'Tough on crime' Nevada GOP Senate nominee Laxalt took donation from accused arms smuggler

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The Nevada Republican took the legal maximum from Curtis Debord, who was indicted for illegal weapons trafficking in the late 1990s.

Nevada Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt, who is running as a tough-on-crime candidate, has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from a donor who was once indicted for illegally importing and selling weapons.

A judge dismissed the charges against the donor, Curtis Debord, in 2005.

Laxalt served as Nevada's attorney general from 2015 to 2019, and he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018. He is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in November's midterm election.

Throughout the campaign, Laxalt has positioned himself as "tough on crime" and has accused Cortez Masto of not stopping enough rapists and murderers during her own tenure as state attorney general.

Debord, an executive at the Nevada-based defense contractor U.S. Ordnance, gave Laxalt the legal maximum contribution of $5,800 in September 2021, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

State campaign finance records show that since 2018, Debord has given a total of $55,000 to Laxalt's state campaigns and to Morning in Nevada PAC, a conservative political action committee.

"Morning in Nevada PAC was created in 2015 by friends of then-Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt. The PAC's mission is to identify, educate, motivate and activate citizens in Nevada to advance conservative causes and elect conservative candidates," the committee's website reads.

In 1997, Debord and another individual were indicted in a federal court on charges of conspiracy to smuggle $5 million worth of illegal weapons and weapons parts from Vietnam into the United States. In 1998, the two were also charged with witness tampering and selling arms without a license.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty; the charges were dismissed in 2005 after a district judge found their constitutional rights to a speedy trial and due process had been violated.

Spokespeople for the Laxalt Senate campaign and the Morning in Nevada PAC did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.

Laxalt strongly opposes gun safety laws.

He has apparently flip-flopped on extreme risk protection orders, commonly known as "red flag" laws, which temporarily disarm people judged to be a risk to themselves or others. After Laxalt had previously opposed such measures, in response to the mass shooting in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Laxalt's office released a school safety plan recommending "that the Nevada Legislature study the impacts of red flag laws in other states, and possibly consider enacting similar laws in Nevada as early as the 2019 legislative session."

In 2019, as Laxalt ran for Senate, his primary rival Sam Brown used the plan's recommendation against Laxalt when he campaigned as a Second Amendment champion, issuing a statement that read in part, "That's a major difference between myself and Adam Laxalt. I would never recommend giving a predominantly liberal judiciary nearly unfettered discretion to take away any citizens' rights, including the Second Amendment."

Laxalt's campaign website now notes that he "has stood tall in support of the second amendment at every turn. As Attorney General, he vigorously defended the gun rights of Nevadans and has been lauded for his work by the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. Adam worked collaboratively with legislators, raising money through a PAC to message against red flag laws in Nevada."

Laxalt is not the only Nevada Republican this cycle who has accepted campaign cash from Debord. Sigal Chattah, the Republican nominee for Nevada attorney general, accepted a $10,000 donation from him. Chattah told the American Independent Foundation she would not return Debord's contribution.

"Mr. Debord is a patriot and continues to supply weapons and defense systems to the United States military," Chattah said. "I will not be returning any campaign contributions from Mr. Debord, and on the contrary, as a company that provides for U.S. defense systems from the state of Nevada, I'm proud that our state has a business that can contribute to the defense of the United States."

Recent polls have shown the race between Laxalt and Cortez Masto to be neck-and-neck.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.