2020 YEAR IN REVIEW: Campaign-finance probe snares former lawmakers

Former state Sen. Brent Waltz and casino executive and former state lawmaker John Keeler were indicted in September on federal charges related to violating federal campaign finance laws.

Waltz faces one count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions, false statements and to obstruct justice; one count of making and receiving conduit contributions; one count of obstruction of justice; and two counts of making false statements.

Keeler is the vice president of Spectacle Entertainment, which owns two casinos in Gary. He has been charged with one count of conspiracy to make illegal corporate contributions, false statements and to obstruct justice; one count of making illegal corporate contributions; one count of obstruction of justice; and one count of making false statements.

Both men entered not-guilty pleas.

Spectacle Entertainment is operating the Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II casinos on Lake Michigan and is constructing a $300 million land-based casino that will replace those riverboats.

Spectacle is also the parent company of Spectacle Jack, which is building a $125 million casino in Terre Haute. Florida-based Hard Rock is partnering with Spectacle Jack on the 100,000-square-foot casino.

On Sept. 29, the Indiana Gaming Commission said it was reviewing whether to revoke Spectacle’s license, citing the allegations in the indictments.

“This matter is extremely serious,” Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait said in a statement.

The indictments are related to an earlier investigation that became public in January when Republican strategist Chip O’Neil, a vice president at Strategic Campaign Group, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court in Virginia.

O’Neil admitted to helping collect donations from small donors in the names of candidates who never received the money.

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