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GOP convention in Las Vegas: Old idea, new life

If anyone doesn’t think Republicans in Nevada are serious about bringing the 2016 Republican National Convention to Las Vegas, check out the extremely well-done “It’s what we do” video produced to woo the GOP’s decision-makers at the Republican National Committee at www.lasvegas2016.com.

And while you might think that bringing the convention to Nevada is a new idea, it’s actually been around for almost 20 years now. In 1995, the Nevada Republican Party landed the Western States Republican Leadership Conference, which was held in the fall at the relatively new MGM Grand on the Strip. The GOP’s national committeeman at the time, Tom “Big Dog” Wiesner, was largely responsible for bringing the leadership conference to Las Vegas.

Wiesner, political consultant Benay Stout and a few others created the Keystone Corporation that year for two purposes: (1) to solicit corporate sponsors to underwrite the Western States Republican Leadership Conference, and (2) build on the event to hopefully bring the Republican National Convention to Las Vegas sometime in the future.

The Keystone group was extremely effective at No. 1, and the event was a smashing success — even though presidential candidate Bob Dole threw a fit over including a straw poll in the program and threatened not to come if such a poll was conducted. But over subsequent years, interest in bringing the national convention to Nevada waned among members, and Keystone morphed into more of a pro-business PAC helping to elect fiscally conservative candidates.

Meanwhile, Nevada GOP Chairman John Mason, who headed the party during the ’95 WSRLC, was appointed to the RNC’s prestigious Site Selection Committee for the 2000 national convention. But the GOP — at the time strongly influenced by social conservatives — still wasn’t quite ready for “Sin City,” and awarded the convention that year to Philadelphia. Mason moved on as chairman not long after, and interest in bringing the national convention to Las Vegas pretty much died out with his departure.

But last April, at the Republican National Committee meeting in Beverly Hills, Calif., current Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald made a new presentation proposing Las Vegas as the host city for the 2016 national convention. The idea sat idle for most of the summer, but caught fire among other Nevada GOP folks in the fall.

And before you knew it a nonprofit organization, “Las Vegas 2016,” sprung up (because of modern-day campaign finance laws, you can’t run such an event through the state party organization any longer; thanks for nothing, John McCain!) and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki was placed in charge of the project. Gov. Brian Sandoval and all of Nevada’s GOP congressional members are also now onboard.

If the RNC does bring the 2016 (or 2020) national convention to Las Vegas, we can all thank Chairman McDonald for reviving an old idea whose time may have finally come.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com