Coast senator denies conflict of interest after campaign fundraiser

Mississippi Lottery board member raises money for politician

Coast senator denies conflict of interest after campaign fundraiser
Sen. Michael Watson

JACKSON, MS (WLOX/AP) - A Coast lawmaker found himself at the center of a controversy Wednesday when questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest.

At confirmation hearings Wednesday for the Mississippi Lottery Corp. board, Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula faced questions about one of the board’s nominees Gerard Gibert.

The Clarion Ledger reports Gibert recently hosted a campaign fundraiser for Sen. Watson, who is running for Mississippi Secretary of State. Gibert held the campaign event at his Ridgeland home, where guests paid $250 each to attend the fundraiser for Sen. Watson.

Both Gibert and Watson say there is no conflict. Sen. Watson addressed the concerns in an emotional statement, emphasizing that there has been no impropriety.

"For anyone of you to challenge the integrity of an individual of this member because someone dared to offer their home and did not make a contribution at the that event," said Sen. Watson. "I paid for the food. I paid for everything out of my pocket. He opened his home to welcome me, to welcome some colleagues, to welcome some individuals that are supporting me in my campaign for secretary of state."

Gibert says he is “deeply offended” that anyone would see a potential conflict in his raising money for Watson, who serves on the Senate Finance Committee. Gibert says he has known Watson for years.

The Finance Committee recommended Wednesday that the full Senate confirm Gibert’s nomination. Watson voted for the recommendation.

Nominations for three other appointees were also confirmed during the hearings. A fifth appointee will have a hearing in the future.

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