News Articles

Effort made to tarnish Baptists at helm of Ala. anti-lottery effort

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Lottery opponents in Alabama have denied accusations that they are being funded by casinos.
Gov. Don Siegelman’s office specifically cited Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and former gubernatorial candidate Lenora Pate, both Baptists, as taking money from Mississippi gambling interests.
Both Windom and Pate were quick to deny the allegations and said they are not interested in playing any political games.
“Basically, the governor’s office has thrown rocks but not faced the debate,” said Windom, a member of First Baptist Church, Tillman’s Corner, near Mobile. “[Siegelman] does not want an honest debate on the lottery.
“I’m not taking money,” Windom said. “My role is to educate the public. I am certainly comfortable with what the people decide on Oct. 12, but I feel they don’t have but one side of the story as of yet.”
Pate, co-chair of the state Woman’s Missionary Union anti-lottery initiative, Citizens Advocating Responsible Education and Economics (CARE), said, “It is troubling to me that the governor’s chief of staff has stated that the anti-gambling, anti-lottery opposition is being funded by Mississippi casino gambling dollars.
“That is not only troubling to me, but the governor’s office knows me and knows that is a lie,” said Pate, a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Homewood, in the Birmingham area. “I’m not funded by anybody. I am a private citizen and have not raised the first dollar.
“I get asked to speak all the time and I do it as part of my community service,” Pate said. “I do it because I care.”
Windom said he also has been speaking frequently across the state about the lottery issue.
“I am working with others who are opposed to it,” Windom said. “I think a lottery is bad for Alabama.”
Pate challenged Siegelman to address the issues instead of “trying to lie, mislead or deceive.”
“It is only the truth that sheds light and allows people to have an informed voice,” Pate said.
Similar allegations were made in 1997 against Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) executive director Dan Ireland.
The state’s top “preacher-lobbyist” was accused of receiving funding from the Mississippi-based Casino Magic Corp.
However, after investigation by The Alabama Baptist newsjournal, officials from Casino Magic went on record discounting the rumors.
“I know where they are in being falsely accused,” Ireland said. “The evidence is not founded. I don’t know of anyone opposing the lottery who is financing their efforts from other forms of gambling,” he said.
“I would not make an accusation like that unless I knew it was a fact,” Ireland said. “I’m disappointed that anyone would make an accusation that a person who opposes a type of gambling would take money from another form of gambling.”
However, Paul Hamrick, chief of staff for Siegelman, said the money for the anti-lottery campaigns is coming from somewhere, but no one is revealing the source.
“The lieutenant governor is leading a lottery campaign funded by secret money,” Hamrick claimed. “The entire anti-lottery effort is being funded by out-of-state money, at least it is a secretly funded campaign, but they won’t disclose the money.
“They can resolve the problem very simply by revealing where the money is coming from,” Hamrick noted.
Hamrick said he believes the money may be coming from Mississippi casinos because early in the lottery campaign the casinos were handing out money to defeat the lottery.
But Bob Gambacurta, one of several Montgomery lobbyists hired by Mississippi casinos to fight other gambling measures in Alabama, denied the allegation.
He told The Birmingham News that the group of lobbyists hired by the casinos were not getting involved in the election and were letting the voters decide.
Ireland said, “I have no reason to at all to believe that the lieutenant governor nor Lenora Pate have taken one dime from casinos.
“There has not been and will not be any gambling money directly or indirectly used to fund the anti-lottery effort,” he said. “We have made that commitment to one another.
“I think it is an effort to discredit the opposition. It is evident they are grabbing at straws to feather a lottery nest,” Ireland said.

    About the Author

  • Jennifer Davis Rash