Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer reaffirmed his support for a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling Feb. 9, and in the wake of allegations he has conflicts of interest, released a current client list for his consulting business.
Thayer, a Republican, has worked with Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear on language for the constitutional amendment and has indicated he is open to introducing the measure in the Senate. The process has been slowed by legal challenges to the General Assembly’s legislative redistricting plan.
Thayer chairs the Senate State and Local Government Committee, which is where the gaming bill probably would have its first hearing. Beshear has said he wants the measure on the November 2012 ballot.
“Some questions have been raised about my professional career outside of the state Senate and whether it impacts my views on public policy, particularly whether Kentucky should let the people vote on expanded gaming,” Thayer said in a statement released to the media. “I can unequivocally state that none of my company’s private sector clients stand to benefit from simply letting the people decide whether Kentucky should expand gambling, but because I have been a fierce advocate for transparency in government, I am releasing my client list.
“Like most members of the General Assembly, I am a part-time legislator with a full-time job outside of the legislature, just as the framers of our state constitution intended. My clients have released me to share our business relationship with the media and the public, and I am proud to do so.
“My position on this issue is clear—I believe the people should decide once and for all whether Kentucky will expand gaming. I am not pushing for legislative fiat on this issue, but rather for the people to make the final decision. Politicians in Frankfort have been debating this issue for decades; now it is time for the politicians to get out of the way and let the people make the choice. It is time for Kentucky to make this decision and move on.
“The implication that a legislator who wants to allow the people to decide an issue is somehow engaging in a conflict of interest is ludicrous. This is why more and more people don’t want to participate in politics these days. Personally destroying someone’s reputation is somehow more acceptable than just debating the issues and letting the best ideas rise to the top.
"I am offended that my integrity was called into question, but am happy to put any questions to rest in the interest of moving this issue forward. I believe a vast majority of Kentuckians see it the way I do—that a public referendum is the right way to lay this issue to rest.”
Thayer over the years has consistently said he would support expanded gambling legislation only if it called for a constitutional amendment. He also has said casino-style gambling should in part assist the Kentucky horse racing and breeding industry, which is battling competition from other states.
The client list for Thayer Communications & Consulting shows Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.; Millennium Farms in Lexington; Wintergreen Stallion Station in Midway, Ky.; and Whispering Oaks Farm in Carencro, La.
Thayer was accused of having conflicts of interest by the Rev. Hershael York, a friend of Republican Sen. president David Williams and an opponent of expanded gambling, even though he had been cleared by the Legislative Ethics Commission. One of his clients, Ro Parra of Millennium Farms, issued a statement through Thayer Feb. 9.
“Mr. Thayer is in my employ simply because of his knowledge of the industry and his marketing/public relations expertise and for no other reason,” said Parra, who lives in Texas but spends time in Kentucky at his farm. “There are no projects that Mr. Thayer does for my farm that have an impact on the legislative process, nor am I the beneficiary of that process. Mr. Thayer has been a valued member of the Millennium Farms team as a consultant for several years, and I look forward to my continuing working relationship with him for many years to come.”