By Matt Golas
In light of the (at least) $16.7 million politicians in Pennsylvania have received from the gaming industry, lawyers and lobbyists since 2001, a consortium of anti-casino groups and political watchdog organizations staged a press conference at Dilworth Plaza Tuesday morning to call on the state to limit the impact campaign contributions have on the outcome of elections and public policy.
The research by Common Cause of Pennsylvania includes a list of the Top 20 Donors and Top 20 Recipients from 2001-2008.
“This study helps explain the gaming industry’s winning streak in Pennsylvania,” said James Browning, Associate Director for Development for Common Cause/PA, and author of the report. “And it suggests that gaming interest will go on a giving binge now that they have the chance.”
After a lawsuit voided the state’s ability to set limits on the gaming industry’s political contributions, and with state legislators not required to file their next campaign finance reports until January 2010, Common Cause/Pennsylvania called on the legislature and statewide officials “to voluntarily disclose gaming contributions they have received since the ban was struck down in April. Otherwise, contributions made since the decision will not have to be disclosed until January 2010, long after the legislature may have voted to expand gambling.”
Brian Abernathy, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for Councilman Frank DiCicco, in whose 1st District both Philadelphia casinos are sited, said in an email:
“The Councilman has supported and voted in favor of campaign contribution limits. He also supports a ban on donations from casino investors and hasn’t accepted such contributions. Maybe the press conference should have been on the steps of the State Capitol rather than at the foot of City Hall.”
Speakers from the Common Cause Education Fund, Asian Americans United, Casino-Free Philadelphia, and the League of Women Voters gave presentations.
The study lists five main recommendations:
1. Contribution limits of $500 per election cycle for General Assembly candidates.
2. Better disclosure in terms of the state’s campaign finance database.
3. More frequent disclosure of campaign contributions.
4. Voluntary disclosure of gaming contributions made since the ban on gaming contributions was overturned.
5. Judicial reform given the fact that gaming concerns can contribute to Commonwealth judicial campaigns.
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