- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 1, 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada Democrats want state ethics officials to investigate whether state Attorney General Adam Laxalt violated conflict-of-interest rules in a meeting with a chief gambling regulator last April, the state party chairwoman said Wednesday.

Laxalt derided the request as the product of “false and baseless complaints” and the start of a “two-year smear campaign” aimed at derailing his possible Republican bid for governor.

Chairwoman Roberta Lange said the party asked the Nevada Commission on Ethics on Tuesday to investigate the validity of published reports about a meeting between Laxalt and Gaming Control Board Chairman AG Burnett.

Lange said she believes Laxalt tried to pressure Burnett to intercede in a lawsuit on behalf of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who the letter identified as a major personal and corporate donor to Laxalt’s 2014 campaign and political action committees.

“On behalf of the Democratic party, I think it should be investigated as an ethics complaint,” Lange said in an interview. “Nevada voters need to know if our attorney general is involved in unethical behavior.”

The party also filed a freedom of information request for the FBI to release by the end of the month any audio recordings or other records it has about the case, Lange said.

Burnett, a spokeswoman for the FBI, and a spokesman for Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., each declined in separate messages to comment about the Democrats’ requests.

Ethics commission Executive Director Yvonne Nevarez-Goodson said she couldn’t confirm or deny the existence of an ethics complaint unless it is turned over to a two-member panel for review and findings. She said a complaint must be based on evidence beyond just media reports.

Laxalt, who was traveling back to Nevada from Washington, D.C., said in a statement that his meeting with Burnett was part of his responsibility as the lead legal representative for the Gaming Control Board.

As a statewide elected official, he also meets regularly with constituents “on issues that are important to the state,” Laxalt said.

“This matter was handled just like other issues I encounter on a daily basis,” the statement said, “and was resolved according to the Gaming Control Board’s preferences.”

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