Undercurrent

Labor leaders attack Laxalt as pawn of Big Oil

By: - June 17, 2022 6:15 am

Susie Martinez of the Nevada AFL-CIO taking aim at Adam Laxalt over gas prices. (Photo: Dana Gentry)

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is one of the most endangered Democratic senators facing re-election, presenting Republicans with perhaps their best opportunity to break the 50/50 logjam in the Senate, according to political experts. Some polls show her trailing Republican candidate Adam Laxalt, a one-term Nevada Attorney General who ran for governor in 2018 and lost. Laxalt is endorsed by former Pres. Donald Trump. 

Now that Cortez Masto’s opponent in November has been decided, her supporters are wasting no time turning up the heat on Laxalt.  

As gas prices force Nevadans to cut back on driving or other necessities, Susie Martinez, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO, reminded reporters at a news conference Thursday of how Laxalt, as Attorney General, “used the power to stop investigations into friends of Big Oil.” 

The Reno-Gazette Journal reported in 2018 that Laxalt “entered the fray after a 2015 investigative series by InsideClimate News prompted a multi-state investigation into ExxonMobil’s alleged role in downplaying climate change.”

A subpoena issued as part of the probe named organizations funded by the Koch brothers, who later spent $2.5 million in an effort to get Laxalt elected governor. 

Laxalt, at the time, claimed the inquiry was stifling “ongoing public debate about an important policy issue.”

The Nevada Independent reported last month that Laxalt has been paid $3.7 million since his gubernatorial loss in 2018 from Cooper & Kirk, a law firm that represents oil interests, including $1.5 million in 2022. 

Additionally, Laxalt and his wife jointly own stock in Exxon Mobil Corporation and Chevron Corporation, according to his financial disclosure form.   

Laxalt’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment, however, he has attempted to deflect criticism on the campaign trail. 

“When you see President Biden get up there and Senator Masto and they start talking about the Putin price hike. More recently, Senator Masto and the Democrats are blaming greedy oil executives for our gas prices,” Laxalt said at a May 27 campaign event, according to American Independent. “Recently, they’ve been blaming meat conglomerates for the price of meat and everything that goes up. How many, much more finger-pointing are they going to do?”

“It means your gas is $5.60 a gallon in Las Vegas. That’s not Putin’s fault, is it? It’s not greedy oil executives like Catherine Cortez Masto is now pretending like it’s Big Oil’s fault,” he said at another event a day later. 

“If someone complains to you about gas, you make sure they say — you make sure you confront them: ‘This is not Putin’s price hike. This is not greedy oil executives. This is the Democrats. They gave you $5.60 gas that we have today,'” he said at another appearance the same day, American Independent reported.

“He tried to tell us who to blame for the gas prices because he thinks it will help him politically,” said Robert Guerrera of IBEW Local 396. ”But we know the truth. Adam Laxalt is always trying to put his own wealth and power over people like us.” 

Union members say they believe Biden and Congress are doing what they can to increase the gas supply.

Guerrera says the price of gas is forcing people to “choose should I start taking the bus to school or to work? It’s affecting every one of us and I don’t think anyone is immune to what’s going on.” 

Union members say despite inflationary concerns, they’d like to see the federal government target assistance to working families to offset the rising costs of gas, food, and rent – an unlikely prospect given the partisan divide in the Senate.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.

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