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Political Shenanigans in Michigan Must Stop: Online Poker Bill Author Wife Hired by Lobbying Firm

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
May/15/2016

  • Senator says no conflict of interest since wife is not working directly on project
  • Common Cause calls the circumstances “troubling”
  • Founder of Poker firm looking to enter Michigan market stepped down following insider trading allegations
  • Major shortfalls in Michigan conflict of interest laws for lawmakers

In a shocking revelation late Saturday, the Detroit Free Press has revealed that an Internet gambling bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Kowall is being backed by his wife’s lobbying firm, thus presenting a tremendous conflict of interest.

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He says there is no conflict of interest because his wife, lobbyist Eileen Kowall, is not working directly on the project and he had been working on the legislation for three years prior to her arrival there.  Groups such as Common Cause believe otherwise.

"It seems like a pretty troubling set of circumstances," said Melanie McElroy, the group's executive director. 

She added: "It's troubling Sen. Kowall would sponsor legislation that would enrich MGS — a consulting firm that employs his wife.”

Amaya, a multinational company which owns Internet gaming sites PokerStars and Full Tilt, and whose founder recently stepped down amid insider trading allegations, is a major backer of Kowall's bill.

The Detroit Free Press also uncovered that Amaya's registered lobbyist in Lansing is MGS Consultants, which counts Kowall's wife, Eileen, among the firm's five lobbyists.

Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, told the Michigan Free Press that this case illustrates several shortfalls in Michigan law, including clear conflict of interest laws for lawmakers as well as the lack of financial disclosure requirements for elected officials and their spouses.

- Chris Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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