TouchPlay in governor’s race

The final debate of the 2006 Iowa governor’s race is history.  If you liked the "all TouchPlay, all the time" nature of the 2006 Iowa legislative session, you loved this debate.  All the exchanges about this issue, both before and after the debate, are included in the story I just wrote for Radio Iowa. 

Nussle and Culver came into the IPTV studio where reporters had been camped out during the debate and answered questions after the event.  For those of you not there, here’s the give and take:

Q:  "Other than the campaign contributions, what evidence do you have of this secret plan that you talked about?"

Nussle:  "Well, this is very, very interesting because it was a very, very public rebuke that Bill Krause gave me which I guess, it surprised me at the time when I came out so strongly on the ban on TouchPlay.  It wasn’t something that was quiet.  It wasn’t something that he whispered to someone else.  This became news at the time that he was not going to support a candidate that did not fully support TouchPlay and I think with all the, not only the fact that the machines are still in the state, the fact that this election may decide what kind of governor we’re going to have as well as what kind of settlement we may have in TouchPlay, I think it’s highly unusual the kinds of contributions that he’s received not only from Bill Krause because of his public rebuke but so many others that have decided to support his campaign and I think also the interesting thing about it is all of a sudden today when it became a hot controversy he had to make a statement.  Up until this point in time, he said he was proud to be the only one not to support the ban, number one that’s what he said when it happened and then in the last couple of debates he said nothing with regard to TouchPlay, would not answer the question.  I think that’s what’s unusual about this."

Q:  "Can it just be that Bill Krause is so mad at you that he wants you to lose, so he’s giving to your opponent?"

Nussle: "It’s possible that Bill Krause is very mad at me, probably again after all of this and there’s a good chance he may give him another check.  The last check, according to the report, arrived the day he didn’t answer the last question in a debate for $25,000 so I think there’s a good chance that Bill Krause may be mad at me again."

Q:   "This evidence you’re talking about, can you provide it?"

Nussle:  "I think it speaks for itself and the fact that the TouchPlay proponents at the time came out so strongly against me and said that they could never support someone who didn’t support TouchPlay suggests to me that if you follow the money, you’ll get your answer."

Q:  "But there’s no hard evidence of a secret plan?"

Nussle:  "Well, I believe there probably is a plan and has been a plan and I think that Chet Culver needs to explain that.  I understand today after it got too hot and after all of the evidence is coming out about the campaign contributions that now he comes out and says absolutely, positively but he refused to talk about the settlement.  He only said, well, there’s a ban on TouchPlay.  Well, yea, there’s a ban on TouchPlay.  It went through the legislature. There’s still a settlement looming out there that could cost the state millions, hundreds of millions of dollars and I think that’s also significant here as well."

Q:  "You put a dollar value of a billion dollars on it.  Where did you get that?"

Nussle:  "Well, all of the different lawsuits, adding them up, the potential exposure.  That’s not my number.  I’ve heard that number used."

Q: "As governor, would you rule out a settlement because these lawsuits are going to drag on for years and the state’s exposure might be greater…"

Nussle:  "Well, I would not base a decision based on campaign contributions.  Let’s start there."

Q:  "You’re trailing in the polls…"

Nussle:  "Says who?"

Q:  "Well, by the latest public opinion polls.  Is this the kind of accusation that you hope will close that gap?"

Nussle:  "Well, I didn’t make the accusation.  It’s been made by others and I think it’s pecular.  I didn’t draw the conclusion myself about him not answering questions and not going public forums and not wanting to do public debates until I happened to see a channel 13 WHO last night when they ran kind of an expose on this.  I certainly was surprised to hear that Bill Krause had made the decision to support my opponent but he has to decide that for myself."

Q:  "When did you come to that conclusion that there must be a secret deal?"

Nussle:  "Well, because I know the public rebuke that I got from proponents of TouchPlay.  Private emails that he had evidently sent my campaign he, uh, all of a sudden were leaked and he wanted us to know he was not going to take that and I think it was a pretty stern warning to the legislature.  Well, the legisalture stood up to TouchPlay, the legislature stood up to the Lottery and I did as well.  We took a principled position so the fact that now this is rising again because of these campaign contributions is something that I think he has to explain, not me."

Q:  "Why is this is the first time you’ve brought it up?"

Nussle: "Well, it’s the first time it’s even been exposed in fact the disclosure of campaign contributions was only made and filed on the 15th, due on the, whatever day that was, the 18th so that’s the reason it’s come out at this date, not because of anything I’ve done."

Q:  "Why can’t the case be made that those contributions point to you protecting the powers that be, the existing casinos who would be hurt if TouchPlay came back, who are against gambling expansion?"

Nussle:  "I’ve made my position clear from the very beginning before I even got any campaign contributions and I think that position will continue to be the way it is and I said in the debate here today that I’m not for an expansion of gambling, so."

The Culver campaign had the two Toms — Tom Vilsack and Tom Harkin — offer themselves up to reporters for reaction to the debate.  Vilsack said Nussle was throwing a hail mary pass (I type this listening with one ear to the second half of the Iowa/Michigan game on Learfield sports and the other on the tape I’m replaying).  "It is a fairly desperate move on the part of the congressman," Vilsack said.   

Culver’s camp initially said Culver wouldn’t talk to reporters, then a few moments later reversed course and Culver showed up in the studio.

Q: "So what is your secret plan?"

Culver:  "The secret plan is to work as hard as humanly possible between now and November 7th.  It’s crazy to suggest, as Congressman Nussle did, that there’s any plan other than working hard and trying to win this race for governor."

Q:  "Have you promised Bill Krause a settlement?"

Culver:  "Absolutely not.  Congressman Nussle concocted this theory.  He needs to explain why there’s zero truth to it.  We’re not bringing TouchPlay back and I couldn’t be more clear about that."

Q:  "Not bringing TouchPlay back is different than a settlement."

Culver:  "There’s no settlement that I am aware of.  There is no deal.  There is nothing factually correct based on what Congressman Nussle said and I couldn’t be more clear about that and I think the people of Iowa can sense desperation when they see it."

(The next question was not related to the TouchPlay issue and I’m not transcribing it)

Q:  "Have you considered giving the Krause money back?"

Culver:  "You know, we are proud of the fact that we have thousands and thousands of supporters across this state.  It’s ludicrous to suggest, as Congressman Nussle did, that the people are supporting me for any other reason than my vision, my plan, my determination and my hard work and Congressman Nussle is the one who has taken $750,000 in PAC money and more than $100,000 from an Iowans who owns two casinos in this state so I’m happy to have had so much support and I might add a lot of Republicans and Independents are supporting my campaign and that’s important.  We need a governor who can work in a bipartisan way with labor, with business and I want to be that kind of a governor."

(The final two questions were about the minimum wage.)

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.