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Lobbyist Money Help  

State GOP files Carnahan complaint

September 07, 2000
By: Paul Monies
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Republican Party on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission charging Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan with improper Senate campaign connections.

The state Republican Party called on the FEC to investigate the ties between Carnahan and Michael Lazaroff, a casino lobbyist and former partner in St. Louis law firm Thompson & Coburn.

Lazaroff pleaded guilty to three felony charges June 13 in St. Louis involving gambling casinos and politics. Two counts were for defrauding Thompson & Coburn out of $500,000 in bonus payments from Station Casinos and for overcharging clients. A third charge was for violating federal campaign contribution limits.

Carnahan campaign spokesman Tony White called the GOP charges guilt by association.

"It's typical from a campaign that is devoid of any substantive issues," White said. "It's clear that the campaign has already returned these contributions."

In his plea, Lazaroff admitted asking other law firm employees to contribute to Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley in September 1999. He then reimbursed them, a violation of the federal limit of $1,000 in individual campaign contributions.

Lazaroff's sentencing is Oct. 3. He could face up to 33 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. As part of his plea agreement, Lazaroff agreed to cooperate with authorities and the Missouri Gaming Commission's investigation into Station Casinos.

Last week, the gaming commission started the process of pulling Station Casinos' gaming license for failure to cooperate with its investigation.

In the FEC complaint, state GOP spokesman Daryl Duwe argued Lazaroff "admits enlisting seven other employees of the firm to contribute to the Gore 2000 campaign and later reimbursing them with part of a bonus he received from a gambling firm he represented."

Duwe charged there was evidence a similar scheme may have been orchestrated by Lazaroff to help the Carnahan for Senate committee. Three of the seven law firm employees Lazaroff identified also contributed to the Carnahan campaign.

Eight other Thompson & Coburn employees contributed to Carnahan's campaign the same day as Lazaroff--April 6, 1999.

Carnahan subsequently returned Lazaroff's contribution and three others from the law firm that Lazaroff identified.

Federal campaign filings show Republican imcumbent Sen. John Ashcroft receiving six contributions totaling $2,100 on May 3, 1999, from Thompson & Coburn employees.

"The linchpin here is Michael Lazaroff, not Thompson & Coburn," Duwe said of Ashcroft's contributions.