The Bench Warmer and the Straggler

Gubernatorial candidates have been playing the usual political game. One of them lost a long time ago.

Greenspun Industries is another local landowner with many waterless vacant lots.

A record search of Del Webb and its many subsidiaries, meanwhile, turned up no less than 118 vacant parcels of land in its possession in Clark County.

Without water commitments, each of these large landowners has an interest in southern Nevada's water supply being bolstered, and at present the state is, in fact, seeking cooperation from the state of Arizona to fill that need.

On July 15, Del Webb CEO Phil Dion brought together many of these land and utility interests to meet Governor Hull at a Las Vegas fund raiser.

And the owners of those bone-dry land parcels lined up to hand over cash to Jane Hull.

Boyd Gaming CEO William Boyd contributed $500 to Hull's campaign.
Boyd president Donald Snyder also coughed up $500.
Robert Boughner, Boyd Gaming senior executive vice president, threw in another $500.

Greenspun Industries president Philip Peckman wrote his own check for $500.
Del Webb subsidiary Lewis Homes sent Robert and Scott Lewis, who each pitched in $500. Various Del Webb Sun City representatives forked over $2,360.

"Nevada has been very up-front with us for the last eight to 10 years," says an Arizona water-policy expert who asked not be named. "They're out of water. They need water and want to take it out of Arizona's allotment.

"Phil Dion and the others at the fund raiser may not understand the Secretary of the Interior's role [which is far more crucial than Hull's]. But I have no doubt that the people in that room thought that money would get them more water."

Governor Hull has vehemently denied that those contributions, however, would ever persuade her to give up rights to Arizona's water, which is a neat use of semantics. What Johnson had (badly) tried to describe was the potential use of surplus Arizona water by the state of Nevada. Talks have been under way for several years between the two states about banking that surplus water for Nevada's use--two Nevada senatorial candidates even endorsed the water-banking talks in a debate televised the very night Johnson hit Hull with his initial accusation.

But Hull has repeatedly denied that she's negotiating away rights to Arizona's river allocation--which is a separate issue.

It's as if Johnson had accused Hull of taking cash from Las Vegas bigwigs who wanted her to lend them use of the state plane, and Hull had answered that she would never sell the state plane to anyone.

"[Johnson's] backed off from immediate accusations that he knew nothing about to finding out a little bit about what's going on, which is very typical of the way he's run his campaign," complains Hull.

But she acknowledges that Arizona and Nevada have held meetings about Nevada getting some of Arizona's water. "The water-banking legislation passed when I wasn't there," Hull says. "There are meetings, I guess, which I didn't know, either, until he brought up the subject. There are water-banking meetings held every month."

Hull stresses, however, that the need for federal approval, the existence of surplus water and other variables keep her from having much to do with the process. She says she simply couldn't do favors for contributors, which is what Johnson implied in the first place.

If there was a political opportunity in Hull's acceptance of Las Vegas money, Johnson wasn't able to capitalize on it.

Still, Johnson says he's not done with the issue. This week he'll begin new television ads hammering Hull on her tie to the Las Vegas money.

He believes that Hull should have known about the water meetings. "That scares me even more than if [she] had known about them. We not only ought to be looking at Mrs. Hull, we ought to be taking a very hard look at those people around Mrs. Hull and what they want."

Contact Tony Ortega at his online address: tortega@newtimes.com

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