Today’s TouchPlay episode

Shall we call it gambling-gate?  Or TouchPlay touche?   

There were more "developments" today in the on-going political discussion about who wants to do what, and when they’d go to bat for which gambling interest.  For those of you just tuning in, during Saturday’s "debate" with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver, Jim Nussle — the Republican gubernatorial candidate — charged that Culver must have a "secret plan" to benefit the TouchPlay industry because Culver has received over $100,000 from TouchPlay owners and operators.

Today, Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson held a news conference at Iowa Democratic Party headquarters to "reveal" that Jim Nussle has accepted over $260,000 from casino owners in Iowa, and in tongue-in-cheek fashion suggested that must mean Nussle has a "secret plan" for the casino industry.  The two top Republicans in the Iowa Legislature then held a news conference at the statehouse to denounce the TouchPlay industry for bankrolling Democrats.  Read the story about today’s developments here. 

Craig Cohoon, the vice president of Moss Distributing – one of the companies that invested in TouchPlay. spoke with the media today, too.  He said there is “positively no secret plan.”  Cohoon said it is “very clear politically” that TouchPlay cannot return, and to suggest there is some secret plan to reinstate TouchPlay is "fantasy.”

Cohoon says the final resolution will now come in the courtroom. Cohoon says TouchPlay owners and operators were “treated very unfairly” by Republicans who voted in 2002 to authorize the Lottery to go ahead with TouchPlay.  He says the TouchPlay coalition is giving to Democrats who showed a willingness to help them, who understood the plight of small business people who had hired more employees, or started offering health care benefits to their workers with the TouchPlay revenue. 

Cohoon closed by saying “How did the GOP not expect recourse?” since Rants and Lundby spearheaded the effort to shut down TouchPlay – something that benefited the casino industry, which as you’ve already read contributed to Nussle and gave the 527 Rants set up $80,000

Now, here are the news releases from today, first from the Iowa Democratic Party:

Nussle Has Received Over a Quarter of a Million Dollars from Gambling Interests

DES MOINES – Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sally Pederson will hold a press conference today exposing Congressman Nussle’s secret plan to expand gambling. Nussle has received over a quarter of a million dollars from gambling interests and his own campaign finance chair owns two casinos, so by his own logic, Nussle has a secret plan to expand gambling.

“Using his own logic, since financially it is clear these gambling interests support Congressman Nussle over Chet Culver, Nussle must have a secret plan to expand gambling to put more money in the hands of his gambling friends,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sally Pederson.

Congressman Nussle has taken $260,242.80 from gambling interests, and his own finance chair, Gerald Kirke, owns not one, but two casinos. Over his congressional career, Nussle has received $15,500 from the gaming industry since 1990, the most in the Iowa delegation.

Congressman Nussle’s only evidence to support his accusation that Culver has a “secret plan” to bring back TouchPlay is the fact that Culver has received money from individuals invested in TouchPlay. Again, if Nussle’s own standard of “secret plans” is applied to him, then he must have a “secret plan” to expand gambling.

“Congressman Nussle needs to answer the following question: What is his secret plan to expand gambling in Iowa?” said Pederson. “If he says there is no plan, will he finally admit there is no evidence to support his outlandish claim that Chet Culver has a secret plan?”


Mississippi Belle II.
            $30,000           3/14/06
            $25,000           9/20/06
            $25,000           8/29/06
            $25,000           1/31/05
$20,000           5/13/06
            $20,000           7/13/06
            $10,000           12/29/05
            $4,901             2/23/06
            $3,207.60        7/26/06
            $2,851.20        9/7/06
            $1,556             9/2/05
            $1,229             10/13/05
            $998                5/2/06
TOTAL: $169,742.80

Goldstein Family Donations to Jim Nussle – Goldstein family owns the Isle of Capri Casinos in Bettendorf, Marquette and Daveport
            $7,000             6/1/05
            $6,000             6/1/05
            $5,000             12/27/05
            $5,000             12/27/05
            $5,000             6/1/05
            $4,000             6/1/05
$3,000             12/27/05
            $3,000             6/1/05
$3,000             6/1/05
            $2,000             12/27/05
            $2,000             12/27/05
            TOTAL: $45,000

Randy Winegard Donations to Jim Nussle – Winegard owns Catfish River Bend Casino
            $25,000           4/11/06
            TOTAL: $25,000

Michael & Ann Richards Donations to Jim Nussle – Richards co-founded Wild Rose Entertainment
            $5,000             12/31/05
            $5,000             3/23/06
            $4,000             3/10/05

            $1,000             3/10/05
            TOTAL: $15,000

Craig Neilsen Donations to Jim Nussle – Neilsen is the CEO of Ameristar Casinos
            $5,000             12/5/05
            $500                6/9/06
            TOTAL: $5,500

Then, the top two Republicans in the legislature had their staff issue this:

TouchPlay Special Interests Betting on Democrat Control of Legislature
Disclosure Reports Reveal $53,890 in Contributions to Democrat Candidates

DES MOINES – Senate and House Republican leaders today said campaign contributions to Democrat legislative candidates reveal TouchPlay special interests are betting on Democrat control of the Iowa Legislature to help overturn a ban on TouchPlay games. 

The Republican leaders pointed to recent disclosure reports that show “Revenues for Main Street Iowa,” a TouchPlay special interest group, has contributed $53,890 to Democrat candidates from July 19 to Oct. 11.  More than $40,000 went to Democrat legislative candidates.

