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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Politics -- Las Vegas Style
The anatomy of an all-too-typical Sin City election
including triple double crosses, hypocrisy and deceit

"I'm not quitting and I'm very happy serving my constituents and the majority of them are very happy with me." -- Indicted Las Vegas City Councilwoman Janet Moncrief

"There were lies and fictious (sp) fliers. They were sending fliers out underneath my headlines. Those were lies."-- ex-Councilman and FBI "Subject" Michael McDonald

                                KLAS TV News

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 23, 2004

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - The recent felony indictment of Las Vegas City Councilwoman Janet Moncrief on four counts of filing false campaign expense reports and one count of perjury, followed by the release of 150 pages of up-until-now sealed Grand Jury testimony has evidently inspired this columnist to be singled out as the root of her problems. Last week, Councilwoman Moncrief was reported to have told a very reliable source, "I'm gonna get Steve Miller!"

Well, she's gonna have to wait in line! The person she replaced on the Sin City Council, Mike McDonald, I am told, would also love to have a piece of my hide for exposing his motis operandi and mob connections, and his campaign manager is livid because he lost one of his biggest clients.

In early 2003, I was hired as an advisor to an upstart politician. She offered me $25,000 for three months of consulting services, but more important, she promised me the position of Chief Ward Liaison if she won. I accepted and went to work for the attractive 44 year old trauma nurse who wears a 5-kt diamond ring, drives a new BMW convertible, and lives in a half-million dollar house.

Though I was an intricate part of her campaign, it was agreed that my name was not to be mentioned until after her successful election. Then she said she would proudly introduce me as her Liaison for Ward One, and her campaign advisor. We agreed that my presence on the tenth floor of City Hall would immediately catapult her into the most powerful council person, something our city needed to counteract a megalomaniac mayor.

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It was agreed that I was too well known and controversial to surface during the campaign, especially when I would certainly distract from the camera shy nurse who had a rather bland personality. So during the campaign, I had to deny being involved with Moncrief though my fingerprints were visible all over her campaign.

In 2003, two-term Councilman Michael McDonald was named as a subject in an ongoing FBI political corruption probe. The probe includes questions about McDonald's ties to organized crime figures associated with the Crazy Horse Too topless bar, a story that came to light in 1999 when I disclosed that McDonald moved into a half-million dollar Canyon Gate Country Club villa owned by the family of Black Book member Joey Cusumano, a suspected hidden owner of the Crazy Horse. Shortly thereafter, the City of Las Vegas began doing all sorts of dubious favors for the skin joint.

                                            Mike's Canyon Gate digs

During the Spring 2003 municipal election, nurse Moncrief wanted to expose the rent-free-villa story, but didn't want to tarnish her "Angel of mercy" image or offend the mayor and others by talking bad about anyone in their social clique. So, with my help, she enlisted the aid of 69 year old former Marine Peter "Chris" Christoff to be her "stalking horse."

A "stalking horse" is a person or entity that during elections sends out damaging information on a candidate without divulging that the candidate's opponent is the actual sender. That way the sender can pretend to be riding a "white horse" -- gaining favor for not speaking ill of his or her opponent. This is common practice in almost every election including the current presidential where innocuous political action committees are spending millions trying to dirty one or the other candidate. In the meantime, the voters are left to wonder who is actually paying the tab?

In last year's Moncrief - McDonald race, part of my job was to keep the "stalking horse" stalking, and to keep his message factually accurate to prevent libel suits down the line.

Unbeknownst to me, another consultant was busy producing reverse-sting type hit pieces that appeared to be against Moncrief and were sent using McDonald's return address. Janet was involved in the creation of the two highly deceptive fliers -- one that called her a drunk, but was a ploy to gain sympathy, and one sent to Democratic and union voters that purported to come from McDonald and falsely touted his Republican sympathies and opposition to unions.

Two printers testified before the Grand Jury about the fliers and the payments they received. I also testified that the reverse-sting fliers were not my idea or creation, though the verbiage for the antiunion flier was e-mailed to me for editing of grammatical and spelling errors. And at the request of a California printer hired by Moncrief, I had scanned and e-mailed them several McDonald fliers, though I didn't know for what purpose.

When I received the unedited e-mail that stated McDonald, who had just received several union endorsements, was against unions, I immediately called Janet. She said the mailer would be sent using McDonald's return address. I told her the tactic was illegal and could backfire. She argued "nobody will know" because the flier would be mailed first class from California without a bulk mail number that could be traced back to her campaign.

I explained that a similar despicable scheme was used on me in 1999 by the same political campaign manager who was currently running McDonald's campaign, and that I sued him for his actions.

When Janet insisted on sending the reverse-sting fliers against my advice, I should have quit. But I reluctantly ran the verbiage for the antiunion piece through my Spell checker -- sent it back to the printer -- and stayed on hoping the end would justify the means. I intently wanted to get rid of McDonald, one of the most corrupt politicians in the history of Las Vegas, and to resume my good work at City Hall.

