Catherine Cortez Masto Says She Ran for Office To 'Give Back.' As Nevada AG, She Took Donor Gifts Worth Tens of Thousands.

Cortez Masto, who is up for reelection in November, has seen net worth climb as senator

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Getty Images)
September 7, 2022

Nevada Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto says she ran for office to "serve and give back." It's a good gig if you can get it—for Masto, one that came with donor gifts totaling over $61,000, including a $750 luxury handbag. She's also seen her net worth skyrocket.

During her stint as Nevada attorney general from 2007 to 2015, Masto reeled in complimentary tickets to award shows and sporting events worth nearly $4,000, in addition to that pricey handbag, according to state financial disclosures. And since she was sworn in as senator in 2017, her net worth has skyrocketed. The Nevada Democrat was not a millionaire when she ran for office in 2016, but is now worth as much as $7.5 million, according to her most recent federal financial disclosure, which shows an increase in the value of some of Masto's investment funds.

Masto is embroiled in a difficult reelection campaign against Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. The Democrat regularly calls herself the "most vulnerable senator up for reelection in America" in her fundraising emails, a tagline that comes as the Republican Party gains on Democrats when it comes to voter registration in Nevada. An August Trafalgar Group poll found Laxalt leading Masto by 2 points.

Masto's affinity for donor gifts as attorney general—and her financial rise after becoming a senator—flies in the face of her claim that she ran for public office to "serve and give back." Her decision to accept gifts as Nevada's top law enforcement officer is also in contrast to Laxalt, who succeeded Masto as Silver State attorney general. During his 2014 campaign, Laxalt pledged not to take political gifts if elected, saying, "If I want to go to a boxing event I'll either pay for it myself or not go." Laxalt's financial disclosures during his time in state office list no donor gifts.

"As a politician, Catherine Cortez Masto took thousands of dollars in gifts from corporations and special interests. Now, Nevadans are struggling with high inflation and gas prices caused by her rubber-stamp support for Joe Biden's bad policies," Laxalt campaign spokeswoman Courtney Holland told the Washington Free Beacon. "It seems the only person benefiting from Masto's style of 'public service' is herself."

Masto's campaign did not return a request for comment. Should Masto hold on to her seat, she'll have to overcome Biden's unpopularity in Nevada, a state the president won by 3 points in 2020. Roughly two years later, 51 percent of voters in the state disapprove of Biden, while 42 percent approve. Masto has responded to that trend by claiming she's running against "dysfunction in Washington," even though she's voted with Biden 93 percent of the time. 

That voting record may have caused Masto to lose endorsements from an alliance of police groups. The Public Safety Alliance of Nevada—which includes the Nevada Fraternal Order of Police, the Las Vegas Peace Officers' Association, and Peace Officers' Association of the Clark County School District—backed Laxalt in May after endorsing Masto in 2016. The decision came months after the Free Beacon reported that Masto praised a liberal nonprofit that has called to defund police, lauding its leaders as "incredible advocates for our state."