In the sleepy, down-ballot realm of judicial elections, where victory can hinge on the slimmest endorsement boost, a new political committee has launched a fiery crusade against a veterans group’s alleged muscling of judicial candidates in exchange for its political backing.
There is long-standing bad blood between the organizers of the two Las Vegas-based groups, now engaged in a very public row over each other’s motives and methods. The new arrival, Nevada Court Watchers, has accused Veterans in Politics of rigging judicial candidate endorsements and seeking to intimidate judges.
But that could be the mildest of the accusations against the veterans group and its president, Steve Sanson. Nevada Court Watchers’ sole purpose, according to its founder, is to warn judicial candidates away from engaging with Veterans in Politics or courting Sanson’s support.
“We need to let them know the risk of associating with Sanson greatly outweighs the reward,” said founder David Schoen, a veteran like Sanson who once worked for Veterans in Politics until he soured on Sanson’s methods. “Rather than exposing Sanson to the public, our goal is to target those candidates and elected officials who legitimize Sanson and his faux organization.”
Schoen sent two email blasts out this week warning candidates that seeking Sanson’s support “will cost you your election” and threatening them with “a heavily funded campaign against your candidacy” if they attended a $125-per-person Valentine’s Day event held Saturday.
Besides releasing information about Sanson’s military record and personal life, as well as the nonprofit group’s tax status and contributions to it from candidates, Schoen urged candidates looking for veteran support to engage with other veterans organizations that rate judges and candidates but don’t endorse.
Sanson, on his group’s website, posted a point-by-point rebuttal to Schoen’s allegations, calling out Schoen’s employment by Las Vegas divorce attorney Jennifer Abrams, who is suing Sanson for libel. He said the motivation for the attacks against him was his self-styled “war” against corruption and unethical behavior in the court system, the family court division in particular.
It’s a crusade that has previously drawn stern criticism of Sanson’s methods from judges themselves.
“There’s a lot of people that’s been trying to take down this organization for many years,” Sanson said Friday. Nevada Court Watchers, he said, was formed “because of Veterans in Politics exposing corruption in Family Court.”
“Their main goal is to discredit and isolate myself and Veterans in Politics,” he said. “That is their sole purpose and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. If they have to defame me, which they have, they will do it.”
But Schoen answers that his issues with the veterans activist “predate his war on family court and any lawsuits against him.”
“This is about calling out his bad acts,” he said.
The escalating back-and-forth attacks seem poised to land the adversaries in court in a legal dispute. For now, Sanson said, he is waiting on a ruling in the libel case involving Schoen’s employer.