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Casino lobby firm hires Alabama GOP chair

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A Mississippi lobbying firm whose clients include casino operators has hired the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party to represent the firm in Alabama, but Party Chairwoman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh says she has done no work on behalf of casinos.

"That's in my contract. I won't touch anything related to gambling," Cavanaugh said.

The GOP chairwoman said she did that because she doesn't gamble and because the Alabama Republican Party has long opposed the expansion of gambling in the state.

But Cavanaugh's decision to work for Capitol Resources of Jackson, Miss., has attracted attention in Alabama political circles.

Capitol Resources is one of Mississippi's top contract lobbying firms. It includes John Lundy, former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and two nephews of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Alabama law requires anyone who lobbies the Alabama Legislature to register with the State Ethics Commission. The law does not require registration by people who lobby the governor's office or state boards and commissions.

In June 2005, Cavanaugh filed a report with the Ethics Commission saying she would be lobbying for Capitol Resources and the Alabama Republican Party.

Firm represents casinos

Capitol Resources' partners have registered with the secretary of state in Mississippi to represent the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which operates two casinos in Philadelphia, Miss., and the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi. The firm also has many other prominent clients, including Northrop Grumman and Rolls-Royce.

In January, the State Ethics Commission received a form from Cavanaugh canceling her registration as a lobbyist.

Cavanaugh continued working for Capitol Resources, but she said she canceled her registration because her work on behalf of the firm involved trying to line up new clients rather than lobbying. "I have never gone to a legislator and said you need to vote for this bill," she said.

Henry Barbour, the governor's nephew and a partner in Capitol Resources, said he approached Cavanaugh about working for Capitol Resources because they worked together at the Republican National Committee in Washington in 1994, when Haley Barbour was the RNC's chairman.

He said Cavanaugh came on board as part of the lobbying firm's plan to expand into Alabama and Florida. "She's been trying to help us get a small foothold over there," he said.

At this point, "we don't even lobby the Legislature in Alabama," he said.

J. Holland, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore, said the fact that the GOP chairman signed up to lobby reinforces Moore's position that the Legislature is too controlled by lobbyists, who outnumber legislators 4-to-1.

State records show that Cavanaugh is not the only political party official to have registered as a lobbyist. State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham is registered with the Ethics Commission to represent his party and the pharmaceutical company Sepracor.

State Rep. Randy Hinshaw, chairman of a House subcommittee that will be reviewing the governor's and attorney general's recent proposals to restrict gambling, noted that Cavanaugh worked for Gov. Bob Riley as his appointments secretary and deputy chief of staff before becoming GOP chairman and starting work for Capitol Resources.

Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, also noted news stories last year about how the Choctaw Indian tribe routed money to antigambling groups in Alabama in 1999 and 2000 to fight proposals to expand gambling in the state. Those proposals could have hurt the Choctaws' Mississippi casinos.

"That doesn't pass the straight face test," Hinshaw said.

But Henry Barbour said it's much ado about nothing.

"Before she came to work for us, she made it clear she would not represent gambling interests," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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