Home>Feature>Cegavske Paid $1 Million To ‘Connected’ Reno PR Firm for 2020 Mail-In Ballots

"Mail It In" campaign Nevada created by KPS3 for NV SOS. (Photo: KPS3)

Cegavske Paid $1 Million To ‘Connected’ Reno PR Firm for 2020 Mail-In Ballots

Accounting has not been provided for $744,000 of media buys

By Robert Lauer, March 29, 2022 3:19 pm

In March 2020, Governor Sisolak mandated a statewide lockdown in order to ‘flatten the curve’ of Covid 19 infections and hospitalizations. At that time, Sisolak asked Nevada Secretary of State (NVSOS) Barbara Cegavske to conduct the June 2020 by mail and with mail-in ballots—which was not allowed under Nevada law.

On March 24, 2020 Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske released this public statement:

“Because of the many uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the immediate need to begin preparations for the 2020 primary election, it became necessary for me to take action regarding how the election will be conducted. Based on extensive conversations with Nevada’s 17 county election officials, we have jointly determined that the best option for the primary election is to conduct an all-mail election.”

In order to permanently fix this illegality, during the August special legislative session, the Democratic majority legalized mail in ballots for Nevadans without bipartisan support. Former Nevada gubernatorial candidate,  Attorney General and current US Senate candidate Adam Laxalt tweeted, “Gov. Sisolak and the Nevada Democrats called a special session with no public present and inside 24 hours are ramming through mail-in balloting and ballot harvesting. They are massively altering our election 97 days out entirely without the Secretary of State. They are working to steal our election.”

What also wasn’t public, until now, is that Cegavske paid $1 million to a local, boutique Reno public relations firm called KPS3 to create and launch a “Mail It In Nevada” campaign. The contract started April 13, 2020 and ended June 30, 2020. According to emails provided by the NV SOS office to The Globe, Cegasvke failed to follow statutory open-bidding laws.

In additional emails obtained by The Globe, KPS3 told the SOS staff about their experience and listed Sisolak’s policy analyst, Madison Huntley, as a reference.

I spoke directly with KPS3’s President, Rob Gaedtke, who signed the contract with the NV SOS. Gaedtke said he submitted his bid but he “couldn’t recall” how he heard about the opportunity to work for the state nor could he remember the bidding process.

In addition, Gaedtke had no idea who Madison Huntley is, even though she is listed as his firm’s reference, nor did he recall how the $1 million of taxpayer funds were spent.

Political references submitted by KPS3 for $1 million contract from NV SOS (Photo: obtained through open records request)

To date, the NV SOS office has failed to provide emails and communications about how they solicited bids for this $1 million contract or how they chose KPS3 as their PR firm.

Today, the Globe served the Nevada Secretary of State’s office with another open records request for a detailed breakdown of how the money was spent and a detailed accounting of the bidding and selection process that led to KPS3 being awarded the contract, even though it was supposed to have been included in our original open records request.

The contract clearly states KPS3 is authorized to spend between $244K and $744K on media buys. So any money not spent on media buys would need to be returned to taxpayers. Per the contract, the monies spent would not be authorized without approval of the NV SOS office.

KPS3 Budget submitted to NV SOS office (Photo: NVSOS open records request)

According to the NV SOS’s campaign reporting website, the founding owner of KPS3, Stephanie Kruse, has made more than 50 donations to locally elected officials, which may explain the number of government entities KPS3 lists as clients, including University of Reno Medical School, Nevada Health Link Silver State Health Insurance and UNR—to name just a few.

In addition to the $1 million the Nevada Secretary of State’s office spent with KPS3, another email shows they spent more than $4 million on the actual mail-in ballots. These funds were spent without legislative approval or by the interim legislative committee that is charged with reviewing such regulatory and budgetary changes between sessions.

$4mill to conduct mail in ballots for NV primary election (Photo obtained through open records request).

GOP candidate for NV SOS Gerard Ramalho told The Globe:

“I have been a vocal opponent of both ballot harvesting and universal vote by mail laws passed on party-line votes. I am even more opposed to using taxpayer dollars to advocate for controversial voter programs enacted for purely partisan purposes. Fair elections, and the funding of all efforts around our elections, should always be transparent.”

GOP candidate for NV SOS Jim Marchant also weighed in:

“This is exactly why I am running, to fight Sisolak and his corrupt, lawless administration. If, God forbid, Sisolak is reelected I will protect election integrity and stand up to Sisolak and his cronies every single day.”

This is a developing story.

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