The former chief financial officer of the multi-state marijuana chain MedMen has alleged that he was pressured by management into giving Gov. Steve Sisolak a large personal campaign contribution because company executives had maxed out their donation amount — something that, if true, violates campaign finance laws against “straw donations.”
The allegation is in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by James Parker in Los Angeles Superior Court in January 2019 and highlighted in a Politico Magazine story published over the weekend. Although the suit does not include Sisolak’s name, it does accuse defendants of “compelling Plaintiff to make political contributions personally because Defendant had maxed out its legal donations and the CEO had promised additional donations to a candidate in Nevada.”
Individuals are limited to donating no more than $10,000 an election cycle to Nevada candidates for elected office. Politico notes that Sisolak is the only Nevada candidate to receive maximum donations from MedMen executives Parker, Adam Bierman and Andrew Modlin.
MedMen did not immediately return a request for comment on the allegation of a straw donation.
An analysis from The Nevada Independent shows that companies and individuals affiliated with the California-based marijuana company gave Sisolak $80,000 over two years — the largest sum of any marijuana-related entities that donated to Sisolak’s 2018 campaign. In total, the legal marijuana industry gave more than $723,000 to Sisolak that cycle.
As governor, Sisolak’s office has taken the lead in shaping a new regulatory structure for the marijuana industry — the Cannabis Control Board — and taken steps that have had a major effect on marijuana businesses such as freezing license transfers last year to allow for more scrutiny. His gubernatorial opponent, Republican Adam Laxalt, had opposed recreational marijuana legalization when it was on the ballot in 2016.
The story notes that Sisolak declared “MedMen Day” in October 2018, a few weeks before he was elected governor. The company’s website indicates it has three dispensaries in the Las Vegas area.
A Sisolak spokeswoman did not return requests for comment from The Nevada Independent on whether he was aware someone was allegedly pressured to make the contribution, and what actions he might take regarding the donation in question.
Sisolak instituted his own crackdown on the industry last year, after an indictment alleged there was an illegal campaign contribution to Laxalt as part of an apparent scheme funded by a Russian businessman to manipulate marijuana licensing rules. In response, Sisolak called for the creation of a multi-agency task force to “root out potential corruption or criminal influences.”
Laxalt said he returned the donation that came into question in the indictment.