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Wamp: Haslam Should Release Pilot Earnings from Education Lottery Tickets

Press Release from Zach Wamp, Republican Candidate for Governor; June 14, 2010:

Says Haslam Needs to Itemize, Address All Conflicts of Interest

NASHVILLE – Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for governor, today called on Mayor Bill Haslam to voluntarily disclose Pilot Corporation’s total earnings to date from the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation through sales of lottery tickets at its retail stores and to be fully open and transparent with the public about his personal finances and obvious conflicts of interest with state government.

The Tennessee Education Lottery has generated more than $6.5 billion in sales since its inception in 2004 and has paid out roughly $393 million in commissions and bonuses to its retailer partners, including the Haslam-owned Pilot Corporation and its subsidiary, Pilot Travel Centers.

Reports indicate that Haslam’s Pilot Corporation ranks fourth all-time among the Lottery’s top 25 corporate accounts in terms of gross sales and commissions from lottery tickets. In addition, Pilot Travel Centers is listed separately among the Lottery’s top 25 corporate accounts, and it has an employee who sits on the Lottery Retailer Advisory Board, which directly advises the Lottery’s governing Board of Directors on retailer issues.

“Bill Haslam’s growing list of conflicts with state government and the citizens of Tennessee as a result of his ownership of Pilot Oil raises serious questions about his ability to lead and make decisions in the best interest of Tennessee rather than his company’s bottom line,” Wamp said.

“Mr. Haslam has been asked repeatedly to be fully open and transparent about his personal income taxes and his many conflicts through Pilot Oil, but he has refused every time. So today, I call on Bill Haslam to fully and completely disclose and itemize each and every business dealing Pilot Corporation and its many partners and subsidiaries has with Tennessee state government, and how he intends to deal with each of those issues if he is elected Governor.”

Last week it was revealed that Pilot Travel Centers partners with and derives income from casino gambling operations in at least three states, including hundreds of 24-hour slot machines throughout Nevada. Mayor Haslam holds personal ownership licenses for video poker machines at Pilot Casinos in Louisiana linked directly to his home address in Knoxville. In addition, CVC Capital Partners, which purchased a 47.5 percent stake in Pilot Travel Centers in 2008, owns and operates major multi-national gambling interests.

The legalization of casino gaming machines, such as slot and video poker machines, has been promoted and adopted by several states across the country Last year, Illinois passed legislation legalizing casino gaming in bars, restaurants and truck stops there. The State of Illinois will receive 30 percent of the revenue from all such machines.

Wamp urged Haslam not to hand the Democrat Party such obvious campaign issues by joining the rest of the gubernatorial candidates and be fully open and transparent about his personal finances by releasing his recent federal tax returns with support schedules, as well as information detailing all business partnerships and remaining conflicts of interest with government through his ownership of Pilot Corporation.

Haslam remains the only gubernatorial candidate not to comply with a request by the Tennessee Newspaper Network to release copies of his federal tax returns from the last three years. As a result, taxpayers are left in the dark as to the size and scope of Haslam’s personal stake in Pilot Corporation, which pays a registered lobbyist to watch over its investments and lobby for government funding for the $16 billion company at the state Legislature in Nashville.

The Associated Press recently reported that Pilot Corporation received more than a half-million dollars in state taxpayer money between July 2007 and November 2009 to upgrade the company’s gas stations and increase its profits on the taxpayers’ dime.

Haslam was also forced to explain his personal stake in a $14 million downtown Knoxville real estate development in which he co-mingled his own money and family money with City of Knoxville funds on the profit-making deal. Haslam explained to reporters that his investment of $2 million was solely for civic reasons, despite the fact that he will reportedly earn a five percent annual profit over the next 40 years.

Yet Knoxville’s city charter expressly prohibits city employees from direct financial interest in the profits of city-financed projects:

From the city charter: “…It shall be unlawful for any member of council, member of the board of education, officer or employee of the city to have or hold any interest in the profits or emoluments of any contract, job, work or service, either by himself or by another, directly or indirectly…”

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