Senate candidate Sue Lowden (R-NV) is now under fire for a possible campaign finance violation, with one of her Republican primary opponents calling foul over her use of a luxury R.V. given to the campaign by a supporter.
A week and a half ago, Lowden claimed that the RV had been donated: “Why would anyone want to demean the fact that someone donated an RV to me? It’s unfortunate that no one donated an RV to them.”
The Lowden campaign now says, however, that the the R.V. was officially leased to Lowden by casino owner Carl Giuduci and his wife Elsie Giuduci, who have each made in-kind contributions to Lowden for the vehicle’s use that are listed as being under the legal limit of $2,400 per-person. As the Las Vegas Review Journal notes: “According to a redacted lease agreement released by the campaign that did not provide any dollar figures, Lowden must return the vehicle after she is done using it during her bid for public office.”
The campaign of former UNLV basketball player Danny Tarkanian pounced on the story. “Like a typical insider, Sue Lowden doesn’t think the rules apply to her,” said Tarkanian spokesman Brian Seitchik, who also referred to the bus as a “free ride,” according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The Las Vegas Sun also says that the Lowden campaign’s story on the ownership of the R.V. has changed over time:
The campaign has offered shifting explanations for the bus’s ownership.
Charles Spies, an attorney for the campaign, wrote in an e-mail last week: “The RV is titled in its owner’s name (not Sue Lowden or Lowden for Senate).”
In response to a records request, however, the DMV confirmed that Lowden is a titleholder with Giuduci, indicating co-ownership status.
Later, the Lowden attorney sent a follow-up e-mail: “Although (Lowden) is not the owner of the vehicle (but instead is using it through a private lease agreement), (Lowden) and the owner are on the registration for insurance purposes.”
The Lowden campaign’s story has also changed about whether they pay Giuduci only for the days when the vehicle is driven, or whether they also pay Giuduci for the days when it sits at campaign headquarters and functions as a roadside billboard. The campaign has also claimed a maintenance credit on improvements it made to the vehicle, entitling them to repayment of nearly $9,500 from the Giuducis.
The Sun estimates that between the $2,400 per-donor limit and the $9,500 maintenance credit, the Lowden campaign would be able to use the bus for 30 days when compared to the typical rental price of a used luxury R.V. The redacted lease agreement that was put out by the Lowden campaign was dated January 12.
The Lowden campaign did not immediately return our request for comment.
Late Update: The Lowden campaign sent us this statement from campaign manager Robert Uithoven, which has also circulated among the Nevada media:
“Today’s desperate attack by Danny Tarkanian alleging that a lease agreement on a nearly decade-old RV is a campaign violation is absolutely false and absurd. The Sue Lowden for U.S. Senate campaign has rightfully entered into a private lease agreement, with a private owner of this RV, to compensate the owner for the fair market value for the RV’s use.
“The payments and in-kind contributions have been fully and properly disclosed to the FEC. In addition, the lease agreement clearly states that Sue Lowden and the Sue Lowden for U.S. Senate campaign is not, has never been nor ever will be the owner of this private individual’s RV.
“The campaign will continue to provide full compensation for the operation, use, maintenance, fuel and insurance on this RV, and we will continue to report such expenses as required by law.
“The fact is that career candidate Danny Tarkanian has a campaign that is crumbling around him with sagging poll numbers and time running down. Danny’s false allegations about a legal RV lease agreement that is in full compliance with FEC regulations regarding necessary fair market value compensation shows how desperate and frankly pathetic his campaign has become.”