Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle is accusing his Democratic rival, Chet Culver, of harboring a “secret plan” to help businesses that invested in the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines. Nussle made the accusation during the last face-to-face meeting between the two men who are running to become Iowa’s next governor.
Nussle noted that William Krause, the founder of the Kum & Go convenience store chain, had pulled his support of Nussle’s candidacy because Nussle called for banning the TouchPlay machines. Recent campaign disclosure records show Krause has contributed to Culver’s campaign. “He’s thrown his support, as so many other TouchPlay proponents (have), behind my opponent,” Nussle said. “…There’s a secret plan out there to either reinstate TouchPlay or for that matter, for a secret settlement.”
Culver, who laughed during Nussle’s accusation, replied. “This is interesting, this new theory that the congressman has concocted,” Culver said. “…Bill Krause, who is an Iowa leader in terms of business growth — we’re proud of what Kum & Go has done in this state and congressman, you’d be surprised to know that (Krause) actually roomed with my uncle 40 years ago at the University of Iowa.”
Nussle interjected: “What does that have to do with TouchPlay?”
Culver responded: “It is a family friendship.”
A few moments later, Nussle suggested TouchPlay interests were hoping Culver would approve having the state pay TouchPlay owners and operators a billion dollars if he becomes governor. “I think there is a deal that has been made here with regard to TouchPlay and I think it ought to be exposed to the voters,” Nussle said. “There’s a lot of resources that have been thrown at my opponent for TouchPlay when $1 billion is hanging in the balance.”
The debate’s moderator then asked Culver about Nussle’s accusation that Culver had a “secret plan” to benefit the TouchPlay industry. “Deal or no deal?” the moderator asked. “Absolutely no deal whatsoever. It’s crazy to suggest there is.”
Culver then cited the campaign contributions Nussle accepted from businessman Gary Kirke. “You have accepted large sums of money from casino owners in Iowa,” Culver said. “One of his largest supporters owns not one but two casinos in Iowa.”
Nussle pressed Culver on the issue one more time when the candidates had an opportunity to ask one another questions. “We need to know what your plan is for TouchPlay. You need to provide us an answer,” Nussle told Culver.
Culver replied: “Let me be very clear about this, congressman. We are not bringing TouchPlay back. You know, my grandmother used to tell me that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Congressman, you’ve taken more than $100,000 from a casino owner, so for you to suggest that it’s wrong for me to take money from anyone, frankly, is also wrong.”
The quibbling continued after the debate ended. Nussle told reporters Culver has “probably” agreed to make a multimillion dollar settlement to TouchPlay owners and operators because of the “peculiar” mix of Culver campaign contributors who are linked to TouchPlay. “With all that’s at stake, not only the fact that the machines are still in the state and the fact that this election may decide what kind of governor we’re going to have as well as what kind of settlement we may have in TouchPlay, I think it’s highly unusual the kinds of contributions that he’s received,” Nussle said.
Culver, talking to reporters after the debate, again called Nussle’s accusation crazy. “Congressman Nussle concocted this theory,” Culver said. “There’s zero truth to it…There’s no deal. There’s nothing factually correct based on what Congressman Nussle said today and I couldn’t be more clear about that. I think the people of Iowa can sense desperation when they see it.”
Critics complained the TouchPlay machines were just like slot machines and the state’s casino industry labeled TouchPlay machines as unfair competition to their gambling operations. This past spring legislators voted to ban TouchPlay machines from the state and the devises were shut off four and a half months ago.
Saturday’s debate between the two candidates was sponsored by the Des Moines Register and broadcast on Iowa Public Television.