Casino industry free from political spending restrictions
A key part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for preventing corruption with the siting of four usptate casinos was dropped from the final bill that state legislators approved last week.
Organizations with a casino license or seeking a license were banned from making state and local political contributions in the governor’s initial casino bill, but Cuomo said on Monday he was forced to give up this provision during negotiations with the state Legislature. Proponents of the restriction say its absence will continue to ensure a steady flow of millions of dollars from gambling interests to politicians.
“New Yorkers can now expect the flood of casino donations we have seen in recent years become a torrent of special interest money designed to influence our elected officials,” said New York Public Interest Research Group research coordinator Bill Mahoney.
There was little fanfare surrounding the ban’s removal from final bill, with a technical amendment also passed at the end of the session to remove an errant reference to the ban that was left in the final bill. Many people missed the change in the lengthy bill, including
Assemblyman John McDonald, D-Cohoes, who supported the outright ban of the original legislation and said in a statement on Monday he wasn’t aware it had been removed.
“I believe this was not an appropriate decision,” McDonald said of the change. “At a time when the public trust is being questioned due to the actions of a small minority of the legislature, this does nothing to help enhance the image of the legislature or change the culture that the public finds troubling.”
According to information compiled by good government group Common Cause NY, the gambling industry spent almost $20 million on lobbying and political contributions in New York from 2011 to April 2013. The New York Gaming Association, which represents the state’s nine racinos, including the Saratoga Casino & Raceway, spent $3.6 million.
An analysis of some local contributions from the New York Gaming Association and Saratoga Casino & Raceway is available below.
Cuomo stressed that protections still exist to prevent corruption, like disclosure requirements of any spending to influence this fall’s statewide referendum on the constitutional amendment that will alow up to seven non-indian live-table casinos in the state. The bill also authorizes the creation of a state gaming inspector general’s position.
The governor, who has repeatedly maintained that the siting process shouldn’t be political, said Monday, “We couldn’t work out everything.”
State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, called the contributions issue “irrelevant,” saying she supported the bill for the economic benefits it will mean for upstate New York.
A full story will be in the Tuesday issue of the Daily Gazette.
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