It’s another Saturday Night LIVE from Dennis Hof’s Love Ranch North legal brothel in Carson City, Nevada!
“Do I come up with gimmicks? I’m the P.T. Barnum of the sex industry,” Hof said. “I’m always looking for a new angle and something funny to keep my name and the name of the Bunny Ranch in the national media.”
Hof is the star of the HBO series “Cathouse,” just published his memoirs, “The Art of the Pimp,” and once offered free sex at the Bunny Ranch to the nation’s returning military warriors.
Hof’s latest pronouncement is about politics. He said two weeks ago he was joining the Nevada Libertarian Party and considering running for the U.S. Senate, for the seat that is being vacated with the retirement of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Hof, who describes his politics as a “conserva-tarian,” remains upset with Reid for his speech before the Nevada Legislature in 2011, when Reid called for the elimination of Nevada’s legalized prostitution industry.
Hof sees his potential campaign, at the very least, as a poke at Reid.
“I tell you, if I decide to do this, and win, I think it is great to take the guy’s seat who tried to put me out of business four years ago,” Hoff said.
When Hof announced he was setting up an exploratory committee to look at a U.S. Senate run, outlets including the Washington Post, Washington Times and CNBC made it a national story.
Nevada’s Libertarian Party ranks No. 4 in state voter-registration statistics with 12,137 registered at the end of June, according to Secretary of State statistics. The party has a long way to go to catch up with the Democrats’ state-leading registration of 570,000 voters.
Hof’s candidacy is welcomed by the party, said state Chairman Brett Pojunis.
“He really brings a lot to the party,” Pojunis said. “We are really excited about the celebrity that he does have.”
Although the Nevada Libertarian Party does not select its candidates until its state convention next year, Hof has already been penciled in as the party’s U.S. Senate candidate.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Dennis. I like him a lot,” Pojunis said. “I don’t foresee anybody else trying to come up and run for that spot. So yeah, we are thrilled to have him on board.”
The party also has no qualms with Hof’s business — legal prostitution.
“It is, more or less, my body and my choice,” said Pojunis about the libertarian philosophy toward legal prostitution. “We feel that the government should not tell us what we can and can’t do with our body. And so prostitution, as long as it is between two consenting adults … We frown upon sex trafficking in a big way and anything that is outside of ‘consenting adults,’ we have a huge problem with.”
Is Hof serious? His “exploratory committee” is made up of the same folks that help him run his seven brothels.
“It’s my staff, my CFO, my marketing people, people I trust,” Hof said of his exploratory committee. “We are trying to figure out, can we pull this off? Is it the right thing to do? Do we want to deal with the financial requirements?”
The biggest obstacle for Hof is money.
This is multimillion endeavor. Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle each spent more than $25 million in Nevada’s 2012 U.S. Senate race. Some political experts, however, don’t expect the same level of spending in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, which currently pits Republican Joe Heck against Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. Yet multimillion-dollar fundraising appears to be a must for a run at the U.S. Senate.
“The biggest thing is, where am I going to get the money?” Hof said. “I am not a career politician. I don’t want to be a career politician and I don’t like career politicians because all they are looking for, instead of fixing problems in our government, is keeping their job in the next election. So how do I get, what has been told to me that would cost $5 million to $10 million without funding it myself?
“Could I do that? Yeah,” Hof said. “Do I want to do that? No. So how do I get that kind of money without selling myself and being like the rest of these guys, the rest of these politicians with all their favors?”
Cortez Masto and Heck will have large political organizations behind them. Both of their parties will probably have more than 500,000 voters in Nevada come election time.
Cortez Masto, the two-term former Nevada attorney general, has already been endorsed by Reid. A daughter of one of Las Vegas’ most influential tourism officials, she has been groomed for this job since she was little, some observers have said.
Heck is a sitting congressman, a licensed medical doctor and a one-star general whose political life includes both losing and winning some knock-down, drag-out campaigns.
If Hof is not serious about raising money, he won’t stand a chance, said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College.
“He would not have an impact on either candidate, especially if he does not want to actively raise money and actually conduct a valid campaign,” Lokken said. “Only a fraction of the voters will actually know that he is in the campaign.
“Running as a Libertarian greatly limits the portions of the electorate who will be interested in his candidacy and ensures that he won’t win,” Lokken added.
“But he’s also, in a way, our own Donald Trump,” Lokken said. “He’s someone who likes attention and finds creative ways of getting attention.”
Prostitution and politics
Hof would not be the first member of Nevada’s legal prostitution industry to run for political office.
Former Mustang Ranch and Bunny Ranch courtesan Jessi Winchester — who gained international notoriety when she competed in the Mrs. Nevada pageant while working at a brothel — placed second in a Republican primary for Congress in 1996. She was third in a nine-person GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 2000.
Lance Gilman, owner of the Mustang Ranch brothel in Storey County, is currently an elected member of the Storey County Commission. Gilman was also a major player in the negotiations that brought the Tesla Motors gigafactory to Northern Nevada.
“It’s one of those ‘only-in-Nevada’ stories,” Lokken said about Hof and the others in politics.
“Over the years, we have seen individuals from the brothel industry show an interest in politics,” Lokken said. “Sometimes it is for the attention. Sometimes they have an issue.”
Hof’s big issues
Hof said the $1.4 billion package of new and extended taxes recently passed by the Legislature was the factor that “put him over the edge” and got him thinking about running for office. But if elected to Harry Reid’s seat, his issue will be wiping out illegal sex trafficking.
