Several media outlets, watchdog groups, bloggers, reporters, etc… spend a good amount of time educating the public on particular campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts and there effect on elected officials and the type of legislation they support and pass. Even when confronted with the details of a recent gift or contribution many elected officials simply give the standard answer of their judgement not being affected and continue to happily take the gifts from special interests.
However, there is one state representative who not only flaunts the contributions and gifts from gambling special interests, he fully expects to receive what he wants, when he wants it. After all, he is working hard to keep the casino industry happy. This elected official is none other than Rep. Shannon Cooper. He is among one of the largest recipeints of campaign contributions from the casino industry and has a social calendar filled with gambling special interest funded trips, hotel stays, concerts and more.
He is so proud of doing the casino industry’s bidding that he is now displaying a poster for Ameristar casino on the door to his legislative office in the State Capital building. That’s right…while other legislators display pictures and posters from their district, their alma-mater, or their family, Rep. Cooper proudly displays the source of campaign dollars and several lavish gifts. Don’t take our word for it…see for yourself (taken the morning of Tuesday, April 29, 2008):
The latest casino gift that Rep. Cooper enjoyed came last week with a complimentary hotel stay at Ameristar following a Jimmy Buffet concert in St. Louis. Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported
Rep. Shannon Cooper is among those headed to St. Louis tonight for the sold-out Jimmy Buffet concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
Cooper, R-Clinton, said he got a complimentary room for the night at the nearby Ameristar Casino hotel.
“Of course they got me a room,” he said.
The story was later updated:
Cooper said his ticket was free but he can’t remember who gave it to him.
It seems when you take so many lobbyist gifts it might be hard to keep track of the source. In Kit Wager’s report for the Kansas City Star, Rep. Cooper states:
If Ameristar wants to give me a room, I’ll take it. If someone wants to buy me tickets to a concert, I’ll let them. I don’t ask that often.
It seems that the frequency of gifts received by Rep. Cooper put him in a situation where he really never has to ask for them, he just does the work to make the gambling special interest happy and they make sure he doesn’t have to wait to receive a gift. As Randy Turner of the Turner Report highlights:
From the Feb. 10 Turner Report:
By all accounts, the performance given by country music legend George Jones June 10, 2007, at the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City was a rousing success and Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, had eight tickets to that event, worth $440, courtesy of lobbyist Betsy Morgan.
From the Oct. 6, 2007 Turner Report:
May 9 was a big night for freebies for Shannon Cooper. He accepted five Kenny Chesney tickets worth $345 from Stephen Knorr, University of Missouri lobbyist, and $343 in travel and lodging from Ameristar Casinos lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier, though Schlemeier only attributed a part of the cost to Ameristar, since it was the last day of the legislative session, it appears Cooper did quite a bit of celebrating.
Cooper also took a cruise provided by Ameristar Casinos lobbyist Sarah Topp during the National Conference of State Legislators in August.
Wager does note in his article that, ” Cooper, a Clinton Republican, insisted that the free room had nothing to do with his legislation.”
However, this would certainly not be the first time that gifts and contributions have coincided with legislative action from Rep. Cooper. Randy Turner at the Turner Report notes:
From the March 31 Turner Report:
Two days before Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, submitted a bill to remove the loss limits for Missouri casinos, he may have been conducting some in-person research at one of those facilities.
Documents posted minutes ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website indicate Cooper, whose bill would also limit the opening of new casinos in the state, thus lessening competition for those already here, had $771.17 for “hotel accommodations” paid for by Matthew Clark, lobbyist for Ameristar Hotel and Casino in Kansas City.
There are several elected officials that take the time to educate themselves on the issues, and are diligent in their reponsibilites to their constituents. Many of these legislators deal with a great amount of pressure from opposing sides on a variety of issues. And while the practice of lobbying gifts and special interest contributions doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, we must continue to stay vigilant and educated in order to keep our elected officials accountable. Hopefully, by examining contributions and lobbyist gifts we can weed out those legislators who will bend at the whim of a special interest gift from those who carry themselves with true character and remember that, “The Welfare of the People Shall be the Supreme Law.”