Governor Easley gave us a first class example of how that works at his press conference about the lottery scandal last week. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the press asked:
Question: “Given the level of exposure that the lobbying system has gotten in the last several weeks…do you think the lobbying bill needs to be strengthened and all gifts need to be banned?”
Answer: “Maybe so. The problem you run into is that almost everywhere I go, they’ll give you a T-shirt or a hat…You go to a second-grade class or More at Four…they give you a More at Four T-shirt. You don’t want to turn around and say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t take this. Y’all are bad for giving it to me.’ So it puts you in a bit of a bind. I think you ought to report it. … I think having to report it is fine. We would all be better off it there were no gifts…so there would be no suspicion on the part of people out there.”
Now that’s called dancing the two step with the press. Instead of answering the question he asked – about Scientific Games paying a lottery commissioner $10,000 the day after he was appointed – the governor waxed eloquent about More at Four T-shirts.
The Governor wasn’t done.
Question: “Should Scientific Games be removed from the list of potential vendors for a lottery contract?”
Answer: The Governor said he has confidence in the lottery commission and added, “I think they’ll delve into this and find out more. You know, most of what we know now came from Scientific Games. Once they filed their report that they had the relationship with Mr. Geddings, paying him the $24,000 or $25,000, that’s when we knew this guy’s got to go. I’d look into Scientific Games and find out how deep this went. Was this just one person, or was this the culture in the community…of the entire corporation?”
If Geddings had ‘to go’ for taking $24,000 from Scientific Games how come Scientific Games doesn’t have ‘to go’ for giving it to him? Dodge two for the Governor.
Question: “When you signed the lottery bill, did you have knowledge that Scientific Games had a hand in writing part of it?”
Answer: “Did not. But let me be completely honest with you. I have never seen a lobbyist over there that I can recall that didn’t offer some sort of language. … The first thing you generally tell them is, ‘Give me some language. Show me what you’re talking about.’ … So I don’t think that is at all unusual that they would ask for some language. The press association is always giving us language. … The sheriff’s association gives us language. Nothing wrong with that. Having said that, there may be something inappropriate about the vehicle that was used, i.e., was the person who submitted the language as a lobbyist registered as a lobbyist?”
Red flags went up as soon as I read that line, “let me be completely honest with you.” Here’s what the Governor said: He ‘didn’t know,’ but it happens all the time and there’s ‘nothing wrong with that’ but it may be ‘inappropriate’ this time. That about covers all the bases.
Question: “Should lottery tickets be sold at businesses that also have video-poker machines?”
Answer: “I think you’re going to find that the lottery will pretty much do away with the video-poker industry…I think it’s likely that you’re going to see all the retailers opt for the lottery, and I think you’re going to see consumers opt for the lottery. It’s a decision for the commission to make, unless the legislature acts on it. … I would expect if there’s an opportunity to put the lottery in and video poker out, they’re going to seize that, and I don’t think that would be necessarily a bad thing. And I think a hundred sheriffs in this state would be very grateful.”
The Governor said what the Lottery Commission can’t do, what the legislature can do and what the sheriffs want to do. But after reading that answer do you have a clue whether the Governor wants to ban video poker or not?
That’s called ‘Dancing the Two-Step with the Press.”