Miller requests special prosecutor for casino donor investigation

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced yesterday that he is asking the State Executive Council to appoint a special prosecutor to look into allegations that three backers of a new casino in Fort Dodge made illegal contributions to Governor Chet Culver’s re-election campaign. Miller is recommending Lawrence Scalise, who is both a former attorney general and a former chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

“This was not an easy decision,” Miller said [in a prepared statement]. “My office has rarely withdrawn from a case in this manner. However, I believe the need for public confidence in the criminal justice process outweighs any other consideration.”

Miller did the right thing. A longtime aide in the Attorney General’s Office, Donn Stanley, has just taken over as campaign manager for Governor Culver. Although no one from the Culver campaign appears to be a target in the criminal investigation, there is clear potential for a conflict of interest. Republicans would have screamed about a cover-up if an investigator from Miller’s office found no wrongdoing by the governor’s campaign. Brenna Findley, the Republican candidate for attorney general, has been calling on Miller to step back from the investigation.

The three Fort Dodge residents whose donations have been questioned say their contributions to Culver’s campaign came from personal funds, and a spokeswoman for the company that would manage a new casino in Fort Dodge has denied that the company instructed its local consultants to give to Culver’s campaign.

On Tuesday the Racing and Gaming Commission held a lengthy hearing about four applications for new Iowa casinos. Culver has publicly supported new casinos for a long time and sent commissioners a letter in March urging them to approve all four applications. A decision is expected on May 13. My hunch is that only the casino proposed for Lyon County in far northwest Iowa will be approved, because it is unlikely to draw business away from any of Iowa’s existing casinos. The nearest population center is Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  

  • Until we get other economic development projects

    we need these casinos.  I know most “progressives” disagree with me on these issues.  I also don’t want to sound like a jerk, but otherwise this money would end up going to the taverns that poor people frequent so I guess its a wash.  

    • it's not a net gain for the economy

      The money people spend in the casinos is money they aren’t spending in local shops and restaurants. Economists have cast doubt on the whole concept of gambling as economic development.

      New casinos in Fort Dodge and Ottumwa would shift a little business away from other Iowa casinos, though.

  • I'm sure we could both find studies to support our point

    I am tired of the trial lawyers being the only interest group typically backing Democrats, we need the support of the business community as well.

    It is regressive to tell people where they can and cannot spend their money.  If someone wants to gamble on a machine they should be forced to sign a pledge that they will receive less in public assistance if they have a gambling problem.

    Damn Ed Fallon and his “progressive” values of restricting people of where they can spend money on a legal practice.  My beloved Jim Leach took the same general position on this issue and I disagreed with him on it as well.  

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