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RightChange Gets Money From Controversial Businessman

by Will Evans
Oct 31, 2008

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Will Evans

RightChange.com's blitz of anti-Obama ads has been bankrolled mainly with more than $5 million from pharmaceutical executive Fred Eshelman. But this month the 527 organization diversified: it put out a new ad (below) supporting Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole in its home state of North Carolina. And it reported receiving $100,000 from a controversial businessman named R. Craig Estey.

In trying to figure out who Estey is, we found some interesting background. Estey runs a chain of gambling parlors in Nevada called Dotty's. He also operated one of the biggest video gambling operations in Oregon until the state lottery ran him out of town.

In December 2006, Oregon Lottery Director Dale Penn wrote Estey to terminate his state lottery contract because "you do not satisfy the requirements of good character, honesty, and integrity that apply to all Lottery Retailers."

It all started with a domestic dispute Estey had in 2005, when he allegedly held a gun to his then-wife's head and threatened her life.

Gaming officials from Nevada looked into it. The Gaming Control Board said that Estey initially lied to its investigators before admitting his wife's version of events. He eventually agreed to a $200,000 fine from the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The Oregon State Lottery eventually found out about the case from a newspaper columnist. Because of the incident, the lying and the fact that Estey didn't notify Oregon officials of his problems, Penn wrote that "your continued association with the Oregon Lottery poses a threat to the actual or apparent integrity, fairness and security of the Lottery and is not consistent with the public interest, convenience and trust in keeping with the sensitive nature of the Lottery."

We tried to contact Estey through his lawyer on Wednesday but Estey hasn't responded. He sold his Oregon company last year but is still operating in Nevada. And now, Estey is venturing into the not-quite-ended 2008 campaign.

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