Saturday, May 13, 2006

(3) KENT ORAM, GEORGE KNAPP AND FRIENDS

While there are many branches to the Las Vegas network of bribery and influence, it is clear from the publicly available data that Kent Oram is an eye of the storm and and provides a good point from which to start the story because everything else ripples outward. Other focal points revolve around Oscar Goodman, R & R Advertising (Billy Vasilliades and Sig Rogich) and finally "Mr. Cleanface" Harry Reid. To keep track of the whole ant farm of corruption, one needs a map of the players.

The accompanying chart clarifies the links in the G-Sting scandal, but more importantly it shows G-Sting is just a small part of a larger web of political corruption. The chart shows Oram is immediately connected to three of the indicted former Commissioners (he was campaign consultant to Erin Kenny, Michael McDonald and Lance Malone). It also shows a link to Mark James, who we'll see should have been indicted but as a lawyer is somewhat smarter and heard footsteps. But the web goes much beyond this and shows Oram's involvement in other political buyoffs done through the police department, police unions, a subsidiary public relations company called Paladin Advertising, through the Culinary Union, through Oscar Goodman, all the way to Harry Reid and other entities to influence elections and threaten opponents. The picture painted by this research is of a corrupt Las Vegas political culture centered around Oram, Rogich, Goodman, Vasilliades and Reid who have on their whim compromised politicians, the police, developers, unions, topless bars, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority and made Southern Nevada a shady shakedown enterprise.


ORAM HAS RUN MORE THAN 100 NEVADA CAMPAIGNS


Oram got his start in Las Vegas as a campaign manager for the notorious Sheriff Ralph Lamb, who was rumored to take undesirables out into the desert for beatings. Oram may also have been involved with Floyd Lamb (Ralph's brother), until Floyd got caught taking a bribe in the Yobo sting run by FBI agent Yablonski in 1983. Rather than being a fluke, it becomes apparent that Oram is a magnet for corrupt politicians. His longevity and ability to avoid responsibility for any side effects of his dirty dealing in part stems from is ability to link himself to the police department, either running or being tied to the campaigns of Ralph Lamb, John Moran, Jerry Keller and the current Sheriff Bill Young. Other ties to other power brokers like former Governor Miller (ran campaign), current Attorney General Brian Sandoval, and Kenny Guinn (helped campaign run by Billy Vasilliades) means Oram can almost always triangulate an escape route because he knows where the skeletons are buried.


In the early 1990's, Oram did political consulting for the American Nuclear Energy Council on Yucca Mountain (ANEC). Oram got that contract because he had run Governor Miller's campaign in 1990 and it was thought Oram could juice the Yucca Mountain deal with Miller. Oram is big on competitive pistol shooting, in part because it allows him to keep close ties with the police department. Rumor has it at the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office that Oram's police connections were used to build a dossier on one Steve Frishman, an opposing technical consultant for NWPO. This pattern of using insider police information for political purpose is a long running thread in these events, and will becovered many more time in this expose. Police ties also likely explains the connections to former policemen/commissioners Lance Malone and Michael MacDonald, as well as events like the release of Janet Moncrief's DUI record.


As part of the Yucca Mountain opposition research, a media response team headed by another longtime political consultant, Don Williams, was put in place to deal with local reporters as friendly peers. Williams,was hired because he had been a campaign consultant for Rep, Jim Bilbray D-Nev. and for Harry Reid's ill fated 1974 campaign against Bob Laxalt, and was expected to convince Reid of the nuclear industry's position. Don William's history included working for Circus Circus, the Culinary Union, and by his own stories he dealt with various mob elements. He has told colleagues in the past that Steve Wynn had a hit put out against him regarding Williams' position on a monorail that would have affected Wynn's gaming properties, and has described Wynn as a product of the Buffalo mob. But William's connections to Reid are most important here because they are one more little thread linking the Senator to the greater G-Sting situation (i.e., Reid is no naive waif in Nevada politics, he knows as well as anyone where the political bones are buried).

Don Williams in turn hired KLAS Channel 8 news anchors George Knapp and Brian Gresh with ANEC money to act as spokespersons.

