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Witness: Scams abound in statehouse

A former lawmaker who has admitted selling his vote for cash painted a sordid picture of a money-grubbing state Legislature in testimony Saturday at a former colleague's federal bribery trial. Robert Kohn, a former state representative, told jurors that he and suspended Rep. Luther Taylor "were on the same program" in recruiting lawmakers in a vote-selling scheme.

Taylor is one of nine lawmakers indicted on charges of taking bribes in exchange for their support of a bill legalizing betting on horses and greyhounds.

Taylor is accused of taking $4,300 from lobbyist Ron Cobb. He has pleaded innocent.

Kohn, who became a government informant in May, testified that he and Taylor sought legislators who would take money for pushing the pari-mutuel betting bill.

Kohn also admitted to taking part in several "scams," as he called them.

Kohn said he and another lawmaker planned to introduce legislation this year that would hurt the oil industry, hoping they could make money from oil lobbyists.

Kohn also said he was involved in a scheme that reportedly paid $400 to a black man to run in the June primary against U.S. Rep. Arthur Ravenel, R-S.C., who is white.

Kohn said another man he did not name wanted to increase the white turnout in the Republican primary to help another white candidate in another race.

And Kohn acknowledged he was offered a $20,000 bribe from an amusement company representative to defeat legislation aimed at curtailing video poker. Kohn said he recruited another lawmaker "who could perform miracles" to help kill the bills. The company never paid the bribe, Kohn said.

During his testimony, Kohn pointed out that most legislators profit from their $74 a day in expense allowances. Also, many lawmakers regularly try to find excuses to take trips paid for by taxpayers or special interest groups, he said.

The legislature is a six-month job, paying $10,400.

"If you play your cards right, you can get people to pick up your meals, your liquor. Even the guy who does it by the book is going to make money," Kohn said.

Prosecutors rested their case Saturday, and the defense is expected to begin its arguments Monday.

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