So I got an email early this morning from Steve Gray, who is leading a group of investors who want to open a casino in Cedar Rapids. All of that, of course, hinges on a March 5 countywide referendum.
Yesterday, Vote Yes Linn County released the names of most of the casino's investors. That didn't satisfy Just Say No Casino, who has, among other things, demanded disclosure of all investors' names and the planned site of the casino. They've also called on Vote Yes to pay the $200,000-plus cost of the election.
In the email, Gray responds:
A few updates:
- Drew and I both own more than 5%, in fact it is ~7.5%
- We did not finish our investment round until January 31st and on the first business day after closing we released substantially all of our investors which represents about 90% of our funding.
- No city, county, appointed or elected official is an investor
- Do the NO folks plan to tell us who is paying for 90% of their efforts?
- The “less than 10” are either a vendor to the surrounding market casinos (the guys paying for the NO campaign) or have friends/family that are not supportive of our efforts.
- We have not asked and do not plan to ask for any tax payer assistance.
- We volunteered to pay for the election, or make a donation, and were advised by the LCBOS that would be inappropriate and be bad precedent going forward.
I guess the NO people will be more upset when we provide updates on Ryan/OPN’s efforts in the next 7 – 10 days.
It sounds like, in the next seven to 10 days, we may see a narrowed list of possible sites. That's good news. And backers are sticking with their pledge to not seek taxpayer assistance with their plans.
I checked with Supervisor Brent Oleson on Gray's explanation of his offer to pay for the election, and Oleson says it's accurate. The board didn't feel like it should start charging some sort fee to anyone who meets the requirements for putting a measure on the ballot. The state has set out a process for these votes, backers collected thousands of signatures to meet those requirements. It's a democratic process. Maybe Gray's folks could afford it, but what about the next group of citizens bearing petitions?
Sure, backers wanted a vote, but so did, presumably, all the citizens who signed the petitions. And the elected Board of Supervisors put it on the ballot. If Just Say No wants Iowans to start paying for ballot measures, take it up with the General Assembly.
And we could settle a lot of the charges and accusations being tossed around if both sides would simply release campaign finance reports now, or soon, and perhaps on multiple occasions between now and March 5. Yes, I know that neither side is required to do so until March 1, but there is nothing in the law that says they can't release reports voluntarily, at any time.
Releasing a list of investors is not the same as showing us who is bankrolling the Vote Yes campaign itself. But it is better than what Just Say No has told us about its financing, which is exactly nothing.
Sure, this is partially about pesky journalists wanting to know. But from a strategy standpoint, does either campaign want this contributions bombshell to drop in its entirety on the weekend before the vote?
Just ask backers if the flood protection/road repair local sales tax in the spring of 2011 how great it was when finance reports hit the Friday before the vote, showing huge corporate contributions piled to the sky. How much effect did that have on what turned out to be a very tight vote? I'd argue it did have an effect.
Oh, yeah. There's also that quaint notion of letting voters know who exactly is paying for the campaigns to win their votes.
So let's see the numbers, sooner than later, and let the chips fall where they may.