COLUMN: Steve Miller
September 22, 1999
Jan Jones' Deliverance
On one memorable day in 1991, I walked down Fremont Street with sixty thousand dollars in one hundred-dollar bills stuffed in my pockets. Six hundred, one hundred-dollar bills weigh over three pounds and bulge out of pockets conspicuously. I needed to get off the street and to a safer place with my booty!
I rushed over to my accountant's office on East Sahara and spread the loot out on his desk. The late Carl Apple was aghast at the fact that casinos could legally make such large cash political donations in Nevada. He immediately began making photocopies of the bills to record the serial numbers for later inclusion in my campaign contribution report. He also remarked how easy it would be for a dishonest politician to launder the money without reporting it. I then rushed to the bank to deposit all the cash into my campaign account.
Earlier that day, I met with Bob Stupak at Vegas World. Bob was a big supporter of my mayoral campaign. He invited me to take a drive over to Casino Center to see some of his buddies.
Our first stop was the Horseshoe Club. Bob and I ran into Jack Binion near the cashier's cage where Bob ask Jack if he would chip in to help me win the Mayor's seat against my then-opponent car saleswoman Jan Jones. Jack immediately ordered the lady in the cage to count out twenty-thousand in hundred dollar bills. He then handed me the money and said "Good Luck. I hope you beat the bitch!" I stuffed the roll into my pants pocket.
We then walked over to Herb Paster's office at the Golden Goose. Herb went to his safe and counted out fifteen thousand in hundred dollar bills. I put them into my sport coat pocket.
On to the El Cortez where Jackie Gaughn told his secretary to bring up $5,000 in hundred dollar bills. Jackie shook my hand as he presented the cash. I put it in my shirt pocket.
Our last stop was the Lady Luck where Andy Tompkins presented me with the final cash of the day; another roll of hundred dollar bills totaling twenty-thousand dollars. I stuffed the roll into my remaining coat pocket and we cautiously walked the two blocks back to Bob's car.
Back at Vegas World, not to be outdone, Bob scribbled out a personal check for twenty-one thousand dollars made out to the Committee to Elect Steve Miller. Altogether, Bob Stupak was personally responsible for raising eighty-one thousand dollars in campaign contributions in less than two hours! What a great start to my campaign.
As the week progressed more checks arrived in the mail including $7,500 from Steve Wynn, $15,000 from Circus Circus, $7,500 from the Frontier, $7,500 from Howard Hughes Corporation, and dozens for lessor amounts. Amazingly, I had not requested money from any of these entities! The total I raised in that first week of fund raising totaled over a quarter of a million dollars!
Then by complete surprise, right in the middle of my mayoral campaign, I received the Best of Las Vegas "Most Effective Public Official" award from the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal, and the "Humanitarian of the Year" award from Goodwill Industries. The Humanitarian award was presented at a $100 per plate dinner in my honor at the Alexis Park Hotel that was attended by every notable person in Las Vegas. I was on my way!
With the polls showing me with a commanding lead of more than twenty points against Jones, and with the acknowledgment of this lead being demonstrated by the generosity of the casinos and the numbers of movers and shakers attending my Alexis Park dinner, it looked to every political pundent including Jon Ralston that I was about to become the next Mayor -- but Ms. Jones had a dirty little surprise up her sleeve for me.
Following a blitz of TV, radio, direct mail, and newspaper advertisements touting Steve Miller as the best thing since sliced bread; the polls remained solidly in my favor. It was clearly looking as though Jan Jones would wind up as just another blip on the political radar screen. But to my dismay the lights were burning in the back room of her campaign headquarters on Alta Drive through the nights leading up to the last week of the campaign.
Jones and her minions were huddling -- trying to conspire a way to turn my fortunes around and startle the local political world with an upset eleventh-hour victory on the coming Tuesday. She found her answer in the form of an ancient newspaper story.
In 1987, my then-sixteen year old daughter bought her first car, a 1977 Porsche 924 that had been totaled in a collision and sloppily put back together. She bought the car without my permission. On her first night out with her "new" Porsche, she banged into a post in a parking lot and creased the left side of the car. She was heartbroken. At the time two of my daughters were using the car to attend Gorman High School and were proudly showing it off to their friends.
I refused to help them pay to repair the damage because I had not approved the purchase of the car in the first place. My daughters took the beat up Porsche to a discount body shop in Meadows Village. That afternoon a body shop employee called my home to report that, upon dismantling the door of the car, a baggy containing a "white powdery substance" was discovered. When my daughter informed me of the call, I promptly notified the police.
