"Moreland Monday" analysis: gambling interests "stacking the deck" in favor of constitutional amendment
Today Common Cause/NY released the latest in a series of "Moreland Monday" analyses, this week focused on political giving from gambling interests since 2011.
The analysis is particularly relevant in light of the November 5th ballot referendum in which New Yorkers will vote whether or not to approve casino style gambling. The amendment language has been criticized for its nakedly pro-gambling slant, and recent news reports have also revealed the formation of a new PAC, NY Jobs Now, which is expected to spend handily to sway voters in favor of the amendment.
The Common Cause/NY data is based on a previous report, Stacking the Deck, which showed that industry interests have been spending consistently since 2005 to advance gambling in New York State. The updated data reveal that during the last two years, in which the Legislature voted twice to approve casino style gambling, the industry has contributed a total of $3.2 million to individual politicians and and political committees.
"New York's lax campaign finance laws make it possible for high rollers, like the gambling industry, to dictate public policy. The problem is that the rules of the game are stacked against average voters and the house always wins. We need campaign finance reform now to ensure that politicians are accountable to the people, not the highest pay-out," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
The gambling industry's giving follows a well worn pattern of targeting the leadership and majority parties in either house of the Legislature. The top three recipients represent Albany's classic "three men in a room" – the Assembly Democrats ($414,750), the State Senate Republicans ($403,750), and the Governor ($361,500)
The Chairs of the Racing and Wagering Committees are also important targets: Senator John Bonacic ($86,806), and Assembly Member James Gary Pretlow ($64,659), both of whom sponsored gambling bills in their respective houses.
Assembly Member Pretlow (D) has been Chair of the Racing and Wagering Committee for over a decade, raking in more than $64,000 in just the last two and a half years during the push for full legalization. In 2011-2012, Pretlow raised a total of $132,000 – meaning that gambling industry money accounted for nearly half of his fundraising total for 2012.
Since becoming Chair of the Senate's Racing and Wagering Committee in 2011, Senator Bonacic has received over $85,000 from gambling interests. Prior to his appointment, Senator Bonacic received less than $4,000 from the industry.
Similarly, Senator Eric Adams received nearly $81,000 in industry dollars during his brief chairmanship in 2009-2010. Previously he hadn't received a single dollar. Since losing his Chairmanship in 2010, Adams has received only $13,000 from the industry.
In September 2012, Common Cause/NY released a highly detailed report on the gambling industry's efforts to influence public policy in New York called "Stacking the Deck". The report found that from 2005 through 2012, gambling and horse racing interests spent over $52 million on campaign contributions and lobbying in New York State – roughly $8.7 million in campaign contributions alone.
Industry spending is clearly related to preferred policy outcomes. The 2006-2008 bidding process for the New York Racing Association franchise triggered a flood of over $2 million in lobbying and campaign contributions from competing interests. Subsequent competitive rounds of bidding for the Aqueduct Racino license also triggered multi-million dollar spending, as have the various competing efforts of corporations to partner with Indian tribes to bring more casinos to New York.
Common Cause/NY analysis of gambling industry campaign finance records includes contributions directly from industry corporations/organizations as well as all affiliated top executives and board members.
Common Cause/NY. "Stacking the Deck: The Gambling Industry's Political Spending in New York State." September 2012.