Casino magnate's donation to GOP might be illegal, activist says
HARRISBURG — An activist is asking the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to determine whether a donation from a casino executive that went to a state Republican group was legal.
Nathan Sooy, a member of the advisory board for the liberal group Keystone Progress, said he complained to the gaming board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement about an almost $1 million donation he suspects violates the state's ban on political donations by the gambling industry.
Pennsylvania's 2004 slots law prohibits casino interests from contributing to campaigns.
The complaint, which Sooy said he mailed on Thursday evening, draws on campaign finance records filed with the Department of State. A spokesman for the gambling board said on Friday that the board had not received Sooy's letter.
Records show the Republican Governors Association Pennsylvania 2014 political action committee received $987,844 from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on Dec. 31. Adelson is CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns Bethlehem Sands Casino Resort in the Lehigh Valley.
Ron Reese, a spokesman for the company, said Adelson made a donation to the Republican Governors Association but didn't intend it to go to the Pennsylvania committee or any candidate for state office in Pennsylvania.
“The RGA mistakenly allocated a contribution to the PAC, without Mr. Adelson's knowledge or consent,” Reese said in an email. “The RGA is working to correct this mistake.”
A spokesman for the Republican Governors Association declined comment.
Finance records show the GOP committee donated $1.6 million to Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election campaign on April 30. The committee made multiple donations to the state Republican Party.
“There is nothing wrong or questionable about the contributions we have received from the RGA,” said Chris Pack, Corbett's campaign spokesman.
Sooy's complaint argues that the donations show Adelson intended for the money to influence Pennsylvania politics, even if he didn't specify a candidate.
“We really want the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to go over this with a fine-tooth comb,” Sooy said.
Larry Otter, a Doylestown attorney who specializes in election law, said Adelson didn't break any laws if his donation to the Pennsylvania committee was a mistake.
“If he did write a check to Tom Corbett, that's a pig of another squeal,” Otter said. “(But) if Mr. Adelson, in good faith, wrote a check to the Republican Governors Association and it went to Pennsylvania, then that's their mistake.”
Critics of political action committees say big-money contributors often use them to get around restrictions on campaign donations. Craig Holman, campaign finance reform lobbyist for the consumer group Public Citizen, said authorities should take Sooy's complaint seriously.
“Just saying ‘I made a mistake' generally doesn't get you off the hook,” Holman said. “It is definitely something the (gaming) board should look into.”
Sooy's complaint cites the law that bans casino owners and managers from contributing to candidates or political parties.
Sooy said Adelson's donation “just didn't pass the smell test.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chairs the Republican Governors Association. A spokesman for his office declined comment on the allegations in the complaint.
Gideon Bradshaw is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Westmoreland used car dealers indicted in fraud
- Struggling Pirates SS Mercer finding himself out on infield’s left side
- Steelers offensive line targeting injury-free performance as key
- Starkey: Patriots’ legacy forever stained
- DOJ program goal: Increased trust between law enforcement, community
- Plum witnesses seen entering grand jury building in Dormont
- Natrona Heights native helped bring ‘American Ninja Warrior’ to Pittsburgh
- Developer hopes to make Allegheny Center a tech hub
- Murray Energy expects to lay off as many as 1,800 more
- Fayette woman accused of stealing $24K from youth football league
- Former Ringgold guidance counselor facing sex charges