavior. I don't really care that much about that, either. But I want people to know.

Heller’s turtle act is just sad and cowardly. But his staff’s behavior is more than merely pathetic and unprofessional; it is an outrageous affront to taxpayers who pay their salaries.