Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nonprofit Says Gaming Industry Funds Officials

A state nonprofit group says public officials have accepted over $4 million in political contributions from gaming industry organizations over the past 8 years. Common Cause of Pennsylvania says the April State Supreme Court ruling that struck down a ban on gambling contributions has "opened the spigot" for even more money to come in from the gambling world.

Common Cause Associate Director of Development James Browning says the Commonwealth has a bulls-eye painted on it by the gaming industry. "The public has no protection at all when it comes to money coming in. In fact, Common Cause is calling on elected officials now to disclose any gaming contributions they have received since the April Supreme Court decision," says Browning.

He says the state's weak Sunshine Laws don't give the public much insight into political contributions. "It's hard to find out exactly how much has been spent. The real problem is there are no limits on campaign contributions in the state," says Browning. Studies have indeed shown a lack of transparency in the state's government. A 2007 study conducted by the nonprofit Better Government Association gave Pennsylvania an "F" grade (53 out of 100) in terms of political transparency.

He says while there's nothing illegal about this money-moving process, it certainly isn't encouraging. "It is hard to protect the integrity of the political process when the gaming industry has such enormous power to get candidates who share their views elected and to gain special access to elected officials through campaign contributions," says Browning.

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