“Do people not know what is going on in Las Vegas,” Hof said about sex trafficking. “It is out of hand. Las Vegas is the cesspool in America, the worst there is when it comes to sex crimes.”
Sex trafficking in Las Vegas includes underage girls who are virtual slaves to their pimps, Hof said, adding that it is also dangerous for those who seek out the illegal sex trade in Las Vegas.
“What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas when it comes to sex trafficking because STDs go home with you,” Hof said.
Hof admits it is self-serving for him to push against illegal sex trafficking.
If illegal sex trafficking could be stopped in Las Vegas, it would be a financial boon for Hof, since he owns brothels in Southern Nevada, including the “Alien Cathouse,” located 90 miles from Las Vegas.
“It is absolutely self-serving,” Hof said. “But can you do the right thing and be self-serving at the same time? Yes.”
Hof considers himself an expert on the issue and has spoken at international conferences on legal prostitution and sex trafficking.
“I have lectured in Oxford, I have lectured at the famed Dublin’s Trinity College,” Hof said. “Three months ago, I was (lecturing) in Paris,” Hof said. “I have worked with all of the major news organizations on sex trafficking. I’ve done an hour show on CNN on sex trafficking, called ‘Selling The Girl Next Door.’
“I do this all of the time,” Hof said. “And if you are in the (U.S.) Senate, you’ve got a bigger voice. The Pope is talking about (sex) trafficking now. That is how bad it is. It is epidemic proportions around America and nobody does anything about it.”
By Amber Phillips July 8
So, we’re about to give you some great water cooler talk: The owner of Nevada’s Bunny Ranch brothel is considering running for the state’s open Senate seat.
But don’t stop reading there. There’s actually an argument to be made that, if HBO-featured Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof does get in, this could actually have an impact on the high-profile, competitive race to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Hof announced Wednesday he’s joining the Libertarian Party and launched an exploratory committee to run for Senate. “If I really want to change things in this state and this country, I have to have some skin in the game,” he said in a press release. (Get it? “Skin.”)
The chairman of Nevada’s Libertarian Party, meanwhile, is apparently welcoming Hof with open arms. And there are a few politically smart reasons for that.
First, brothel owners like Hof actually wield considerable business power in Nevada, which is the only state with legalized prostitution. Most brothels, including the seven Hof owns, operate in rural areas in which they have a lot of say about what goes on in the neighborhood and nearby business community.
Take fellow brothel owner Lance Gilman. Gilman is a multi-millionaire real-estate tycoon who owns the northern Nevada industrial park that Elon Musk’s high-end electric car company, Tesla, eventually chose for its lithium battery factory. Gilman played an instrumental role in landing the $1.3 billion Tesla deal — and made a lot of money as a result, Las Vegas Sun’s Kyle Roerink reports.
Gilman bought his Mustang Ranch brothel on eBay. He paid $6 million to helicopter a dozen rundown pink trailers from the ranch to a canyon nearby Tesla’s new home, and he refurbished the compound with a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a nightclub, restaurants and a deli, Roerink reports.
These are the kinds of people who own brothels in Nevada.
Secondly, the Libertarian Party has secured ballot access in Nevada for 2016 — putting it in company with another third party, the Independent American Party. The Libertarians in 2014 got 3 percent of the vote in two of the state’s four congressional districts and 1 percent in a third.
And thirdly, perhaps even more so than those numbers suggest, Nevada is a libertarian-leaning state. There are about 10,000 active Libertarians voters as of January, and libertarian-leaning presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul came in second in the state’s GOP primary in 2008 (behind nominee Mitt Romney, who considered Nevada part of his home turf) and third in 2012. Paul’s libertarian-leaning son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is betting on Nevada time around, too.
This is where Hof’s candidacy could throw a wrench in the plans of serious candidates like Democratic Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who are expected to run in one of the most competitive races in the country.
[Meet the man trying to take down the Harry Reid machine]
Especially Heck. In a worst-case scenario for the swing-district Republican, Hof’s sideshow candidacy (his press release makes a point to note that you can interview the Bunny Ranch girls) could theoretically draw enough votes from Heck to give Cortez Masto the win.
To make even things more interesting, Hof appears to support Hillary Clinton. He gave her 2008 presidential campaign $2,300 and launched a Hookers4Hillary.com website (the link is safe for work). As recently as April he told The Daily Beast he was rooting for Clinton, saying: “You’re going to see crazy things. They’re going to show up at rallies in bikinis. Bunnies for Hillary.”
There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ to get to the point where Bunny Ranch’s Hof becomes a factor in the Nevada Senate race. But it’s worth keeping an eye on him.
[This post has been updated to include Hof’s support for Clinton and a correction made: Ron Paul placed third in Nevada’s 2012 GOP primary and second in the state’s 2008 GOP primary. This story originally had his placement in 2012 incorrect.]
Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.
Is prostitution “Live Entertainment” subject to tax or a “Service”?
By ED VOGEL LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU CARSON CITY — All Nevada businesses that offer live entertainment — including brothels, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the massive Electric Daisy Carnival and Burning Man — would have to pay an 8 percent tax under a bill to be introduced Wednesday. Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said Monday that her live entertainment tax bill is nearly completed and will cover “everybody,” ending exemptions for specific businesses and taxing some, such as brothels, that were previously ignored. Asked specifically whether the tax would include Burning Man, the speedway and brothels, she repeated, “Everybody.”