Monday, February 14, 2011

NC Republicans gaming the public

It hasn't taken long for NC's new Republican legislature to start wallowing in the sleaze. Last week, Republicans from the General Assembly used a state building to hold a closed-door meeting with video gambling lobbyists.
House Republicans, who for years have complained about government secrecy, took in a three-hour briefing Thursday from special interests and lobbyists advocating both sides of the video gambling issue.

But they shut the media out, saying the gathering in the Legislative Office Building was only for Republicans and their invited guests.
Okay, bad enough.

But guess who set up the closed door meeting, er, we should say "policy-committee caucus?" The News & Observer reports
The state lawmaker who led a closed-door committee meeting last week for House Republicans to hear from lobbyists and special interests on video gambling is, himself, in the gambling business.

Rep. Mike C. Stone, a Sanford Republican, owns a small grocery where customers can play a variety of sweepstakes games on four desktop computer terminals. The games mimic the spinning wheels of a slot machine. Until this weekend, customers could also take their chances on four video-poker-style stand-up machines that lined a wall near the canned vegetables.

Stone said he removed the video-poker-style machines Friday night after repeated phone calls from an N&O reporter.

State law currently prohibits "electronic machines and devices used for sweepstakes purposes" across North Carolina, the result of a high-profile ban passed last year that was the third attempt by lawmakers in the past decade to wipe out all forms of video gambling. A first offense is a misdemeanor, but repeated violations are felonies.
The News & Observer goes on to report that two of the pro-gaming speakers that Rep. Stone invited to the closed-door session had made personal donations to his last campaign.

To be clear, there are bipartisan advocates for relaxing restrictions on gaming. Gov. Perdue is studying the idea as a way to close the budget gap. More locally, Democratic Rep. Earl Jones (who has also taken gaming lobbyists' money) has submitted legislation to legalize video sweepstakes machines. And you don't have to go too far back in the legislative history to find other Democrats, like former Speaker Jim Black, who were out-and-out corrupted by the video gaming industry.

It's too bad that Republicans now want to bring us back to that era.