I-Team: Policy Group Takes on LVCVA - 8 News NOW

Jonathan Humbert, Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Policy Group Takes on LVCVA

Posted: Updated:

You may not know the name R&R Partners but you know their work. Hired by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the powerful PR firm created and perfected the What Happens Here, Stays Here campaign. Only it doesn't work as well as it used to.

That's just one of the reasons Nevada Policy Research Institute's Andy Matthews is calling into question the LVCVA's judgment by unveiling a major investigation, "It's an issue that NPRI has called attention to going back years."

Internal testing documents from R&R found in January of 2007, "increasing numbers (say) the ads have "no effect" on their opinion of Las Vegas."

Read the entire NPRI study

Pete Ernaut with R&R doubts those studies, "To make those accusations is just absurd." Even though they were performed by R&R. "We have empirical evidence that not only it's not waning, people are hungry for more of it."

Yet an internal study from June of 2007 found just the opposite, "(72-percent) [of] respondents continue to say the ad [has] "no effect" on their opinion of Las Vegas, while 5-percent say the ads give them a less favorable impression of Las Vegas."

NPRI's Investigative Journalist John Dougherty found consistent favoritism and no bid contracts for R&R and subsidiaries. Some contracts even had dollar figures whited out.

Read statements from the LVCVA

"When it was submitted to the LVCVA, it was done so with the terms that it would be shredded after review," he said.

Dougherty says that's the way things work between R&R and the LVCVA, "It's just basically a rubber stamp operation."

According to an internal audit, the LVCVA gave R&R an actual rubber stamp for purchases above $500. "R&R Partners would use that rubber stamp to approve expenses without approval of the LVCVA," said Dougherty.

The LVCVA would give a verbal go ahead and approve the stamps at a later date. Ernaut says the policy was a bad idea, "In retrospect, it probably shouldn't have done that. It was probably dumb."

Vince Alberta is with the LVCVA, "At first glance, there are factual errors and misleading statements."

He disputed NPRI's allegations of sweetheart land deals and expensive Dubai junkets, but he avoided the words R&R during the conversation. He said the community is better off thanks to the LVCVA, "We generate a return on investment of about 10 times the amount and create jobs and generate money for schools, roads, and parks."

Dougherty and Matthews point out the LVCVA is public entity, open to scrutiny. Its funding comes from public money as room taxes.

"The economy's in free fall, the schools are fighting over money, everybody's fighting over money, yet here's the LVCVA acting like they're a private, fortune 500 corporation," said Dougherty.

NPRI questions that funding as a think tank priding itself on transparency. Yet NPRI is unwilling to talk about its own donors and motivations.

For years, as direct competitors, the LVCVA and Sheldon Adelson's Sands Corporation have had a public fight over marketing. Yet one of NPRI's board members is Bill Wiedner. He can direct policy for the group and happens to be President of Las Vegas Sands.

After pressure, Matthews admitted Sands is a donor to NPRI, "They're one of multiple corporations at have some support for NPRI."

Still, Ernaut says the attacks come with the territory when millions of public dollars are on the table, "Groups like this are always going to want to take you down a peg or what have you and it's okay."

The study also found the head of the LVCVA allegedly used public money for the cost of swanky meals and a fundraiser and awards dinner in Denver. Again, the LVCVA did want to talk specifics at all.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.