At a May 1992 nuclear utility conference in Washington, Knapp acknowledged that part of his job was to compile "dossiers" on key Yucca Mountain opponents, so Knapp knows about Oram's underhanded use of police contacts. While Knapp was nominally hired by Don Williams, Williams reported to Oram who ran the Yucca Mountain campaign, so Knapp is no innocent in regards to the dirty inside of political consulting. Knapp continued his ties with Oram, contributing to county commissioner Don Schlesinger's defeat in 1994 to none other than Erin Kenny (the most easily bribed of those in the G-Sting scandal). Oram was the political consultant for Erin Kenny, but he made use of Knapp (who was allowed to work at the KLAS station while still on the nuclear industry and Oram's payroll) who aired inflammatory stories about Schlesinger.


George Knapp - shock shock - is also the reporter who scooped the G-Sting scandal, and Knapp likely tipped off Oram to events now unfolding. In a November article in the Mercury, Knapp revealed that he had two friends separately tell him about the G-Sting investigation 15 months before the story broke. It is likely one of those friends was Kent Oram, however the question is whether these conversations provided unidirectional information to Knapp, or were preemptive damage control. In other words, was Oram exchanging information with Knapp to keep himself out of the headlights of the G-Sting scandal? Well, it appears Knapp was in on the scandal as early as 1992 ("Knappster first learned about this probe almost a year ago." = May 2002).

Thursday, November 13, 2003Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Knappster: Feds kept G-Sting probe under wraps for months

By George Knapp

Looking back, it's somewhat amazing that the Operation G-Sting investigation was kept secret for so long. How can it be, in a town that leaks more than Washington, a town in which all the power players know each other well, that this explosive tale didn't become public knowledge long before the FBI dropped the hammer? The short answer is this: Several people did know about the probe, but it appears the primary targets were too stupid, or too greedy, to care.

By all indications, Knappster was the first journalist in Las Vegas to learn that something was up. It happened about 15 months before the feds raided Mike Galardi's clubs and served papers on local politicians. A friend of mine told me he had some very damaging information about local politicians and their dealings with Galardi. We met, and he laid out the scenario in which local politicos were using Mike Galardi like he was their personal ATM machine. It was certainly intriguing, but I had no idea how I would ever gather enough info to go with the story.

The very next day, another trusted source, out of the blue, told me the same story. The details were strikingly similar, down to the amounts of money that had allegedly been paid under the table. There was no chance whatsoever that the two sources were getting their information from the same place. Their lives simply don't intersect at any point I could discern. This second source added some blockbuster info--that the FBI was already hot on the trail of this seamy tale.

Since I had a reasonably good relationship with the FBI, I laid out some of what I had learned for an agent I knew. He almost choked on his lunch.He asked if I would be willing to meet with higher-ups at the bureau, and I agreed. The meeting was held days later, and I explained in some detail what I had learned about the relationships between Mike Galardi and a small army of politicians. The G-men wanted to know if there was any way I could hold off on the story until the investigation was further down the line. They worried that a premature news item might alert their targets and scuttle the whole thing. I agreed to hold off, as long as they agreed to make sure I got the story first and to let me know if any rivals were on the same trail.

Mighty convenient, his two friends had the same story at the same time, knew the participants, and even knew the money amounts. If these friends weren't the FBI, and they certainly weren't politicians taking the bribes, then they had to be powerful political insiders, it isn't like the cleaning lady knows details like this. And if they were insiders, then they must have known what was going on for a long time and had covered up things, but were now talking to Knapp because there was fire at their own feet. In other words, they were corrupt too. Well, there aren't that many people in Vegas with that kind of power and knowledge, but someone who could have (and should have) known details was the political consultant to [Erin Kenny, Lance Malone, Michael MacDonald, Sheriff Young, Mark James, Oscar Goodman, etc.]. Other than Kent Oram, not a lot of people fit that bill, plus know Knapp intimately enough to trust him. But of course, Kent Oram stays out of the news and doesn't leave wire tapped phone conversations, unless he wants to, so there would never be a trail between bribes and politicians, still he should be right in the middle of the whole mess.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Knappster: 'G-Sting' is just tip of iceberg

By George Knapp

Ah, but it could have been even bigger. Think of it this way. When the FBI began its inquiry, Dario Herrera was still a rising political star. People figured he was a shoo-in to be elected to Congress, and perhaps, to higher office. The G-men who were hot on his trail had to know that, by the time it was all over, they might be going after a U.S. congressman and, by inference, the powerful people who helped put him there. But there was more.