After questioning her motives, I was secretly removed from Moncrief's inner circle. However, she continued to use me to write and direct her TV spots and author answers to PAC and special interest questionnaires. She also called me dozens of times per week requesting answers to constituent's questions she was asked during her door to door walks. But, in the back of her mind she no longer trusted my advice, and she began to plan an after-election surprise meant just for me.

At the outset of the campaign, I assisted her in authoring a number of warm and fuzzy letters to voters. Soon it was time for me to produce the first factually accurate attack mailer intended to be sent by Peter Christoff, a well known citizen activist who lives in Moncrief's district. Christoff had filed to run for the council seat anxious to tell the story of how McDonald abandoned his neighborhood. Christoff welcomed someone else paying his printing bill, and that was being offered by Moncrief.

Mr. Christoff knew me when I was the councilman for the same ward in which Moncrief was running, and he appreciated my efforts in cleaning up Meadows Village, the part of town where he owns low income apartments. He, as did I, believed that Janet Moncrief would be a breath of fresh air on the City Council, especially with me by her side eight hours a day at City Hall. However, Christoff and I were about to learn a valuable, but very embarrassing lesson.

The first negative flier I produced for Moncrief included a photo of Mayor Oscar Goodman's signature on a Recall McDonald petition I authored and circulated in 2000, along with Goodman's quotes calling McDonald a "sleazball," "wimp," "lowest form of human being," "piece of garbage," and "vermin."

Moncrief changed her mind and mistakenly thought the "sleaseball" hit piece mailers wouldn't need a sender's name or return address. She also was terrified to think Goodman might find out it was she who used his drunken words in a political mailer!

Moncrief had also changed her mind in regard to promoting Christoff's campaign, so she mailed the negative but factually accurate flier saying it was from the fictitious "Committee to Oust Mike McDonald," -- a violation of then-Nevada law. She thought she could get away with it because she paid extra to have the mailers sent with first class stamps so no bulk mail number could be traced back to her.

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However, she didn't get away with the scheme for long. McDonald's campaign manager immediately filed a disingenuous complaint against her with the Nevada Secretary of State. In it he blamed everyone including Santa Claus of being involved in a "conspiracy." Ironically, his complaint was a perfect example of the "Pot calling the kettle black" because he personally invented the anonamous mailer technique during a campaign he managed in 1999. Unfortunately, the committee he falsly named as the sender sued him.

Presuming that Moncrief could get in trouble, and not wanting to see McDonald win a third term, Christoff took it upon himself to call the newspapers and say he was behind the mailer. This inspired Moncrief to ask Christoff if he would allow her to again start using his name on subsequent hit pieces. He agreed for the second time.

Moncrief paid a printing company called Zignature International $78,505 to produce mailers including five purportedly sent by Christoff. Unfortunately, Moncrief reports paying Zignature a "total" of only $27,902. This may allow a jury to speculate that she might not have wanted to take credit for spending the difference on the printing and postage presumably for Christoff's five mailers -- another violation of Nevada election law.

In contrast to Moncrief's incomplete reports, Christoff, after the election, did report what he estimated to be Moncrief's contributions to his campaign, though his figures were overly conservative.

The second factually accurate hit piece she sent had "Paid for by the Committee to Elect Peter Christoff" in tiny, almost unreadable letters running up the side of a Jim Day political cartoon from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. To justify the minuscule font size, she expressed concern that to give Peter Christoff more name recognition might drive some of her votes his way.

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Side 2:

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Christoff was very unhappy that his name was almost unreadable, so he insisted that it be prominent on all future mailers. He also donated $2,000 to the Moncrief campaign to help her with the printing costs. After taking his money, Moncrief reluctantly complied with his wishes. On the next mailer she put Christoff's name in a slightly larger print, but in obvious protest of his demands, misspelled his name as "Chrs" in the "paid for" tag:

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When Christoff had had enough of his name being hidden or misspelled, he insisted on personally authoring and having full editorial control over all future mailers paid for by Moncrief. With my help, he began expressing his frustrations with McDonald in hard hitting personal letters to voters ending with the slogan "The Marines Have Landed."

Letter #1:

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On a nerve wracking night two days before the election, Moncrief and I personally sat in a room with a dozen supporters licking first class postage stamps and applying them to the final "Christoff mailer." The event that one volunteer described as a "pajama party," occurred when the print shop's stamp machine broke down two hours before the post office's deadline. Ironically, the mailer Moncrief was secretly licking stamps for insulted the people she so wanted to embrace after she was elected: embattled topless bar owner Rick Rizzzlo, and thrice indicted golf course developer Billy Walters.

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The Moncrief-Christoff effort paid off in spades! McDonald's campaign imploded under the weight of his own baggage. Moncrief won the election by a landslide.

