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Billy brawl
by Andrew Barbano
Jan 09, 2011 | 884 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sen. Bill Raggio is neither God nor dead. From all the fawning statements statewide, a visitor from Mars would assume either or both.

The longtime state senator and former district attorney is a fine gentleman with a great sense of humor. I still have the handwritten letter of condolence he sent after my wife passed away.

But the personal must be separated from the professional. At the very least, the record must be set straight. Since newspapers are the first draft of history, herewith, some very necessary straightening.

My friend Ray Hagar wrote in the Reno Gazette-Journal that without Raggio, the Legislature will not be expanded to allow for more northern Nevada seats in the light of southern Nevada population growth.

“Raggio also tried and failed to add seats to the assembly and state senate 10 years ago,” Hagar wrote.

That’s only half-true. Actually, he tried and succeeded, then unwound the deal after the Bush White House called on him to subtract 8,000 Democrats from the new southern Nevada congressional district. As a result, three assembly seats and one senate seat were lost to Gomorrah South.

Adding insult to injury, local Republicans placed advertising in 2002 blaming Democrats for the loss. The closest the Donkeyites came to a response was this column calling it a lie. The ads contributed to the defeats of Assemblymembers Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and Vivian Freeman, D-Reno.

Raggio was directly responsible for the permanent loss of millions in tax revenue to Clark County starting in 1991. As madcap as it may seem, the GOP ran spots blaming first-time candidate Joe Carter when he ran against Raggio shill Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, in 2002. Their evidence: Carter was (gasp!) a Democrat who would thus side with Vegas.

Sparks taxpayers will be paying for the Reno railroad trench for the next decade or so thanks to Raggio, who said he could not vote on trench issues because of a conflict of interest. He then proceeded to muscle enabling legislation through the Legislature. His law partner, Assemblyman Greg Brower, R-Reno, likewise abstained.

The biggest beneficiary of the railroad trench was Union Pacific, which basically got a $360 million freebie courtesy of the taxpayers. Raggio’s firm goes way back with the railroad. The former Vargas Bartlett and Dixon represented the pre-merger Southern Pacific and Southern Pacific Land Co. for decades.

When Raggio blew the 2001 redistricting deal, he also screwed Mr. Brower. The loss of seats to the south forced several incumbents to face each other. Brower was placed in the same new district as Sharron Angle, R-Reno. She beat Brower who went on to be named U.S. attorney for Nevada by Bush after the Karl Rove-led purge of those who would not participate in witch hunts of Democrats.

Brower is now one of many talked up to succeed Raggio, as is Angle. The moonhowlers are coming out of the woodwork promoting the crazy church lady and she just might win. The Washoe County Commission will select Raggio’s successor.

Commissioner Bonnie Weber is part of Angle’s religious clique. They believe in theocracy, government by the Bible, not the Constitution. In 1998, I began a series of exclusive disclosures about it. They will be linked to the expanded web edition of this column at I have had reports that Commissioner Bob Larkin has grown close to Mrs. Weber and her religious dogma. I ballpark that as 1.5 votes leaning toward Angle. Commissioner Dave Humke has a track record of going whichever way the wind blows. Witness his sellout on the Ballardini Ranch acquisition. Commissioner John Breternitz on Friday took himself out of the running for Raggio’s seat.

Angle came close to beating Raggio in the 2008 GOP primary. Last year, Raggio endorsed U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., over Angle. Raggio thus may work for someone else behind the scenes. That might well be Brower. Law firms like to broker juice and the image thereof.

Whether in the senate or not, Raggio is the de facto governor of Nevada. Newbie Gov. Brian Sandoval and his family go way back with Big Bad Bill. Sandoval’s father was appointed sergeant-at-arms of the state senate on Raggio’s watch. Raggio’s law firm provided employment for the younger Sandoval during his run for governor.

Law firms love to hang conference room pictures of their once-and-future associates who happen to be on temporary leave in public office. That’s how the juice game is played and nobody ever played it better than Gov. Bill Raggio.

Raggio and his adopted son, former Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, imposed a sunset on 2009 tax hikes, so the battles of last session have to be re-fought this year along with all the other hassle.

Now that these guys are no longer seeking office, perhaps they will use their juice to help the little guys they stuck it to during all those years.

Inside tip

The electrical workers union (IBEW 1245) will shortly come out with some new hardball proposals against NV Energy. They may circulate three initiative petitions and just won a major round at the Public Utilities Commission, which has opened an investigation after the union’s warning of dangerous levels of understaffing. Watch for docs and details.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 42-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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Billy brawl by Andrew Barbano

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