Strange bedfellows in hot pursuit of lady liberty


Unless you've been in Timbuktu for the past six months, you know I'm running the gubernatorial campaign of longtime Sen. Joe Neal (D-North Las Vegas). Should he win, it will rank as the biggest upset of the century.

He's not only a liberal, he's a black liberal. Impossible?

As an observant Frenchman noted three decades ago, American politics is a history of flukes, impossible dreams which came true.

My Tribune colleague in columny Dennis Myers noted earlier this year that the longshot Neal has at minimum created a statewide forum for certain populist issues. Next year, Neal will return to Carson City either in the statehouse or the senate with a well-defined agenda carrying increased public support.

As this newspaper reported last week, he has already submitted bill draft requests to increase the gross gaming tax on Nevada's largest hotel-casinos and to repeal casino mogul Steve Wynn's art collection loophole.

Support for Sen. Neal's populist positions is coming from some of the damndest places and thereby hangs a strange tale of liberty for Independence Day.

The Democratic underdog's themes have picked up more steam among Republican heavy hitters than in the hidebound higher echelons of his own party.

Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren, a GOP candidate for governor, has echoed Neal's call for a gaming tax increase.

Republican Liberty Caucus chairman Charles Muth recently endorsed Sen. Neal's proposal to repeal the despised business activity tax (BAT). The regressive BAT imposes a fee on every employee, penalizing creation of new jobs when they are most needed during tough economic times.

The batty levy was placed on the books by Democratic Gov. Bob Miller (D) at the height of the 1991-92 recession. Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Kenny Guinn has made much of his involvement working for Miller to cut and balance the budget at the time.

What Guinn never adds is that he and Miller balanced their budget on the backs of Nevada workers injured on the job. State employees also paid a high price, going years without raises while their workload increased because those who quit were not replaced.

What does it mean when conservative Republicans start endorsing positions and disseminating news items from a liberal Democrat, as Mr. Muth has? What does it mean when a conservative agrees with a liberal's call for a tax increase on the state's largest industry?

It means that firebrands from the reactionary right to the radical left see some serious wrongs which only robust, open, no-holds-barred debate can correct. As Justice Louis Brandeis said so long ago, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Readers of last Sunday's Tribune were mildly shocked that Ira Hansen and I took parallel paths to roughly the same place on worker justice, export of jobs and international trade.

If there's a common thread to all this, it's concern for the erosion of the liberty we all hold dear. America suffers from her own excesses. We either correct this unhealthful situation, or the body politic's problems may move from chronic to morbid to terminal.

So, happy Independence Day, all you right-wing nutsos and left-wing hippies. Keep up the good fight, stir the pot and kick some butt.

CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST: As I predicted in 1996, the financial shenanigans of the University and Community College System of Nevada have brought an IRS audit. As I also forecast, the university foundations are the focus. I hope another of my warnings does not come true: that the IRS may revoke the tax exemption of the institution as a result.

You will find my complete series of university exposÚs still posted on the web at. Start with the column for October 27, 1996, and read just about everything for the next six months and you'll get an idea of the magnitude of the problem.

This will directly impact the gubernatorial race. Kenny Guinn has made a campaign issue of his "rescue" of UNLV from a $10 million deficit. Read what I reported about that financial shell game a couple of years ago, then watch the IRS drama unfold.

(Please note that in the above, I intentionally avoided reference to anyone Sen. Neal faces in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary.)

JUSTICE AT LAST: The Reno Hilton has been found guilty of illegally firing its union security guards early last year. The National Labor Relations board has ordered reinstatement at full back pay and benefits for the courageous little group which fought the empire and won. You read it here first.

BOYS IN THE HOOD AWARD goes to the Elko Daily Free Press. In a May 29 editorial about homosexuals and the AIDS epidemic, the editors stated "there is a queer in the woodpile." Such economy of insult must not go unrewarded. In just seven words, they demeaned African-Americans, gays and every non-bigot. (For those unfamiliar with the original racist epithet, substitute for "queer" a word that rhymes with "trigger.")

The Elko clan concluded by trashing AIDS victims as worse than tobacco corporations for spreading disease.

The rant was an insult to the newspaper's readers, its community and the freedom of the press we celebrate this weekend.


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 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 7/5/98.