Missiles of October: Politics as high bloodsport


I never need a calendar to tell me mid-October has arrived. The turning of the leaves launches a mysterious endorphin on the wind. It only affects political managers and campaign junkies who rise with one voice: "If you can't convince anybody else to print this stuff, call Barbano."

Over the years, I've gotten leads which could increase a bad TV show's ratings: Alleged evidence of (gasp!) marital infidelity and moral turpitude. Totally turpitudinous judges chilling out at topless bars. Candidates for high statewide office on an unlimited comp at certain establishments of ill fame.

A lot of October stories are no more than personal gripes, "Candidate X screwed me over in a business deal and I want to get back at him."

I've heard from ex-husbands trying to destroy the political careers of former wives, but, curiously, never the other way around. Maybe women mostly want to move on while men are more likely to move in for the kill.

I reserve a special place in political oblivion for those without the chops to fire their own potshots. You know the type: "I only want to run a positive campaign on the issues."

Such a person has no business in public office. A good candidate has a duty to make his case and make the contrast.

I agree with the Travus T. Hipp philosophy of rough-and-tumble campaigning: let 'em say whatever they want about each other. It's up to us to sort it all out.

Us includes you, me, and our minions, the media. Hell, without politicians to correct, there would be little reason to print a paper.

Rather than disseminate dirt of doubtful purpose and parentage, I herewith submit questions you might pose before you vote.

WHAT KIND OF PERSON WOULD SUPPORT MEDICAL MARIJUANA? How about former Gov. Mike O'Callaghan (D) in his Las Vegas Sun column. Try the ultra-conservative editors of Nevada's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  Both endorsed Nevada Ballot Question 9 last Friday. Far out.

FOR RENO MAYOR JEFF GRIFFIN: Why did the taxpayers of Reno have to pay $1,500 in public money for that recent Reno Gazette-Journal full page ad in which you touted your accomplishments? If you're so willing to tap the public purse this close to an election, do you really merit the huge pay raise you so desire? Couldn't your bulging campaign warchest easily fund such an ad?

High on Mayor Griffin's list of self congratulation was the world class kegger thrown here last summer for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In addition to some $550,000 in downtown Reno improvements, roughly $1 million was spent to support the event by a private corporation started with City of Reno money. So much was raised that dollars are still being disbursed, including charitable contributions, according to what Mr. Griffin recently stated in a televised debate.

A list of donors was published by the Reno Gazette-Journal. However, Hizzoner has stonewalled detailing the spending.

"When I asked people for money, I didn't tell them it was going to be (public)," Griffin told the Reno paper.

That's not good enough. Lack of disclosure makes this potential slush fund look just plain questionable. Among the largest contributors ($50,000 each) were Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, and Hilton Hotels Corp. Free-spending tobacco companies won pro-smoking laws from Nevada politicos last year. Hilton is one of Nevada's worst abusers of employee rights.

THIS JUST IN: As reported here and nowhere else, a federal judge last June ruled that the Reno Hilton fired its entire security staff in retaliation for unionizing. Axing people for such activity has been illegal since 1935.

A few days ago, the National Labor Relations Board turned down Hilton's appeal of the judge's order which mandated not only immediate rehiring, but also full back pay and benefits. Hilton must shortly decide whether or not to take its case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, just one rung below the U.S. Supreme Court.

So far, the world's largest gambling outfit has shown readiness to pay high-priced lawyers and expensive union-busting consultants rather than its own workers.

ATTENTION ANY RAILROAD WORKER OR RETIREE WITH A LONG MEMORY: Please call me. I'm looking for old timers to interview about the railroad people who built Sparks as the Rail City. I want folks who might remember when there was little to the city but the tracks and the future.

BUY LOTS OF COPIES of the October 20 edition of "Woman's World" magazine, available for just a buck and a quarter at any grocery checkout until the issue date. (New editions arrive a week before their official publication dates.) It carries a full page story about Rosalind Clarke, the California visitor who saved Assemblyman Bob Price's (D-North Las Vegas) life at the Reno airport earlier this year. The magazine used a photo which first appeared with this column last April 5.

POLICE BLOTTO REPORT: A few days ago, local cops responded to an emergency call about a very large and largely drunken man allegedly threatening suicide. The subject allegedly attempted to shoot himself in the head on nine occasions. And allegedly missed each time. Fortunately, he was in an alleged upstairs apartment, so the bullets hit nothing but an alleged chandelier. Which came crashing down on his alleged head.

The landlord may be sued for failure to install bulletproof ceiling fixtures.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and was campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 10/18/98.