The next morning the police called me to say that upon examination, the substance was not found, and that the body shop mechanic evidently at the instruction of a family member had disposed of it the previous day. I quizzed my daughter about the report and she explained that she simply told the mechanic that it was not hers', and therefore she did not want him to save it for her when she came to pick up the car.
It was never determined what the "white powdery substance" was. Because no contraband was found, the case was closed. A police officer gave the information to a newspaper reporter who wrote a factual report that was printed several days later on page 27 of the LV Sun. Nothing further was ever mentioned of the 1987 incident in the media.
Now it was four years later and Jan Jones was desperate to win election. She had located the four year old newspaper story and was secretly concocting a way to use the story against me during the last five days of the campaign -- a time too late in the game for me to respond.
In order for the old newspaper story to damage me, it would be necessary for Jan to edit its content. She promptly excised fifty-six words from the copyrighted article to suit her needs. The words Jan edited out told of how I had made the call to the police to ask them to investigate the mechanic's report. But just editing the fifty-six words out of the story to drastically change its meaning was not enough for Jan. As unbelievable as it may seem, Jones then shamelessly added her own new headline "Cocaine found in car Miller was driving."
Then Jan republished the altered newspaper story in her 1991 TV ads and in a direct mail advertisement. She showed no consideration for the fact that my two daughters had used the car daily as their transportation to high school and that they would now stand for ridicule by her false accusation that dope had once been found in their car.
This new headline along with the editing out of the information regarding my calling the police completely fit into her obvious scheme -- to portray me or my then-teenage daughters as drug users or drug couriers! She ran her ads for five days even though my attorney Sam Harding demanded that she cease immediately. My kids who were now attending college were devastated when their friends saw Jones' ads referring to their first car. Some of their classmates even accused them of being "dopers" or the daughters of a "doper!"
Seeing a defamation suit on the horizon, Jones crafted a hasty last minute retraction and apology. I received her missive via fax on Monday at 11AM, less than twenty hours before the election polls were to open the following day. Sam Harding immediately demanded that she call a press conference and make her retraction and apology public - Jones refused. Sam also demanded that she pull her TV ads off the air immediately - Jones also refused and the ads continued torturing my family and I for another fourteen hours. My campaign yard signs began being removed from in front of homes throughout the city.
Election Day dawned, and my family and I visited the polling places to shake hands and pass out fliers as we had done at my previous, successful election. This time it only took moments for us to realize that something horrible had happened to my reputation.
Numbers of people turned their backs on my volunteers, my wife, my daughters, or me as we wore our "Believe in Steve" T-shirts. Others refused to shake my hand. I had been made an outcast!
Jan's scheme had apparently worked like a charm -- no one wanted an accused dope addict or drug courier as his or her next Mayor. Jan Jones won the election by a landslide and my political ambitions were permanently killed. Sam Harding proceeded to sue Jones for Defamation of Character, Slander, and Libel on my behalf.
Several years past by until someone else recognized Jones' ability to heartlessly attack the character of her political opponents during a campaign. During the 1993 gubernatorial race, Governor Bob Miller stated in an article published in the Las Vegas Sun on November 5, 1993, that Jan Jones "Would besmirch the reputation of any person for her own personal political gain." Kenny Guinn then wisely used the former Governor's statement in his 1998 campaign to defeat Jones in her second attempt to become Governor.
Later in a newspaper statement made on June 18, 1998, Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Rose stated that "Jones showed a reckless disregard for the truth" pertaining to my case, and referred to her actions as "libel per se."
On December 28, 1998, a final decision in my appeal of Jones' being granted an earlier dismissal of my lawsuit was filed. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Jones showed "Actual Malice" in her use of the false statement against me in 1991.
After nine years of legal maneuvering and stalling by Jan Jones' attorneys, MILLER v. JONES is finally scheduled to be heard by a jury to determine my damages on July 3, 2000. Meanwhile Jones serves as a member of the Channel 8 "Eye Team," and continues to sit as a member of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority. She is also often mentioned along the Strip as a potential candidate for higher office. Jan has obviously developed into one of the most socially acceptable women in Las Vegas…….despite her initial method of attaining prominence.
I am now permanently (but involuntarily) retired from public office, however I am fully enjoying my role as a private citizen and part time newspaper columnist. My daughter whom Jones chose to attack is about to receive her Masters Degree and is teaching second grade. Meanwhile I am counting the days until Jan Jones is compelled to face my family and I in court and finally clear my name and put an end to this nightmare.
It amazes me how quickly people in this town can forgive certain people's past mistakes!
Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman and is the State Coordinator of the Nevada Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. Visit his website at: http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com