In 1996, as he ascended to the rank of Majority Leader, Lott
was instrumental in diluting the proposed subpoena power of the National Gambling
Impact Study Commission, depriving it of authority to grill top casino executives
on the industrys controversial marketing practices. While Congress debated
the Commission, Lott helped raise and benefited from $1.78 million in casino soft
money, of which 23 percent went directly to the NRSC. In a several-week period
before and after Senate action, three casino companies contributed $450,000 to
the Republican Party, including $250,000 from Trump Casinos the day before Senate
passage of the weakened bill.
In the spring of 1998, Lott played the major role in preventing
a Senate debate and vote on a proposal to finance an education initiative by stopping
high rollers from deducting their losses from their winnings when calculating
their federal income taxes. During the same period, he quietly inserted into a
House-Senate Conference Report on the IRS Reform Bill a provision permitting employers
and employees solely in the casino industry to receive 100 percent tax exemptions
for employer-provided meals, regardless of whether workers needed to eat on the
premises to do their jobs properly. This saves the industry an estimated $316
million from 1998 to 2007.
In 1998, Lott virtually single-handedly forced the overturning
of a Department of the Army-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joint policy
to assess the direct and indirect environmental impacts of past casino development
on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and delay certain casino permits in sensitive areas
while the study was under way.
During the 1997-98 election cycle surrounding these tax and
regulatory initiatives, casino interests gave $2.46 million to the Republican
Party -- 52 percent of which went to the NRSC. In five days in March, while the
Senate was considering the gambling loss tax deduction and pro-casino groups were
lobbying Lott against environmental restrictions, the NRSC took in $450,000 from
three casino companies, including $250,000 from Mirage Resorts.
While toiling on behalf of pro-casino contributors, Lott has
also directed a nearly two-year filibuster against the majority-supported McCain-Feingold
campaign finance reform bill that would eliminate the gambling and other industries
large soft money donations.