Catherine Cortez Masto - Democrat, Elected


  • AGMastoResizedCatherine Cortez Masto - AG Office

32nd Nevada Attorney General
Term:  January 1, 2007–January 5, 2015

Biography

Catherine Cortez Masto, the daughter of Joanna and Manuel “Manny” Cortez, was born March 29, 1964, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Her mother was of Italian descent, and her father’s parents were Mexican immigrants. Her father, who died in 2006, attended Nevada Southern University as a pre-law student and worked nights as a parking attendant.  In 1991, he became the chairman of the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.  In 1976, the voters elected him to the Clark County Commissioner the first of four terms.  Instrumental in helping the city grow as a major tourist destination, Cortez was responsible for greenlighting the city’s most famous slogan, “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.”[1]

In 1986, Cortez Masto graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in finance, and became the first in her family to graduate from college.  In 1990, Cortez Masto graduated with a Juris Doctor from Gonzaga School of Law in Spokane, Washington; was admitted to the Nevada State Bar; and clerked for Judge Michael J. Wendell for a year.  Wendell, who had been on the bench for twenty years, served as a role model to Cortez Masto—she told the Gazette-Journal, “He had great judicial temperament . . . I just learned from him how to be an attorney . . . how to deal with people.”[2]

In 1995, Cortez Masto began her career in politics when she joined Nevada Governor Bob Miller’s staff.  In the late 1990’s, when she was chief of staff for Governor Miller, Cortez Masto met her husband, Paul Masto—a former United States Secret Service agent—when they were tasked with coordinating logistics for President Bill Clinton’s visit to Las Vegas.

From 1999-2001, Cortez Masto lived in Washington DC and worked as an assistant United States attorney, focusing on drugs and victims’ rights cases. In 2002, she moved back to Nevada and became the Assistant County Manager for Clark County.[3]

In 2005, Attorney General Brian Sandoval’s appointment as a federal court judge created a vacancy and an opportunity for Cortez Masto.  In 2006, she resigned as Assistant County Manager and began campaigning to become the next Nevada Attorney General.  On November 7, 2006, the voters elected her as Nevada’s 32nd Attorney General.

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Cortez Masto said “[t]here was never any [political] position I was interested in other than being the attorney general . . . I thought it was time to step up and take a leadership role and steer the ship to bring attention to those issues and find solutions to the problems.”[4]  Cortez Masto made the following issues her priorities--elder abuse, sex trafficking, methamphetamine epidemic and drug distribution, and domestic violence.  She spearheaded the statewide Methamphetamine Working Group to fight the use, manufacturing, and distribution of meth in Nevada. She believed that the effort to fight drugs required the combined approach of prevention, treatment, legislation, and law enforcement.  Cortez Masto helped pass new laws to crack down on meth manufacturers and restrict the sale of materials used to make the drug, and her efforts led to a significant decrease in the use and distribution of meth in Nevada.  

Cortez Masto’s grandparents were targets of fraud, an experience she told Gonzaga University’s law blog “was heartbreaking.”[5]  In early 2007, she pushed the Nevada legislature to give the Attorney General’s Office jurisdiction to investigate elder fraud and abuse cases, and in May, the Governor signed into law Assembly Bill 226 which created a special unit within the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute crimes against seniors.[6]  She wanted to ensure that seniors were educated and aware of common scams, such as Medicare fraud, so they could avoid becoming victims. 

Cortez Masto also advocated for women and children, especially concerned about human trafficking. In 2013, she sponsored a bill making human trafficking a felony crime in Nevada, and the bill also gave victims the right to sue their traffickers. The prison sentence of those convicted of human trafficking was lengthened, and it expanded the state’s sex offender registry by requiring human traffickers to register as sex offenders.  Additionally, another bill passed in 2013 that set up a fund for victims of human trafficking.  Cortez Masto invested in programs to address violence against women—a team she created to review the domestic violence fatality rate and provide recommendations to reduce deaths released a report recommending specific actions for law enforcement, district attorneys, and local legislators to combat domestic violence.

