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Bush Pioneer Gambles on Reid

Nevada GOP Consultant Rogich Helping Senate Minority Whip

Sig Rogich, a powerful Nevada-based Republican political consultant and corporate communications guru with close ties to President Bush, is working behind the scenes to generate support for Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) 2004 re-election bid, according to several Silver State sources.

One conservative Nevada political activist received a call placed from Rogich’s Las

Vegas consulting firm, The Rogich Communications Group, earlier this year inviting the activist to a meeting for predominantly conservative and Republican supporters of Reid.

“[The employee] wanted me to serve on a steering committee for [Reid] to help with conservatives,” said the activist, who did not want to be named. “She was inviting me to a meeting and to talk to Harry [Reid] to see if I’d be willing to serve on a committee.”

The call surprised the activist, given Rogich’s Republican affiliation.

A high-profile consultant who once worked for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Rogich served as a “Pioneer” — the term for those individuals who raised at least $100,000 — for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.

This past May, Rogich told The Associated Press that he likely had the financial donors lined up to move into the newly created “Ranger” category of Bush fundraiser, which requires a pledge to raise at least $200,000.

Rogich also serves as finance co-chairman for the Republican Governors Association. His corporate clients have included Nevada’s powerful gaming industry and former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.

“I just thought that it was a little strange to have him be a national representative of the Republican Party and always bringing President Bush in and touting his tight connections to the Republican Party and then having someone out of his office pulling together a group for Harry Reid,” said the activist who received the phone call.

Rogich, who was traveling in Russia last week, said through Megan Jones, an account executive at The Rogich Communications Group and former Reid staffer, that he has “a longstanding friendship with Reid and a longstanding history of consulting for the Republican Party.” He declined further comment.

“With Sig, friendship transcends politics,” Jones said.

Asked to comment on Rogich’s efforts to assist Reid, Reid’s campaign manager, Sean Sinclair, said only that Rogich and Reid were “lifelong friends.”

The Reid campaign is in the initial stages of organizing a Republicans for Reid group, however.

“I know that there is a very aggressive effort to demonstrate bipartisan support,” said Roy Behr, a media consultant for Reid’s re-election campaign. “Sig Rogich is the most important non-elected Republican in the state and if he is helping Reid it would be a very important signal to Republicans and a very big problem for whoever the Republican nominee is.”

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.), Reid’s leading potential challenger, was notified that Rogich was working to generate support for the Reid campaign.

“Some of Jim Gibbons’ supporters have contacted him about this concern, and when our office discussed this directly with Mr. Rogich he denied any role,” said Gibbons Chief of Staff Robert Uithoven.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Rogich has given at least $3,000 to Gibbons since the 1998 election cycle. Members of Rogich’s family have also been Gibbons contributors in that time.

The news that Rogich is apparently aiding Reid was a surprise to the Republican Governors Association.

“We are not aware of Sig having any role in the Reid campaign,” RGA Executive Director Edward Tobin said in a statement.

Throughout Nevada political circles, however, it is widely whispered that Rogich is helping to organize support for Reid, likely through his considerable fundraising prowess.

“I think Sig is trying to do everything he can to help Senator Reid,” said a Democratic operative.

“I think [Republicans] are more concerned about what his role will be and how important it will be … I think they are trying to gauge how much he’s willing to do for the Reid campaign,” said one Democratic consultant.

The latest campaign reports, due out Tuesday, will likely show that Rogich’s daughter, Erin Rogich, gave the maximum $4,000 to Reid’s fundraising committee, Friends for Harry Reid, during the second quarter, said a Reid campaign source.

Those familiar with Silver State politics, however, say it’s not unusual for individuals to cross party lines, particularly in local and state elections.

Rogich gave Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) $1,000 in 1998, according to campaign finance reports, and he also contributed $1,000 that year to an unsuccessful Democratic Congressional candidate in New Mexico, Phil Maloof.

“At the state level, party label breeds little loyalty,” said Eric Herzik, a Nevada political analyst and professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. “[It] is not as true at the federal level because of national party influences.”

“I think this is a very small state, and when people have worked and known each other for the better part of their adult lives it’s not uncommon for friends to cross the aisle,” said a Nevada political strategist. “I don’t think it would surprise people to see someone like Sig reaching out and making some sort of gesture toward the senior Senator who’s very important to the inner workings of the state.”

An October 2002 Las Vegas Life magazine article listing the 25 most powerful people in Las Vegas placed Reid at the very top of the list; Rogich finished 18th.

One Nevada Republican operative who maintains that Rogich made phone calls arranging for people to be part of a finance committee for Reid’s re-election bid said Rogich’s national position in the Republican Party makes his support for Democrats unacceptable.

“When you’ve been given that responsibility … and then you go and you support in your own home state a Democrat who happens to attack our president freely at whim, I just think there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that,” the operative said.