Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is imminently qualified to step right into the shoes of Sen. Harry Reid. This past week she became the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for Reid’s seat and he immediately endorsed her.
For example, in March 2010, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons sent Cortez Masto a letter directing her to file suit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. She fired back a letter refusing to do so.
She wrote: “The Attorney General is the State’s chief legal officer. Like you I have a responsibility to represent the State’s interests. As such, I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed.”
The Nevada Constitution says: “The Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Attorney General, and Superintendent of public instruction shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.”
Nevada Revised Statute 228 prescribes: “Whenever the Governor directs or when, in the opinion of the Attorney General, to protect and secure the interest of the State it is necessary that a suit be commenced or defended in any federal or state court, the Attorney General shall commence the action or make the defense.”
The governor directed. She refused.
Another section of NRS 228 reads: “If the Attorney General neglects or refuses to perform any of the duties required of him or her by law, the Attorney General is guilty of a misdemeanor or is subject to removal from office.”
Instead, attorney Mark Hutchison, now the lieutenant governor, was hired pro bono to represent Nevada in the Obamacare litigation. He is touted as a potential Republican candidate for Reid’s seat.
An attorney general who refuses to follow the law is qualified to succeed Reid, who has been known to flout a law or two over the years.
Then there was the criminal indictment by Cortez Masto against then-state Treasurer and later-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki over alleged mismanagement of a college savings program. No funds were missing but the AG claimed Krolicki was not following state budgeting rules.
A judge dismissed the charges completely and Cortez Masto did not appeal.
While the case was pending an invitation to a fundraiser for a Democratic opponent of Krolicki for lieutenant governor listed a sponsor of the event as Paul Masto, husband of the attorney general. She denied any wrongdoing and the event was canceled.
Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Chris Comfort said at the time, “Catherine Cortez Masto and her friends are so arrogant that they change a few words on an invite and pretend this is no longer about Catherine Cortez Masto. The event is hosted by Catherine’s husband and Catherine’s top donors, and it underscores her personal and partisan crusade to destroy Brian Krolicki.”
Partisanship — another qualification to succeed Reid.
Krolicki also is said to be considering seeking the Republican nomination for Reid’s seat. He was contemplating running against Reid in 2010 before he was indicted.
In announcing her candidacy Cortez Masto also announced her resignation as executive vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a job to which she was appointed only three months ago after being term limited as attorney general.
She was appointed without benefit of a national search to a job that had been vacant for five years and was to be paid a salary of $215,000, far more than her pay as an elected official, even though she had no experience in higher education.
While serving as executive vice chancellor, Cortez Masto testified before a legislative panel against a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses. She testified that guns on campus would have a chilling effect on academic freedom.
Another qualification to succeed Reid, who claims to support the Second Amendment, though he votes consistently to curb those rights.
Even though the Nevada Constitution prohibits the state donating or loaning money to any company, Cortez Masto opined otherwise when the governor and lawmakers wanted to dole out money to various companies through a so-called Catalyst Fund.
On three occasions state officials asked the voters to amend the Constitution to make subsidies to companies legal. It was defeated all three times
Cortez Masto opined: “The Nevada Constitution does not prohibit the State from disbursing Catalyst Fund money to regional development authorities …”
Some lawyers might call that money laundering. That’s how Reid doles out favors to his cronies, too.
Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers is the only announced Republican candidate for the seat.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.