They also had a shot at bagging Nevada's lieutenant governor. I recall sitting outside Cheetahs one night last October. I had been told that a special guest would be dropping by the club that night--County Commissioner and lieutenant governor hopeful Erin Kenny was said to be coming by. We sat around for a few hours, waiting to grab a few video snippets of Kenny entering the club. We didn't get the shot but were told later that lawmen who were also on stakeout got plenty of photo-ops.

Informed sources say that, once inside, Ms. Kenny was introduced to a gathering of topless dancers. Club management described her as a friend of the industry and a friend of hoochie-koochie girls everywhere, then asked the girls to pony up some campaign money for the commissioner. Ms. Kenny also made the rounds that night at Jaguars, where she once again passed around the hat. Having spent many an hour inside such establishments in my younger years, I am not one to cast judgment on the practice of shedding one's clothes for money. I don't see anything wrong with it, as long as it is by mutual consent, and thus there's nothing unseemly about visiting one of these joints either. But is it wise for a political candidate to travel in such circles, to hang out with naked women and horny drunks and grovel for handouts at nudie joints? For goshsakes, that's why God invented bagmen. Officially, the G-men who've been chasing this G-string caper have nothing to say. Unofficially, they tell me they are simply flabbergasted over the audacity shown by their targets. Knappster first learned about this probe almost a year ago. In the months since, word has filtered around town that something was up. The three main targets of the investigation--Herrera, Kenny and Mary Kincaid-Chauncey--HAD to know that something was going on. But, according to sources, they continued to act in the same haughty way, continued to accept favors and gifts, continued to blab away on their telephones and cellulars. That's the part that truly amazes the lawmen who were/are after their asses.

So Knapp, who had helped on Erin Kenny's campaign behalf against Don Schlesinger (which featured an attempt to "out" Schlesinger), was allowed to tape Kenny taking bribes from Galardi, AND there was no leakage from Knapp?

Most Southern Nevadans have surmised for some time that, when all of the stories related to the G-Sting scandal come oozing out, the image of our community will take a hard hit. Let me tell you--you don't know the half of it. As someone who is privvy to some of the beans that Galardi has spilled, I feel safe in the prediction that our town will be shaken to its tainted foundation, and business will never be the same. The dirt is about to be dished.Thursday, September 25, 2003Copyright © Las Vegas MercuryKnappster: Many G-Sting bombshells still to come By George Knapp

If all this is true, and Knapp was "privy to some of the beans", then a coverup to protect Oram would involve not only Knapp in the media, but FBI and police sources compromised to get “the story”, making this coverup far more dangerous than the petty grifting of Malone, Kenny, McDonald, et. al. Oram had a son-in-law who worked for the FBI, as well as numerous connections in the police Department, much less running sheriff Young's campaign, so the systemic rot likely extends quite far.


Consequently, no matter what the order of events, Oram was likely told by insider Knapp and/or insider police that a sting was under way. This is important because as evidenced by the flow chart, Oram was at the center of the storm since he acted as political consultant to Kenny, Malone, MacDonald, Goodman, Sheriff Young and others all the way up to Gov. Guinn. So is Oram a guiltless innocent being tarred for random associations? His other activities suggests he knew very well of the activities of Malone, Kenny and McDonald, and even Herrera and Kincaid Chauncey.

Oram should be in a heap of trouble right now. Either he ratted out just about every client he consulted over the last ten years, or he is hiding a lot of evidence (only possible if he is getting a pass from friends in the police and FBI). As much as Oram knows, a lot of people must be very worried what the answer to this question will be.

It's useful to follow the path of unindicted politician Mark James (who suspiciously quit his county commission job for “family reasons” just as the G-Sting scandal broke). Oram was James' campaign manager for the Commission seat, making this an instructive lesson in how the smart ones in the inner circle are protected.