In 2010, Cortez Masto’s Office also led the fight on foreclosure fraud in Nevada by creating the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. She was one of the first attorneys general to investigate Bank of America, accusing the company of raising interest rates on troubled borrowers.  Although Bank of America denied any fault, in 2012 they settled the lawsuit for $750 million for lien reductions and short sales.[7]

In another well-known case, Sevcik v. Sandoval, Cortez Masto defended the state of Nevada in the lawsuit, that challenged Nevada’s denial of same-sex marriage as prohibited by the state’s constitution and statutory law.  Cortez Masto and the state initially defended Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban, however, the state abandoned its defense of the ban after the ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[8]

Cortez Masto, who served two terms as Nevada Attorney General, was term-limited from running for re-election. When United States Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for re-election in 2016, he endorsed Cortez Masto as his successor.  On November 8, 2016, Cortez Masto became the first woman elected to represent Nevada in the Senate and the first Latina elected to serve in the Senate.[9]  

Election of 2006

On November 7, 2006, Cortez Masto was elected as Nevada’s 32nd Attorney General, and of the 574,975 votes cast, Cortez Masto (Democrat) received 339,465 (59.03%) votes to Don Chairez’ (Republican) 204,816 (35.6%) votes and “None of these Candidates”’ 30,694 (5.3%) votes.

Election of 2010

On November 7, 2010, Cortez Masto was re-elected as Attorney General, and of the 704,332 votes cast, Cortez Masto (Democrat) received 372,011(52.8%) votes to Travis Barrick’s (Republican) 251,269 (35.7%) votes; Joel F. Hansen’s 54,980 votes (7.8%); and “None of these Candidates”’ 26,072 (3.7%) votes.

Election of 2016

When United States Senator Harry Reid decided not to run for re-election in 2016, he endorsed Cortez Masto as his successor.  On November 8, 2016, Cortez Masto became the first woman elected to represent Nevada in the Senate and the first Latina elected to serve in the Senate.[11]  In the Senate race, as reported by the New York Times, Cortez Masto (Democrat) won 521,994 (47.1%) of the votes to Joe Heck’s (Republican) 495,079 (44.7%) of the votes.  “None of these candidates”, Tom Jones (American Independent), Tom Sawyer (Independent), and “Others” received a combined number of 91,221 votes (8.2%).[12]
 
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Office Administration and Duties

 The 2007 Nevada State Legislature added the following duties to the Attorney General’s job:

 

  • The Attorney General will recover civil penalties from those found guilty of abuse, neglect, exploitation or isolation of an older person, pursuant to NRS 200.5099 or 200.50995. (Statutes of Nevada 2007, Chapter 224, Section 15, Page 745).
  • The Attorney General shall deposit any money collected for civil penalties, pursuant to NRS 200.5099 or 200.50995 in equal amounts to: 
  • (c) A separate account in the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Crime created, pursuant to NRS 217.260, to provide compensation to older persons who are abused, neglected, exploited or isolated in violation of NRS 200.5099 and 200.50995; and 
  • (d) The Account for the Unit for the Investigation and Prosecution of Crimes Against Older Persons. (Statutes of Nevada 2007, Chapter 224, Section 15, Page 745).
  • The Attorney General may investigate and prosecute any person who intentionally makes false or misleading statements to activate the Statewide Alert System for the Safe Return of Abducted Children. (Statutes of Nevada 2007, Chapter 143, Section 1, Page 428-429).
  • The Attorney General acting pursuant to NRS 125A.565 may seek a warrant to take physical custody of a child if during a child custody proceeding, the court finds that the evidence establishes a credible risk of abduction of the child. (Statutes of Nevada 2007, Chapter 81, Section 16, Page 233).
  • The Attorney General shall act as the attorney for the Real Estate Division of the Department of Business and Industry in all actions and proceedings brought against or by the Division. (Statutes of Nevada 2007, Chapter 441, Section 155, Page 2260).

 

The 2009 Nevada State Legislature added the following duties to the Attorney General’s job:

 

  • The Attorney General shall provide legal counsel to the emergency team that is designated in an executive order of the Governor to respond to a public health emergency or other health event. (Statutes of Nevada 2009, Chapter 98, Section 15.5, Page 368).
  • The Attorney General or his designee is the Chairman of the Advisory Committee to Study Laws Concerning Sex Offender Registration. (Statutes of Nevada 2009, Chapter 116, Section 5.4, Page 427-429).
  • The Attorney General, on the request of the State Fire Marshal or on his own motion, may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction in the name of the State of Nevada to enjoin a violation of the section stating that the sale or distribution of novelty lighters is prohibited.  (Statutes of Nevada 2009, Chapter 323, Section 1, Page 1416).

