Today, the Reno Gazette-Journal published an explosive story about Sen. Dean Heller running an unlicensed farm in direct violation of Nevada law, running up fines that could total tens of thousands of dollars.
His defense? That he didn’t even need a business license, despite earning over $160,000 from his farm. But as soon as the RGJ started asking question, Heller ran straight to his old office and applied for a business license from the Secretary of State.
Here’s what you need to know about this breaking story…
Reno Gazette-Journal: Heller ran revenue-rich Smith Valley farm without a business license, until asked about it
By James DeHaven | Feb. 15, 2018
1. Heller has failed to obtain a business license for his multi-million dollar farm for seven years. He says he didn’t need one — but as soon as the Reno Gazette-Journal started asking questions, Heller applied for a license.
- “U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has made and sold plenty of hay out of his 180-acre farm in Smith Valley over the past several years.”
- “He didn’t have a business license to do so until last week. Nor was he granted an exemption to operate the multimillion-dollar alfalfa spread without that paperwork, a Reno Gazette Journal review of public records reveals.”
- “Under state law, failure to obtain and renew a Nevada business license is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines, collectable by a district attorney or the state attorney general.”
- But Heller “filed for a sole proprietor business license on Feb. 5, the same day the RGJ first contacted the secretary of state with questions about his farm’s business license.”
2. Heller claims his hay farm – which has appeared in his campaign ads – has “never turned a profit.”
- “The farm, purchased from a Heller campaign donor in 2010, generated at least $169,000 in total income between 2011 and 2016, according to U.S. Senate financial disclosures.”
- But Heller says he “never turned a profit while farming the 120 acres he has in production.”
3. Other Nevada elected officials who own farms have a business licence — unlike Heller.
- “State Sen. James Settelmeyer, another GOP politician and hay farmer, said he, like Heller, runs his farm from his home, albeit with a business license.”
- “Fellow Republican state Sen. Pete Goicoechea also holds a license for his much larger farming and ranching operation.”
- Heller “has used the farm, and Lyon County in general, as a frequent backdrop for campaign ads. One such spot, released in August, sees a Gulf War veteran tell the camera that Heller ‘fits in Smith Valley like these trees do, far as I’m concerned.’ ‘It’s a great place, because the days are a little longer,’ Heller says in another ad released this month. ‘The air is fresher. At night, the stars are a little brighter.'”
4. Heller says he didn’t need a business license, but failed to apply for an exemption.
- “Nevada law requires applications from business owners who, like Heller, claim to be exempt from state registration requirements.”
5. Heller’s lawyer bizarrely claims a license exemption form doesn’t exist.
- “But Heller likely didn’t need to file that paperwork, said Bill Bilyeu…In fact, Bilyeu isn’t sure such documents exist, despite a variety of exemption forms produced by the Secretary of State. ‘I’d like to see the form before I gave any opinion,’ Bilyeu added.”
- “The Secretary of State’s office makes three types of business license exemption forms available on its website, including applications for sole proprietorships, general partnerships and other entities that don’t fall into either of the first two categories.”
6. Heller’s office refused to answer the Reno Gazette Journal’s questions:
- “The office did not directly answer questions about whether Heller should have filled out one of those [exemption] forms.”
- “Heller’s office did not answer questions about why he didn’t seek out an annual, state-mandated exemption from state business license requirements.”
- “In a phone interview [Heller’s accountant] said he wasn’t at liberty to elaborate further on the farm’s profitability or expenses.”