Questions emerge over West Virginia association to legalize cockfighting in stateBy Lawrence Messina, AP
Monday, November 2, 2009
Questions emerge over W.Va. gamecock group
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ever since a man in a chicken costume showed up in front of West Virginia’s state Capitol last week, questions have arisen about the stunt’s alleged purpose: to legalize cockfighting in the state.
Several media outlets reported on the figure waving to morning commuters and passing out flyers that advocated “Cockfighting at West Virginia Casinos!”
The man refused to give his name. But a Democratic political activist, John Bradford “J.B.” Parker, later presented himself as a spokesman for the West Virginia Association for Gamecock Sports.
In interviews, Parker said the group wants the state to legalize cockfighting, which is a crime in all 50 states.
No group by that name is on file with the Ethics Commission, which regulates all lobbyists, or on the register kept by the secretary of state of organizations doing business in West Virginia. The group has a Web site, which consists of a single page that online records show was created five days before the chicken costume appearance.
Officials with two national industry groups, the American Game Fowl Society and the United Game Breeders Association, say they have never heard of the alleged West Virginia association.
The same is true for state lawmakers from areas where game fowl have traditionally been raised. Dismissing the prospects of legalized cockfighting, they instead cite rumors questioning the alleged group’s purpose.
“What I’m hearing is that there’s an ulterior motive here, but I don’t know what it is,” said Delegate Steve Kominar, D-Mingo.
Last week’s stunt has been noted in neighboring Ohio, where voters on Tuesday will decide whether to approve casino gambling.
Foes of the ballot issue have invoked the specter of cockfight wagering at West Virginia casinos to urge the Ohio measure’s defeat. They argue that a provision of the referendum would allow the casinos proposed for Ohio to host any form of gambling found in other states.
A spokesman for the leading pro-casino group, Ohio Jobs & Growth Committee spokesman, called the notion of gamefowl gambling a “rather bizarre idea” that he doesn’t believe anyone in West Virginia is taking seriously.
“On behalf of the prospective casino operators in Ohio, there will be no cockfighting in Ohio casinos,” Bob Tenenbaum said. “It’s a stupidly ridiculous notion.”
Parker told The Associated Press last week that he was enlisted without pay by one member of the group, and that they’ve communicated solely by e-mail. He declined to identify the individual, and said he did not know the names of any others connected with the alleged association.
But he would not rule out that the whole thing is a hoax, perhaps meant to influence Ohio voters.
“Anything’s possible. I don’t know,” Parker said.
Associated Press staff writers Julie Carr Smyth and Stephen Majors in Columbus, Ohio, and Tom Breen in Charleston contributed to this report.
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