The chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party says if you use Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle’s logic, then Nussle must have a “secret plan” to aid the state’s gambling casinos.

This weekend, Nussle accused rival Chet Culver, the Democratic candidate for governor, of having a secret plan to benefit the TouchPlay industry because TouchPlay backers have given Culver over $100,000. Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, held a news conference to point to the quarter of a million dollars that Nussle himself has accepted from casino owners. “If Nussle’s own standard of ‘secret plans’ is applied to him, then he must have a secret plan to expand gambling,” Pederson says.

People with interest in eight different Iowa casinos have donated to the Nussle campaign and the finance chair for Nussle campaign is Gerald Kirke, who owns gambling casinos in Emmetsburg and Clinton. “Using his own logic, Nussle needs to answer the following question: what is his secret plan to expand gambling in Iowa? If he says there is no plan, will he finally admit there’s no evidence that Chet Culver has a secret plan?”

Pederson says the whole debate is nonsense and Nussle is making “baseless” charges. “It would be nice if we could be talking about the real issues in this race, but Congressman Nussle has turned the focus to TouchPlay,” Pederson says. “We think this is a desperate move by a desperate campaign.”

The two top Republicans in the Iowa Legislature held a news conference to denounce the TouchPlay industry for donating to Democrats running for the statehouse. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says TouchPlay owners and operators have formed a new group called “Revenues for Main Street” that’s donating exclusively to Democrats. “They seem to be placing an awfully big bet on the Democrats running for the state legislature and no doubt expect a pay-off in November,” Rants says.

Rants himself has accepted $80,000 from the state’s casino industry for a special fund he’s established to bankroll Republican candidates. “People who are still happy with the status quo, (who) don’t think we ought to have an expansion of gambling, those people seem to be the ones that are supporting Republicans at this time,” Rants says.

Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion suggests, as the Republican candidate for governor has, that Democrats have a “secret plan” to aid the businesses and investors who lost money in TouchPlay. “I have always supported gambling. I have supported casino gambling in the state of Iowa and I have taken money from the casinos,” Lundby says. “Casino gambling is legal — it is legal in this state. TouchPlay overwhelmingly was decided that it should not be legal.”

Craig Cohoon, the vice president of one of the businesses that invested in TouchPlay, says the industry understands TouchPlay is history and to suggest they are hatching a “secret plan” with Democrats is “sheer fantasy.” Cohoon says TouchPlay owners and operators are giving campaign contributions to Democrats who expressed a “willingness to help” them when the Republican-led state legislature seemed intent to ban the machines.

Cohoon says it’s naive for Lundby and Rants to expect the TouchPlay industry would not get involved in this year’s election since this past spring’s shut-down of TouchPlay was led by Lundby and Rants.