Two days before Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, submitted a bill to remove the loss limits for Missouri casinos, he may have been conducting some in-person research at one of those facilities.
Documents posted minutes ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website indicate Cooper, whose bill would also limit the opening of new casinos in the state, thus lessening competition for those already here, had $771.17 for "hotel accommodations" paid for by Matthew Clark, lobbyist for Ameristar Hotel and Casino in Kansas City.
HB 2403, introduced by Cooper Feb. 7, though it begins with numerous additions to current law directed toward putting casino money into education, it ends up being the answer to every current state casino owner's wish list.
Three days after Cooper submitted his bill, The Turner Report noted that he has been a big recipient of casino lobbyists' gifts for quite a while:
By all accounts, the performance given by country music legend George Jones June 10, 2007, at the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City was a rousing success and Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, had eight tickets to that event, worth $440, courtesy of lobbyist Betsy Morgan.
Though Missouri Ethics Commission documents show that Ms. Morgan's clients who footed the bill for the tickets were the Missouri Beverage Association and the Missouri Railroad Association.
Another of Ms. Morgan's clients, which was not mentioned on the disclosure form, is Ameristar Casinos.
In fact, Shannon Cooper received $1,696.88 in gifts from Ameristar lobbyists William Gamble, Jorgen Schlemeier, Sarah Topp, and Betsy Morgan in 2007.
This might not be such a big deal. After all, each time The Turner Report prints its Hall of Shame listings for legislators who take the most in lobbyists' gifts, there are many who probably are just taking the freebies to be taking the freebies, no matter how distasteful that may be to some of us.
But in this particular instance, Cooper is proposing legislation that will directly benefit Ameristar Casinos.
On Thursday, Cooper filed a bill which would remove the loss limit for casinos and limit competition for casinos currently operating in Missouri. HB 2043 has many items concerning the placement of gambling funds in education, but the key parts of this legislation, mentioned in the last sentence, would give the casino interests everything they want.
In addition to the George Jones tickets, as noted in the Oct. 1, 2007, Turner Report, Sarah Topp paid for a cruise for Cooper and other legislators while they were attending the National Association of State Legislators meeting in Boston.
On May 18, Jorgen Schlemeier paid for $329.23 worth of travel for Cooper, According to the Ethics Commission documents, the cost was split between Ameristar Casinos and four other Gamble & Schlemeier clients.
Cooper collected $1,230.02 in lobbyist gifts in February.