October 28, 2006

Iowa Gubernatorial Race

I have been remiss in keeping up with the events of the governor’s race. In the last debate of the series Jim Nussle raised the prospect that Chet Culver had made a deal with Touchplay proponents to bring back Touchplay machines to the state.
For those unfamiliar with the Touchplay controversy, here is a quick Touchplay primer.
Gambling interests convinced that legislature that they had an electronic equivalent to the scratch-off games that are found in stores throughout the state. The legislature approved the use of the machines and private interests invested in these machines that went into bars, convenience stores, and the like. For the investors they had hit the motherlode, the equivalent of printing money.
For the person like me standing in line at the local Handimart for 10 minutes with a half rack of beer and a bag of chips, while candidates for gamblers anonymous haggled with the clerk for their winnings and bells were ringing like the Vegas Strip, the machines were a major nuisance.
The legislature decided that the machines were basically slot machines and they pulled the permits from the operators. Peace returned to the beer shop, but there was hell to pay in DesMoines as the operators were left holding the bag on their investments and threats of lawsuits filled the air. What raised my hackles. besides the delay in beer purchases, was the argument that thier buiness' could not now survive without Touchplay.
Which brings us back to the Nussle accusation. In the first debate when asked about their stance on Touchplay Nussle was emphatic that he thought they were inappropriate in spite of the loss of revenue that trickled in to state coffers. Culver's answer on the other hand was somewhat oblique. He said, "As governor I want to work to protect the interests of all business". The answer struck me as odd then and nefarious now.
The Des Moines Register has raised several questions about Culvers involvement with the Touchplay lobby.

DesMoines Register
October 26, 2006
Democrat Chet Culver's mishandling of the TouchPlay issue is bringing back some old questions:Is he smart enough to be a good governor? And do we want to restore TouchPlay gambling or pay off the businesses who lost money when the state shut down the machines?Those are just the sort of issues Culver doesn't need right before a close election. But they're out there, thanks to the way he's dealt with them.Here's his problem: During the Democratic primary campaign, Culver first said he wouldn't have signed a ban on TouchPlay gambling in Iowa. He said he was worried about the hit to state revenues - and to the merchants and bar owners who invested in the machines.Then, during the recent Brown-Black Forum, he wouldn't say whether it should be brought back. Later, he clearly told reporters the machines shouldn't be returned. But then we find out he and Democratic legislative leaders have accepted tens of thousands of dollars from TouchPlay gambling interests.So if they're not bringing back TouchPlay, what's up? Maybe the TouchPlay folks think they'll get a sweeter legal settlement out of Culver than Nussle.(After the governor and lawmakers shut down the devices earlier this year, the machine operators sued. They contend the state enticed them to buy these devices but then shafted them by shutting down such gambling. Depending on how the courts rule, it's quite possible the next governor and next Legislature will have to agree to pay some legal judgments.)Nussle said Tuesday: "Let me be clear. As governor, I will not cut a deal on an out-of-court settlement with TouchPlay special interests and further put Iowa taxpayers on the hook." But Culver spokeswoman Taylor West told The Associated Press: "That's an issue that's winding its way through the courts." Then later in the day she issued a statement from Culver: "Let me be clear: This is a settled matter. TouchPlay is not coming back in my administration, and I am opposed to an out-of-court settlement."Well, let me be clear (to borrow a phrase). Culver's cutting the tail off the dog an inch at a time here. He came off looking like he either didn't know what he wanted to do - which is bad - or was trying to cozy up to his big donors without being straight with the rest of us - which is worse.

Entire article here

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