Thursday, June 25, 2009

Newspaper: Is bribery legal in Pennsylvania?

The revelation that Pennsylvania politicians received nearly $17 million from people connected to the gambling industry has prompted the Philadelphia Daily News to ask about the ethics and legality of cash flowing into the pockets of Pennsylvania politicos charged with overseeing gambling.

From an editorial in today's edition:
Is bribery legal in Pennsylvania politics? Thanks to the arcane rules that govern campaign donations, it's nearly impossible to know.

But a new Pennsylvania Common Cause study tracking donations from the gaming industry to state lawmakers over the last seven years suggests that anyone wanting to connect the dots can end up with a fairly ugly picture. During that time, nearly $17 million in contributions flowed to lawmakers from people with a stake in the gaming industry, including lawyers and lobbyists who represented gaming clients.

The report identifies the top donors - Ira Lubert, associated with the planned Valley Forge casino, tops the list at $455,000, with Peter DePaul & family, with interests in Foxwoods casino, a close second - as well as the top recipients. No surprise that Gov. Rendell has cleaned up at this particular table with contributions exceeding $1 million. Former state Sen. Vince Fumo, architect of the gaming bill, comes in second, at $400,000; Rep. John Perzel comes in third, at $236,000.

Even as lawmakers were cashing the checks, they were considering allowing casinos to come to Pennsylvania. The odds are good that all of this campaign cash played a role in the eventual success of the legislation.
Something to think about as Democratic House leaders push for expanded table games in Pennsylvania. Are they looking out for the interests of Pennsylvania residents or salivating at the prospect of more payouts for themselves from casinos?

Read the full editorial, "Casinos' big payouts - to lawmakers," at the newspaper's Web site.

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