(Peter Hennessey) – This is in reference to the oral arguments in the Nevada Supreme Court in Carson city, NV on Wednesday, September 2 at 1:30 PM in the case of Gary Schmidt vs. Ben Kieckhefer. This session is open to the public and everyone is invited to attend.
Date: Wednesday Sept 2, 2015Time: 1:30PMPlace: Nevada Supreme Court, 201 South Carson Street, Courtroom-Second Floor, Carson CityCase No.: 66528Before: En BancJustices: Gibbons, Douglas, Pickering, Hardesty, Cherry, Parraguirre, Saitta
An article in Las Vegas Sun and other publications included Kieckhefer’s argument in the case, but did not mention Schmidt’s.
To borrow a phrase, “here is the rest of the story.”
Gary Schmidt is represented by Chuck Kozak, former counsel for Sharron Angle. Kozak claims that Kieckhefer, through his lobbyist law firm for whom he works while serving in the State Senate, filed the defamation suit against Schmidt at the last minute, just 4 days before the primary election, in violation of Schmidt’s First Amendment free speech rights, in order to gain political advantage in the last days of the primary election by smearing Schmidt’s name. Kieckhefer is represented by Michal Pagni, former Senior Legislative Aid for Harry Reid in Washington D.C.
Some say this is the most important political First Amendment free speech case to ever be heard by the Nevada State Supreme Court, and it has evoked national interest. In making its decision, the Court should rely on two cases from the US Supreme Court.
One is the landmark Times vs. Sullivan case in an appeal of an Alabama State Supreme Court decision by Dr. Martin Luther King. The U.S. Supreme Court in that case reversed the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court and ruled in part that “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be wide open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
In another case this summer, the Court “reversed and remanded a case out of Ohio that involved a law making it a crime for any person to “[p]ost, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not” during the course of a political campaign.” A similar law was thrown out in Nevada in 2005, in the case of the Nevada Press Association vs. the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
Schmidt has expressed optimism that the Appeal he has filed before the Nevada Supreme Court will go their way but has vowed to move forward to the U.S Supreme Court if necessary.
The case involves five words in a TV commercial that ran for just three days in the Republican Primary race for State Senate District 16 in 2014.
Candidate Gary Schmidt claimed that incumbent State Senator Ben Kieckhefer “supported and endorsed Harry Reid,” the Democrat in the 2010 U.S. Senate race against Republican Sharron Angle. This claim was based on a Las Vegas Sun News article in October 2010, and additionally supported by internet searches showing that Kieckhefer never endorsed Angle, nor criticized Republican State Senator Bill Raggio for founding the group called “Republicans for Reid.”
Kieckhefer also never disclaimed the Sun article, which identified Kieckhefer as closely allied with Raggio and appeared to say that Kieckhefer is also a member of the “Republicans for Reid.”
Other articles had Kieckhefer allied with and/or appearing with Raggio and the mayors of Reno and Sparks who were also members of “Republican for Reid” and had appeared in TV and radio commercials for Democrat Reid against Republican Angle.
In the court proceedings, Kieckhefer never showed up in Court to swear under oath that he did not support Reid, nor did he offer any evidence as such, other than a last minute personal written statement.
In 2014, Kieckhefer claimed to be a “conservative” throughout the campaign, even though his voting record in the previous sessions of the legislature had demonstrated otherwise. In a famous example, a 2010 video shows him promising to vote to let the sunset taxes die, but in fact in the legislature he voted to extend them. In 2014, he campaigned against the “Margins Tax,” but in 2015 he voted for essentially the same thing in the Governor’s budget bill SB483, the largest tax increase in the history of Nevada.
In response to those breaches of campaign promises, the Washoe County Republican Party has adopted a resolution that condemns Senator Kieckhefer (as well as Governor Sandoval, Senator Brower, and Assemblymen Randy Kirner, Pat Hickey and P.K. O’Neil) for “betraying the Republican Party,” and the Carson City Republicans have organized a recall petition against Kieckhefer.
And that is “the rest of the story.”