Police affidavit shows web weaved by lawmaker, others to sway vote on speaker

An affidavit filed by a Virginia law enforcement officer in support a search warrant for consultant Tony Dane, who is under investigation related to his involvement in legislative campaigns and the battle over speaker before the 2015 session, reveals through surreptitious recordings a conspiracy to intimidate Assemblyman Chris Edwards.

 The February 2015 affidavit, which I have posted here, has some astonishing exchanges from the recordings made by Edwards and by court-ordered wiretaps. It paints a picture, through recorded conversations, of a clear conspiracy, criminal or not (what a fine line it is between normal campaign sleaze and criminal conduct), among various perennial fringe players, to try to intimidate Edwards into voting for John Ellison as speaker. (Say what you will about John Hambrick, but can you imagine that?) What we still don't know is who was the money behind Dane, although Jones was clearly involved. And what amazes me is that only Dane seems to have been targeted -- you will feel the same after you read the affidavit or my summary below.

Remember what happened back then: The Assembly GOP Caucus went through these pre-session paroxysms, with Ira Hansen and Michele Fiore temporarily the top two leaders before sanity prevailed. The affidavit showed what happened starting on Dec. 29, 2014, as one faction tried to change votes just two weeks after presumptive Speaker Hambrick had deposed Fiore from her slot and tax chairmanship.

I urge you to read the entire affidavit, but some highlights, according to the 30-page document:

Edwards met with Rob Lauer, the failed candidate and now Newsmax radio host (!), and Lauer tried to sell Edwards on Elko’s John Ellison being a better speaker than Hambrick. Lauer promised Edwards that Ellison would create a veterans committee for Edwards to chair. Edwards told Lauer that he supports Hambrick. Lauer told Edwards any discussion of money for his vote would be illegal, but offered mail pieces and the new vets’ committee chairmanship. There was talk of payments to retire campaign debt. A detective is said to have believed this was tantamount to extortion, although no charges have been filed against Lauer.

Shortly after meeting with Edwards, Lauer called two people – Assemblyman Brent Jones and his aide, Laurel Fee. Fee and Jones also talked, according to phone records obtained by court order. Fee and Lauer also talked the next day, the records show.

Dane left a voicemail for Edwards on Jan. 5, 2015, saying he was tracking tax votes, believed Edwards would back the governor’s (he ultimately did not) and that he could kill a recall movement against Edwards. Meanwhile, the affidavit details a tweet sent by Fee talking about an ethics complaint being filed against Edwards for “trying to sell his vote, saying there was “proof” “on tape,” leading detectives to believe Lauer also had taped the initial meeting with Edwards. (This conversation, which was set up by police, became the fulcrum for a series of screeds by Citizen Outhouse's Chuck Muth, who nicknamed Edwards “Ler’s Make a Deal” without knowing that everything had been set up by Metro.) Detectives speculated this was being coordinated by Fee and Dane, and they believed “collusion” between Dane, Fee and Jones, although none have been charged with a crime.

On Jan. 10, 2015, Metro recorded a conversation between Dane and Edwards. Dane told Edwards someone was willing to sign an affidavit that Edwards was amenable to selling his vote for $10,000, a clear reference to Lauer, the police believed. Dane said he could protect Edwards, but declined to say who he was working for.  Dane also said he has recordings of Edwards that will be used against him, which prompted the officer making the affidavit to cite extortion statutes in Nevada and Virginia. Dane also told Edwards that Nevada law allows one-party consent on recoding calls, which is false. Dane also bragged about ousting former Las Vegas City Councilwoman Janet Moncrief. He then told Edwards he needed him to be the 13th vote (a majority) to remove Hambrick as speaker. Dane told him he would guarantee him a vice-chairmanship and, “We’ll get your debt paid off.” (Wow!) Oh, and Dane also told him he would get him financed against Rep. Cresent Hardy if Hardy was not conservative enough. (My goodness!)

When Edwards, knowing the recording was going, asked Dane to confirm the promises, Dane said he could “pay off the debt. Publicly, I never promised you any money. That turns into a bribe and I won’t bribe you.” (Oh?) The affidavit then cites the NRS bribery statute. Dane also threatened to send mailers against Edwards if he did not agree.

Dane boasted of his unlimited funding and “compared his employer’s wealth to Bill Gates.” He also said his employer would recall Assemblyman James Oscarson to set an example. (This, of course, did not happen.) Dane told Edwards he could control what Muth wrote and that “Muth does what he is told to do.” (Muth has denied talking to dane and was interviewed by law enforcement last year.)

Shortly after the meeting, Dane talked to Jones and Fee. Then, on Jan. 10, 2015, Dane and Edwards talked and detectives listened in on Edwards’ speaker. Dane played phone calls of Edwards talking to constituents, a clear violation of the two-party consent law, and ones that Dane acknowledged recording. Dane also offered to raise $40,000 to pay of Edwards’ campaign debt and $150,000 for a future campaign. Dane also bragged about the funding of his PAC with a quarter-million dollars, something I wrote about and which later caused the SOS to investigate as a conduit contribution. (That probe has yet to be concluded.)

►In the weeks leading up to the session in February, the police confirmed multiple calls between Dane and Jones. Jones and Edwards met on Jan. 18 at Jones’ Real Water business, a meeting that was recorded. Jones confirmed contacts with Dane, talked about recalls and said he was gathering proxies to oust Hambrick. Jones told Edwards that he had talked to Muth and that if Edwards came around, Muth would start writing positive pieces about him. Several calls were exchnaged during the meeting, with Jones phoning both Dane and Fee.

More of the same in the penultimate week of January, with detectives becoming convinced Jones was helping to fund Dane’s PAC. Fee fretted whether everything they were doing was “kosher” after a Sun reporter called Dane. The exchanges between Fee and Dane were in Flash last week, and you can see them in the affidavit below. There are also some amazing exchanges between Jones and Dane that make you wonder how Jones, who is bound to lose his re-election attempt, has not been targeted. This was clearly coordinated by Dane, Jones, Fee and Lauer, whether it amounts to criminal behavior or just inept, thuggish behavior.

On Jan. 31, detectives filed a search warrant on Lauer. They also interviewed Lauer, Fee and two of Fee’s associates. Later, Dane bragged about having text messages with Edwards toi back up that Edwards was selling his vote, unaware, as were the rest of the Gang that Couldn’t Recall Straight, that metro had orchestrated all of it. Maybe my favorite part is Dane bragging that he was going to file a federal lawsuit against the governor because he contributed to Edwards, which was a bribe for his vote. (That suit was not filed.)

The affidavit’s final line: “…there is probable cause to believe that the crimes of extortion, bribery, and illegal wiretapping has occurred…” That justified the search warrant. That was Feb. 4, 2015, more than a year ago. No one has been charged yet.




VAfinal.pdf by Jon Ralston