Keystone Progress, a left-leaning “political action” group in Pennsylvania, has filed a complaint against Las Vegas Sands (LVS) Chairman Sheldon Adelson with the state’s Gaming Control Board, asserting that his alleged contribution to Governor Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign may contravene state law and should be investigated.
It’s been widely reported that Adelson donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) on December 31st last year, $987,844 of which was immediately moved into Corbett’s campaign account, representing his largest donation of the campaign. Under state law, casino owners are forbidden from offering political donations. LVS is the parent company of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, one of the largest casinos in Pennsylvania.
The Smell Test
Keystone Progress board advisor Nathan Sooy filed the complaint with the Gaming Control Board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement.
“Mr. Adelson’s contribution was massive, and strikes at the heart of why the political influence restrictions exist,” said Sooy. “I urge the board to act promptly … We really want the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to go over this with a fine-tooth comb.”
“It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” he added.
The donation came exactly one month after Pennsylvania announced its intention to launch a study into the legalization of online gambling. Adelson, meanwhile, as chairman the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, has pledged to spend “whatever it takes” to further his anti-online gambling crusade, words that may come back to bite him. Should Pennsylvania lawmakers approve an online gambling bill, such as the newly introduced draft bill to legalize online poker, it would, of course, end up on Corbett’s desk to be signed into law.
Million Dollar Question
Now, we’re not saying that the payment is related to any of this, or that Corbett’s political convictions can be swayed by campaign donations – in fact, Corbett has said that he is keeping an “open mind” on the online gambling issue – it’s just that it all seems a little untoward, especially when Adelson’s camp claims that the donation was a million-dollar “mistake.”
“The RGA mistakenly allocated a contribution to the PAC, without Mr. Adelson’s knowledge or consent,” said LVS spokesman Ron Reese. “The RGA is working to correct this mistake.”
According to attorney Larry Otter, who specializes in election law, mistakes happen: “If he did write a check to Tom Corbett, that’s a pig of another squeal,” Otter said. “If Mr. Adelson, in good faith, wrote a check to the Republican Governors Association and it went to Pennsylvania, then that’s their mistake.”
However, Craig Holman of the consumer group Public Citizen, said that simply doesn’t wash.
“Just saying ‘I made a mistake’ generally doesn’t get you off the hook,” he said. “It is definitely something the (gaming) board should look into.”