Thursday, November 22, 2001

Churches seek probe of game lobby

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Two church groups are calling for an investigation into the Ohio Lottery Commission's use of state resources to push for Ohio joining a multistate lottery.

        This month, the commission sent messages to its 9,000 lottery agents urging them to show support for a multistate lottery by calling lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee.

        The commission's actions were inappropriate and unethical, Rev. John Edgar of the United Methodist Church said Wednesday.

        “Obviously we think it's an inappropriate extension of influencing public policy by manufacturing the illusion of a grass roots responses,” the Rev. Mr. Edgar said.

        The church groups object to the commission using state-owned equipment to lobby lawmakers on a proposal that could benefit lottery agents.

        The Methodist Church and the Ohio Council of Churches have asked the Ohio inspector general and the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate.

        Gov. Bob Taft has proposed letting Ohio join a lottery like Powerball or the Big Game to help balance the state's $1.5 billion budget deficit.

        The Lottery Commission says its actions are protected by Ohio law, which allows the commission to promote the lottery, Connie Miller, assistant director, said Wednesday.

        The agents have told the commission they want Ohio to join a multistate game and have asked what they can do to help that happen, she said.

        House lawmakers oppose the plan. The Senate adopted the proposal as part of its budget plan.


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