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Question 3: Dissecting the political ads


Supporters of the Energy Choice Constitutional Amendment known as Question 3 are accusing the CEO of NV Energy of lying when he said in a 2016 interview that the company would not oppose or spend money to defeat the initiative.

The measure passed overwhelmingly in 2016, and is on the ballot again this November.

Politics Now co-host Steve Sebelius took a look at the ad and found some parts true, and others misleading.

Question 3 is undoubtedly the most controversial, and most expensive, measure on the ballot this year.

Both sides are spending big to persuade Nevada residents to restructure the energy market, shedding the current NV Energy monopoly in favor of allowing residents and businesses to choose their own electricity supplier from a variety of companies.

And that spending is part of what’s behind the latest ad from the Yes on Question 3 Campaign. In the ad, NV Energey CEO Paul Caudill says, “We have not spent a dime to fight it. We will not spend a dime to fight it.”

The announcer calls his response a “NV Energy lie.” And says the company is spending $30 million do defeat the ballot question.

Not only did NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill say the company wouldn’t oppose or spend money against the measure in 2016, but when he was asked in that interview about spending money this year, he repeated his promise not to spend a dime.

But sure enough, in Feb. NV Energy announced it had joined a coalition fighting the measure, which pledged to spend an unprecedented $30 million against it.

So, that claim is true.

But Caudill changed his mind and the company’s stance in response to the campaign in favor of Question 3.

Caudill told the Nevada Independent in a Nov. interview that “loosely accurate or inaccurate information” had made it increasingly difficult for him and the company to remain neutral. He specifically cited information about energy rates as an example.

Three months later, the company was part of the campaign against the measure.

The ad goes on to say, … “because the more you pay, the more the NV Energy monopoly profits from you. The Review-Journal called their no on 3 campaign ‘fear-mongering propaganda.'”

Here, there’s a little confusion.

There’s a citation to the Las Vegas Sun that you see on your screen from a 2013 story about former NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira cashing out $21 million in stock after Warren Buffett’s mid-America energy holdings comapny purchased NV Energy that year.

But the headline that appears on screen is for a 2014 Las Vegas Sun story that talked about an increase in profits and dividends as well as rates. But once again, that was under Yackira’s tenure.

Caudill didn’t join the company until late 2013 and didn’t take over as CEO from Yackira until June 2014. So, that part of the ad is misleading.

And while NV Energy rates did increase, the company’s average residential rates are well below the national average, and lower than all but 12 other states, according to the Federal Energy Information Administration.

And that reference to the Review-Journal was not to the newspaper’s editorial page, or even to a news story. instead, the line about fear-mongering propaganda came from an op-ed piece submitted to the paper by Chuck Muth, president of the conservative group Citizen Outreach.

Essays like that are considered the opinion of the author only, and not the view of the newspaper. So, that claim is also misleading.

We won’t know exactly how much the coalition against Question 3 has spent on the initiative until at least Oct. 18, when the next contribution report is filed.

As of the last report in June, the coalition to defeat Question 3 had spent more than $12 million, while the pro-Question 3 group, Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices had spent nearly $2 million.

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