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Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., attends and event at the Culinary union, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP) Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., attends and event at the Culinary union, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP)

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., attends and event at the Culinary union, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP)

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe October 14, 2022

Fact-checking ad on Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto’s record against meth dealers

If Your Time is short

  • As attorney general, now-Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto chaired the Governor’s Working Group on Methamphetamine Use in Nevada.

  • The group opposed two bills that would increase penalties for meth possession.

  • The group supported other bills and initiatives to mitigate Nevada’s meth crisis. Cortez Masto also opposed reducing sentences for immigrants who were illegally in the country and were convicted of meth trafficking.

In the lead-up to the November midterm elections, a conservative super PAC is investing $10 million in ads attacking Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and supporting her Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt. 

The ads are running in English and Spanish. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund estimated that this year 16% of Nevada voters will be Latinos.

A 30-second TV ad that began running Oct. 5 focuses on Cortez Masto’s record as attorney general from 2007 to 2015.

Cortez Masto "opposed tougher laws on methamphetamine dealers," the ad’s narrator said. (A Spanish version of the ad makes the same claim.) The ad cites an Associated Press article from 2007; Club for Growth told PolitiFact that the article backed the ad’s claim and shared two paragraphs from it in an email. We found the article in a news archives database.

Our review of Cortez Masto’s actions on Nevada’s meth crisis shows the ad’s characterization of Cortez Masto’s work falls short and stands in contrast to her full record. 

Cortez Masto chaired group examining meth use in Nevada

In January 2007, Nevada’s then-Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons created the Governor’s Working Group on Methamphetamine Use and appointed 16 members. Cortez Masto, then attorney general, chaired the group. 

The group met with law enforcement, substance abuse experts and recovering meth users to develop a report and make recommendations about how to respond to the state’s problems with methamphetamine use. 

In March 2007, Cortez Masto and the working group gave the governor and state legislators preliminary findings and feedback on proposed legislation.  

The group opposed two bills related to penalties for meth possession.

One of those bills, AB116, sought to do two things: reduce the minimum amount of drugs necessary to convict someone of drug trafficking and to increase the minimum sentence for this crime, according to AP reporting from 2007 that PolitiFact found via a news database. PolitiFact looked through publicly available documents and 2007 news coverage and did not find information specifying why the working group opposed the bill.

The article cited by Club for Growth says the group opposed the bill but does not provide a reason why or any statements from the group’s members. 

Meeting notes from the Nevada Assembly show that representatives from two counties' public defense offices, neither of whom were in the working group, also opposed the bill. They said it likely would not have had the intended effect of going after meth traffickers.

The representatives argued that most people caught with 3 grams of meth were using that for personal use, not trafficking. Making 3 grams the amount needed for a trafficking conviction would hinder access to treatment as people served mandatory prison time, they said.

The working group also opposed AB281, which sought to make possession of any traceable amount of meth a felony with a prison sentence of at least one year. The group said the bill "would ‘severely restrict’ treatment options for meth addicts," The Associated Press reported in 2007. The working group’s meeting notes show law enforcement officials told the group that access to treatment was essential for combating Nevada’s meth crisis. 

The working group published a final report in December 2007 that outlined a "No Safe Haven" plan under which counties could share intelligence about drug cartels. The group also recommended Nevada join a national program that provides resources to local law enforcement offices to dismantle drug trafficking operations. 

Cortez Masto supported other bills and initiatives to combat the meth crisis

Aside from opposing the two bills, the working group supported other proposals that they said would help address Nevada’s meth crisis. 

The group endorsed AB148, a bill matching federal law on restrictions to cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine which can be used to make meth, The Associated Press reported. 

The bill became law Aug. 1, 2007.

"This new law gives local law enforcement more authority to go after those who are manufacturing methamphetamine in Nevada," Cortez Masto said in July 2007.

The law also made it a state crime to use a fake ID to buy medicines with the ingredient used to produce meth, and made buying or selling chemicals used in meth a felony with a three- to 15-year prison sentence. 

Sigalle Reshef, Cortez Masto’s campaign spokesperson, told PolitiFact that Cortez Masto worked with the state’s Republican governor, law enforcement and Mexican officials to reduce meth manufacturing and trafficking in Nevada.

As attorney general and member of Nevada’s Pardons Board, Cortez Masto opposed reduced sentences for inmates convicted of methamphetamine trafficking, the AP reported in September 2007. Her opposition was overruled by the rest of the board, which included the governor.

To reduce prison overcrowding, the board decided to commute drug-related sentences for immigrants in the country illegally and immediately turn them in to federal immigration authorities for deportation.

Cortez Masto said that was the wrong move, because "if you deport them, they just will come back."

In 2009, Cortez Masto’s office noted that she co-sponsored a seminar with law enforcement officers "to find ways to provide ‘no refuge’ for drug traffickers in Nevada."

In 2010, Cortez Masto created a Substance Abuse Working Group to permanently study substance abuse issues in Nevada, including drug trafficking.

Our ruling

An ad from Club for Growth claimed that, as attorney general, Cortez Masto "opposed tougher laws on methamphetamine dealers."

Cortez Masto chaired a working group on meth use that opposed two Nevada Assembly bills seeking to increase penalties for meth possession.

The opposition came after law enforcement officials told legislators that the bills would likely criminalize meth users rather than go after drug dealers. 

The group led by Cortez Masto also supported other bills and initiatives intended to mitigate  Nevada’s meth crisis. Cortez Masto also opposed reducing sentences for immigrants convicted of meth trafficking.

The ad contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate this claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Email exchange, Sigalle Reshef, Cortez Masto campaign spokesperson, Oct. 7, 2022

Email exchange, Joe Kildea, vice president of communications at Club for Growth, Oct. 11, 2022 

Club for Growth, "Dangerous" CFG Action Ad (NV-SEN), Oct. 5, 2022

Club for Growth, "Peligroso" CFG Action Ad Spanish Version (NV-SEN), Oct. 5, 2022

NBC, Cortez Masto to face $2M in Spanish-language attack ads in homestretch of tight Nevada Senate race, Oct. 4, 2022

Club for Growth, ICYMI: New Spanish & English NVSEN Ads On Cortez Masto’s Soft-On-Crime Record, Oct. 5, 2022

Nevada Governor, Governor’s 2007 Strategic Approach to Reducing Methamphetamine Use in Nevada, Dec. 2007

Associated Press, Nevada panel targeting meth addiction makes recommendations, March 31, 2007

Nevada Assembly, A.B. 116, Feb. 15, 2007

Nevada Assembly, Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee on Judiciary, March 7, 2007

Nevada Legislature, A.B. 116, Feb. 15, 2007

Nevada Assembly, A.B. 281, March 12, 2007

Associated Press, Nevada lawmakers will limit some cold medicines to pharmacies, June 2, 2007

Nevada Assembly, A.B. 61, Dec. 15, 2010

Office of the Attorney General, Attorney General Masto Hosts Nevada-Mexico Prosecutor and Investigator Training, Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Mexican State of Oaxaca, Nov. 3, 2009

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Fact-checking ad on Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto’s record against meth dealers

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