The evening of her victory, Rick Rizzolo's arch enemy Buffalo Jim Barrier gave Janet a giant cocktail party at Hurricane Harry's. Hundreds of supporters attended along with the entire cadre of media. Barrier paid to keep the food and drinks flowing until midnight. During the event, Moncrief conspicuously ignored Barrier and myself and the next day denied that Barrier had anything to do with the party. That's when I realized something was seriously wrong.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
"Buffalo" Jim Barrier, an auto shop owner,
says Las Vegas Councilwoman Janet Moncrief
failed to list on her financial disclosure forms an
election night party he donated to her campaign.
Photo by Gary Thompson.

That evening on the 11 pm news, KLAS TV Channel 8 showed me hugging and kissing Janet which inspired a call from her boyfriend, gaming mogul Bob Stupak. He told me I had deeply offended Janet at her party. I asked why? He said I had been photographed hugging her.

I was very hurt, and started to become angry, something I try to avoid. So I left town for some relaxation and time to regroup.

I heard nothing from Councilwoman-elect Janet Moncrief for three weeks -- the three weeks we had planned to spend together preparing for our new jobs at City Hall. Then she broke the silence.

Janet called to ask me to secretly go over her first council agenda and give her tips on how to vote. I told her I would be happy to do so after I was officially hired as her Chief Ward Liaison.

I also told her she would have to disclose to the City Attorney that I was assisting her; that I would need to file a personal financial disclosure document to insure I had no conflicts of interest; and that she would have to list my services on her campaign contribution and expense reports -- all public documents.

She immediately rescinded her request and continued to deny I had any involvement in her campaign. My anger escalated, especially when she forget to pay me the 25 grand!

She called a second time late on the eve of her swearing in. On my answering machine she said, "I hope you can attend my inauguration tomorrow morning. I would be honored if you were there."

I didn't attend her inauguration. Instead, I met with Mr. Christoff to prepare election fraud complaints to back up the one previously filed by McDonald's manager.

Our decision was cinched when McDonald's manager suddenly decided to withdraw his complaint against Moncrief. "Ferrence also said that because of Christoff's apparent effort to piggyback on his original complaint, 'I am now inclined to withdraw my complaint to prevent my name from being associated with Christoff's.'" After reading this in the Las Vegas SUN, we concluded that he filed the complaint only as a campaign ploy to get publicity. However, his sudden ambivalence inspired Christoff and I to take immediate action because it was the right thing to do, and to keep McDonald's campaign manager honest.

Then Moncrief said this when asked by Las Vegas Review-Journal city hall reporter Michael Squires: "What role, if any, will Chris Christoff, Steve Miller or Bob Stupak have in your administration?" Moncrief answered, "As I've always said, I don't know Chris Christoff. I've met him a couple of times. Steve Miller, I met him in my walks. He cornered me and quizzed me to death. Talk about a concerned citizen. He has been on my side rooting me on and was tickled about my winning. But I have no contact with either of them. I guess there were rumors I was going to hire Steve Miller for one of my positions. I'm not going to hire Steve Miller, I don't even know him. (emphasis added)

But she wasn't finished offending those who worked so hard to get her elected. After secretly paying to expose Rick Rizzolo in the "Christoff mailers," Moncrief suddenly announced that her "Transition team" would be led by none other than Rizzolo's personal Public Relations man, Tom Letizia. That was when Ed Koch of the Las Vegas SUN quoted Letizia saying: "I told her (Moncrief) early on that if Steve Miller is involved with this in any way, then I'm out," Letizia said. "She assured me that Steve Miller was not involved during the campaign. She gave me the indication that she never has been involved at any time with him." (emphasis added)

          Mayor Oscar Goodman and Tom Letizia

That was the last straw! Christoff and I immediately turned state's evidence and bolstered McDonald's manager's original complaint before it could be withdrawn as a favor to his other major client, Mayor Oscar Goodman. It was speculated that Goodman was hoping to woo Moncrief by getting McDonald's manager off her back.

Well, Christoff and I filed our amendments before the original complaint could be withdrawn, and our timing reportedly ruined Janet's "inauguration," (though, of course, that was never our intention). In the meantime, it sent a strong message to incumbants and potential candidates -- PLAY FAIR! -- or you could end up like Janet Moncrief and Michael McDonald. The outcome of our effort is now part of Sin City's always fascinating history. No wonder she reportedly wants to "get" me!

Here's the latest news on this burgeoning story:

Vegas councilwoman indicted on felony campaign finance charges
KEN RITTER, Associated Press Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, August 6, 2004

Moncrief failed to report expenses, grand jury told
August 18, 2004
By Sito Negron

Testimony: Stupak was money man
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

CITY COUNCILWOMAN: Moncrief arraignment set
Judge schedules Sept. 8 court date on five felony counts
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal


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