Monday, April 30, 2007

Tip to Associated Press: Follow the gambling money

Associated Press writer David Lieb has written some insightful articles and analysis on Missouri politics, so it is rather surprising that he weighs in on Sen. Charlie Shields' bill to remove the loss limit for gamblers in state casinos without mentioning the incredible amounts of money that are involved:

The Missouri Republican Party platform is clear: Republicans oppose the expansion of gambling. And they support Missouri's one-of-a-kind law that limits how much gamblers can lose.
So how is it, then, that the Republican majority leader of the Missouri Senate is taking the opposite position? And why are almost half the Senate Republicans going along with him?

That's the question simmering among some anti-gambling Republicans, who have long been a majority in the party but now find themselves on the legislative defensive.

In the April 28 Turner Report, it was noted
just how much money Shields and committees connected to the Senate majority leader had received from gambling interests:

During 2006, Shields received $3,350 in direct campaign contributions from casino interests and an additional $1,795 from lobbyists representing casinos.

That may not sound like much, considering some of the figures that have been tossed about on this blog over the last three years, but Shields represents the 34th Senatorial District and the 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee has been swimming in casino cash.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests poured more than $70,000 into the committee, which made numerous contributions into Shields' campaign fund.

Included in that total was $55,700 from Ameristar Casinos, $10,000 from Harrah's, $3,725 from Isle of Capri and $1,275 from Penn National Gaming.

I suspect more contributions from casino interests can be found in the Shields for Pro Tem Committee, but that name has been changed since the beginning of the calendar year, and once committee names have been changed, the inadequate search system on the Missouri Ethics Commission website does not allow a searches under the former name. Again, I ask for anyone with information about what that committee has been called, or access to the committee's disclosure reports, to contact me.

SB 430, which is scheduled for a final vote today, is described as the "Start Smart Scholarship Fund." A more accurate description would be the Big Casino Payback.

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