All Iowans have to do is follow the money,” said Senate Republican leader Mary Lundby (R-Marion), who led the fight in the Legislature this year to ban TouchPlay games.  “The disclosure reports illustrate that TouchPlay Special Interests are gambling on Iowa Democrats from Chet Culver to Senate and House candidates to return the casino games or lock in a sweet settlement from the state.”

“There is something very fishy about why the TouchPlay special interests are playing so hard in this year’s campaign,” said House Speaker Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City).  “Republicans stood up to TouchPlay special interests before and we will stand up to them again.  The TouchPlay industry has made it very clear to me and my members they will not support candidates who do not support them.”

Following is the list of candidates that received contributions from Revenues for Main Street Iowa:

Chet Culver Committee — $11,000
Citizens for Johnson — $1,440
Calhoun for State House — $500
Doris Kelly for Iowa House — $1,000
Kressig for Iowa House — $1,000
Senate Majority Fund — $5,000
Berry for Iowa House of Rep — $1,000
Olive for Senate — $1,000

McCarthy for State Rep — $17,500
Joint Truman Fund — $2,400
Murphy for State Rep — $7,500
Reasoner for State Rep — $1,000
Bailey for State House — $700
Palmer for State Rep — $850
Citizens for Bill Dotzler — $1,300
Vote Radke — $700

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal was next to weigh in:

Gronstal congratulates Republican leaders for winning ‘Negative Campaigners of the Year” award
New GOP attack is crazier than ‘totally nude dancing’
DES MOINES – Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs today congratulated Republican legislative leaders and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle  for winning the “Negative Campaigner of the Year” award for 2006.

“Congratulations to Congressman Nussle, Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby and Speaker Chris Rants for winning the Negative Campaigner of the Year award for 2006,” Gronstal said. “It apparently wasn’t enough that the Republican attack tactics caused one of their own legislative candidates to disavow his party and change his party registration. It’s clear that there are no limits to the lies these Republicans will tell to win on November 7th.”

Gronstal specifically dismissed Republican campaign allegations about a secret plan to bring back TouchPlay next session.

“This 11th hour Republican campaign attack is desperate and untrue,” Gronstal said.  “There is not a secret plan to bring back TouchPlay.”

Gronstal compared the new legislative Republican attack to a desperate TV advertisement in 1998 by Republican Jim Lightfoot that accused Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Vilsack of having voted to allow "totally nude dancing in Iowa neighborhoods."

“Today’s Republican attack is crazier than the one they ran about totally nude dancing,” Gronstal.
Gronstal said that he is proud of the positive, issue oriented campaigns being run by Democratic Senate candidates across the state.

“Our candidates are listening to Iowans and they are laying out their plans for ensuring a safe, secure future for our families, students, farmers, retirees and small business owners,” he said. 

Finally, this came in from the Nussle camp:

Follow the Money: Culver Supports TouchPlay Special Interests
“Follow the money and it’s clear Chet Culver has a lot of explaining to do with his newfound support with TouchPlay special interests. Iowans deserve a Governor they can trust and know where he stands on the issues like Jim Nussle’s clear and consistent opposition to TouchPlay slots and gambling expansion.  If Culver is elected Governor, watch out Iowans because some form of TouchPlay is right around the corner.”                                             — Nick Ryan, Campaign Manager

Jim Nussle’s Record is CLEAR & CONSISTENT: OPPOSES Expanding Gambling

• Opposes continued expansion of Gambling (Nussle Release, 11/05)

• Jim Nussle on gambling expansion, “Let’s stop it before we even get that revenue in the first place and leave it in the pockets of these people.” (Iowa Press, 1/20/06)

• Jim Nussle is opposed to expanding the state’s gambling industry… (Des Moines Register, 9/1/06

• “…and I’m not for expanding gambling.” (Des Moines Register, 10/22/06)

• [Nussle] Supports a ban on further gambling expansion in Iowa (Iowa Christian Alliance website)

Chet Culver SUPPORTS Expanding Gambling

When asked if he would support allowing more licenses for new casinos, Culver answered, “Yes.” (Des Moines Register Debate, 5/24/06)

• Chet Culver, the Democratic candidate for governor, has said Fort Dodge and Ottumwa should be the first cities to receive casino licenses if Iowa grants more licenses… (Des Moines Register, 9/1/06)

• Culver said he favored allowing new casinos in the future, while Nussle said no.  (Des Moines Register, 10/22/06)

Chet Culver SUPPORTS TouchPlay

• Culver said he would not sign the legislation…"I believe the fiscally responsible course would be to know more about the potential costs to the state and to hundreds of small businesses…" Culver said in the statement. (Waterloo Courier, 3/21/06)

•  “I am the only candidate running for governor who has said I would not sign the TouchPlay ban.” (Iowa Broadcasters Debate, 5/6/06)

• “We had a commitment with these vendors, with these small businesses,” Culver said. (Lee Newspapers, 5/6/06)

Culver said he would not have signed such a ban, citing the private companies that invested in the machines and now say they are facing bankruptcy. “We had a commitment with these vendors, with these small businesses,” Culver said.  (Mason City Globe Gazette, 6/6/06)

• Culver did not answer whether he would reinstate TouchPlay when asked: “This issue has been resolved.  The Legislature’s spoken.  The Governor has instituted the ban, and that’s where we are.” (The Insiders, 10/22/06)

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About O.Kay Henderson

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