Heller campaign slams GOP rival over six-figure nonprofit salary

Greg Nash

Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-Nev.) campaign is targeting GOP primary rival Danny Tarkanian over his management of a basketball charity, which saw Tarkanian raise fees at the nonprofit while ramping up his own salary.

Tarkanian, the son of legendary University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is the founder of Tarkanian Basketball Academy. Tax returns show that the Nevada Republican has taken a six-figure salary for several years, even as the charity raised membership fees and ran up a deficit.

Tarkanian earned a total of $526,000 between 2014 and 2017, according to the charity’s annual disclosure. Meanwhile, his charity had an operating deficit of $161,176, according to tax returns from 2014 and 2015.

The basketball academy also raised membership fees for attendees. Archives of the site show that fees were $100 per month as of November 2016, but the site currently shows that it costs $125 per month to attend. It’s unclear exactly when the prices were raised.

“We looked back at the archived web site and were shocked to learn that Tarkanian raised fees on children and families while his salary increased significantly,” Keith Schipper, a spokesman for Heller’s campaign, said in a statement. “Just when you think Danny can’t get any worse… he does.”

Tarkanian had previously made no more than $40,000 a year from the camp between 2005 and 2010. He reported taking no salary on the charity’s disclosures between 2011 and 2013. According to testimony he gave during his bankruptcy hearing in 2014, Tarkanian explained that he wasn’t working at the academy at the time because of his 2012 House campaign.

But according to his financial disclosure form that he filed for his 2012 congressional campaign, Tarkanian reported a salary of $12,479.60 in 2011 and $1,918.40 in 2012.

When asked about the fee increases and his salary, Tarkanian’s campaign accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Heller of “spreading lies.”

“The American people have come to expect fake news from the mainstream media; equally as revolting is fake news from the Washington establishment,” Tarkanian said in a statement to The Hill. “In a desperate attempt to maintain their positions in the swamp, Mitch McConnell and DC Dean Heller are knowingly spreading lies about me. This is fake news at its worst.”

Tarkanian is running to the right of Heller in the June 12 primary. He’s questioned whether Heller supports President Trump, since the senator was critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential race. Heller said last month that he now has a “much closer” relationship to the president.

Tarkanian has previously run for office six times in Nevada, and his 2018 Senate run is fresh off his unsuccessful House bid in 2016.

Tarkanian’s current campaign manager, Judy Flynn, is also facing questions surrounding the basketball charity.

Flynn, who worked for the Tarkanian Basketball Academy, has received a total of $88,597 in salary between 2011 and 2015, according to IRS documents.

In 2014, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) alleged that Tarkanian authorized more than $25,000 in cashier’s checks to Flynn between Dec. 31, 2012, and March 2013 to use for his personal expenses, according to an adversary complaint filed by the FDIC in 2014.

The Heller camp’s attacks over Tarkanian’s charity come on the heels of KLAS-TV’s story from last week that raised questions about funds from the charity being transferred to his 2012 campaign account and personal account.

On June 28, 2012, the Tarkanian Basketball Academy loaned $40,000 to JAMD LLC, which Tarkanian manages. On the same day, the $40,000 was then transferred to Tarkanian’s personal account. The next day, it was transferred to his campaign committee, Tarkanian for Congress 2012.

KLAS-TV then reported that $53,755, which included the $40,000, was transferred on July 11 back into Tarkanian’s personal account in a repayment of a loan. The next day, he transferred $300,000, including the $53,755, to the bank as a mortgage payment for his Las Vegas home.

It’s illegal for a 501(c)(3) or an LLC to donate to a political campaign, but candidates are permitted to loan money to their campaigns.

Tarkanian responded to the story, saying that he’s loaned his LLC thousands of dollars over time and said that the $40,000 was repayment of that loan. He said he put the money into his 2012 campaign account to pay bills at the end of the primary contest. Tarkanian told KLAS-TV that he repaid the charity in full in June 2014.

Tags Dean Heller Donald Trump Mitch McConnell
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