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Missouri lawmakers question artifacts loan to Bass Pro CEO

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TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 05: Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris speaks during a press conference for Stewart-Haas Racing announcing that Bass Pro Shops will sponsor Tony Stewart?s #14 car for 18 races in 2013, including the season-opening Daytona 500, in the media center at Talladega Superspeedway on October 5, 2012 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Stewart-Haas Racing)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri lawmakers are questioning whether the decision by state Departments of Natural Resources and Conservation officials to loan public artifacts to a private museum owned by the founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops amounted to pay-to-play.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Johnny Morris owns Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum in Branson. Morris requested to borrow some of the artifacts from a Missouri State Museum facility for his own museum and later made a $50,000 donation to the state parks foundation.

State parks director Bill Bryan told a House of Representatives panel Thursday that the loan was a private-public partnership. Bryan denies Morris’ donation had anything to do with the loan.

Some panel members say they will look into how the foundation is spending the money Morris contributed.
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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com