 

The 2011 Nevada State Legislature added the following duties to the Attorney General’s job:

 

  • The Attorney General shall act as the ex officio Chair of the Substance Abuse Working Group that created within the Office of the Attorney General and shall provide such administrative support to the Substance Abuse Working Group as is necessary to carry out the duties of the Working Group.  (Statutes of Nevada 2011, Chapter 89, Section 1, Page 365-366).
  • The Attorney General. (Statutes of Nevada 2011, Chapter 89, Section 1, Page 366).
  • The Attorney General may organize or sponsor one or more multidisciplinary teams to review the death of the victim of a crime that constitutes domestic violence pursuant to NRS 33.018 if a court or agency requests the assistance of the Attorney General. (Statutes of Nevada 2011, Chapter 161, Section 1, Page 734).
  • The Attorney General shall administer the Account for Tobacco Enforcement in the State General Fund. (Statutes of Nevada 2011, Chapter 214, Section 5, Page 932).
  • The Attorney General shall not accept any gift, grant or donation from any manufacturer of tobacco products or any other manufacturer. (Statutes of Nevada 2011, Chapter 214, Section 6, Page 933).

 

The 2013 Nevada State Legislature added the following duties to the Attorney General’s job:

 

  • The Attorney General may petition a district court for an order requiring a person arrested for an offense for which a biological specimen must be obtained pursuant to this section to provide a biological specimen through a cheek swab or by alternative means, if the person will not cooperate. (Statutes of Nevada 2013, Chapter 252, Section 13, Page 1059).
  • The Attorney General may investigate each potential instance of identity theft or crime reported pursuant to subsection 4 of NRS 432 and prosecute in accordance with law each person responsible for any identity theft identified in the investigation. (Statutes of Nevada 2013, Chapter 323, Section 1, Page 1519).
  • The Attorney General will serve as a member on the Task force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. (Statutes of Nevada 2013, Chapter 260, Section 2, Page 1152).

 

The Attorney General may:

(d) Investigate and prosecute any alleged technological crime.

(e) Pursue the forfeiture of property relating to a technological crime in accordance with the provisions of NRS 179.1211 to 179.1235, inclusive.

(f) Bring an action to enjoin or obtain any other equitable relief to prevent the occurrence or continuation of a technological crime. (Statutes of Nevada 2013, Chapter 218, Section 1, Page 822).

The Attorney General shall:

(a) Appoint a subcommittee of the Nevada Council for the Prevention of Domestic Violence created by NRS 228.480 to serve as the Governance Committee for the Victim Information Notification Everyday System.

(b) Consider nominations by the Council when appointing members of the Governance Committee. (Statutes of Nevada 2013, Chapter 50, Section 1, Page 167).

 

 

[1] Sears, Jocelyn, “9 Things You Might Not Know About Catherine Cortez Masto,” MentalFloss, January 17, 2017.  http://mentalfloss.com/article/91019/9-things-you-might-not-know-about-catherine-cortez-masto.   

[2]Reno Gazette-Journal, October 23, 2005, pg. 7.

[5] www.law.gonzaga.edu/blog/alumni-cortez-masto, March 19, 2014.  Accessed July, 2017

[7] Rosenblatt, Joel. "Bank of America Settles with Nevada Attorney General Masto”, February 9, 2012.  Bloomberg Business.  Accessed July 26, 2017.

[8] Ford, Zack.  "Nevada Abandons Its Defense of Same-Sex Marriage Ban", February 11, 2014.  ThinkProgress.  Accessed February 5, 2016.

[9] "2016 Nevada Senate Election Results".  PoliticoAccessed November 8, 2016.

[10] Phillips, Dave.  “Nevada U.S. Senate Results:  Catherine Cortez Masto Wins”.  November 9, 2016.  www.nytimes.com/elections/results/nevada-senate-cortez-masto-heck.  Accessed August 14, 2017. 

[11] "2016 Nevada Senate Election Results".  PoliticoAccessed November 8, 2016.

[12] Phillips, Dave.  “Nevada U.S. Senate Results:  Catherine Cortez Masto Wins”.  November 9, 2016.  www.nytimes.com/elections/results/nevada-senate-cortez-masto-heck.  Accessed August 14, 2017.

       

        Page Last Updated:10/19/2017