Group links Lott actions to casino donations
By Brad Wright and Paul Courson/CNN
June 15, 1999
Web posted at: 4:16 p.m. EDT (2016 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 15) -- Donations to the Republican Party by casino operators illustrate the need to reform campaign finance laws, according to the consumer group Public Citizen.
The group believes there is a link between so-called "soft money" and legislative actions on gaming issues taken by the Senate leadership, including Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Soft money is money donated to a particular political party and is unlimited. Donations to specific politicians are strictly regulated.
Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook told reporters at a Monday news conference that uncontrolled soft money can amount to "legalized bribery." The group was promoting its 30-page report entitled "Betting on Trent Lott: The Casino Industry’s Campaign Contributions Pay Off in Congress."
"What we're talking about here is the gambling industry -- primarily the casino industry -- buying benefits in law from the majority leader of the United States Senate," she said.
Lott, questioned at a event elsewhere going on at nearly the same time as the Public Citizen news conference, told CNN he considers the industry a "constituent."
He said "that industry has created a lot of jobs and a lot of income in my state," and that "they are now a constituent."
On Friday, details of how the industry is run are expected in a report from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, a congressional commission that is conducting a study of the social and economic impacts of gambling on federal, state, local, and Native American tribal governments, and communities and social institutions involved.
Claybrook acknowledged her group's report failed to find evidence of a direct cause-and-effect between donations and any decisions by Lott, but she said there's a strong circumstantial case from which to draw such a conclusion.
She said Lott was personally involved in blocking an environmental investigation of possible casino development in his home state. She also cited the report which Lott had been influenced to play a role in tax benefits granted the gambling industry, and limits placed on the investigative powers of the gambling commission coming out with its report this week.
Public Citizen's report says that in the last two election cycles, 40 percent of the soft money contributions to the GOP from the casino industry went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.