Friday, June 20, 2014

Complaint filed against Sheldon Adelson for large PAC donation to Gov. Tom Corbett

HARRISBURG, PA -- Today, Keystone Progress board advisor Nathan Sooy filed a complaint with the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board over an illegal donation made to Governor Tom Corbett's PAC by right wing financier and casino owner Sheldon Adelson.

The illegal donation of $987,844 from December 31, 2013 should carry with it a fine of over $1.3 million according to 4 P.S. § 1513, the Political Influence Ban. 
“The RGA and Adelson both say the donation was made mistakenly, but the intent is irrelevant” said Sooy.  “The Republican Governors Association Pennsylvania PAC received the money directly from Adelson.  That is money that went directly and illegally to Corbett and the Pennsylvania Republican Party.”

The RGA Pennsylvania PAC claims it returned the donation, but questions remain as to what communication has occurred between Mr. Adelson and Governor Corbett’s re-election campaign.  There is also some doubt about when the RGA returned the money to Adelson.

Mr. Sooy has not yet received a response from the PA Gaming Control Board.  His full complaint follows.

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 400,000 subscribers.  KP uses the internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation. 

Paul Mauro, Director
Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
PO Box 69060
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9060

Dear Mr.Mauro:
I am writing to complain of a violation of 4 P.S. § 1513, the Political Influence ban, by licensed principal Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, Nevada.  According to campaign finance reports, Mr. Adelson made a contribution of $987,844 to the RGA (Republican Governors Association) Pennsylvania PAC on December 31, 2013. 

Because Mr. Adelson is a licensed principal and chief owner of Sands Bethworks Gaming, LLC (the Sands Bethlehem Casino), he was absolutely prohibited from making a contribution to any “candidate for nomination or election to any public office in this Commonwealth, or to any political party committee or other political committee in this Commonwealth or to any group, committee or association organized in support of a candidate, political party committee or other political committee in this Commonwealth.”  (4 P.S. § 1513(a)).

This plainly is such a contribution, and Mr. Adelson’s being listed as its contributor manifests his intent to have made it. It does not matter whether Adelson knew that his RGA Pennsylvania PAC contribution would be shifted directly to Gov. Corbett’s coffers ($1,610,000.00, on April 30, 2014) [1] or the Republican Party of Pennsylvania ($2,500.00, 1/13/14; $5,000.00, 2/11; $2,500, 3/6/14; and $390,000.00, 4/30/14); his making the contribution to any political committee in the Commonwealth violated the law.

Under the statute, the penalty to be assessed against Adelson is clear, and significant:
 “The first violation of this section by a licensed gaming entity or any person that holds a controlling interest in such gaming entity, or a subsidiary company thereof, or any officer, director or management-level employee of such licensee shall be punishable by a fine equal to an amount not less than the average single day's gross terminal revenue and gross table game revenue of the licensed gaming entity.” (§ 1513(c)(1)). Moreover, “In no event shall the fine imposed under this section be an amount less than $100,000 for each violation. In addition to any fine or sanction that may be imposed by the board under this subsection, any individual who makes a contribution in violation of this section commits a misdemeanor of the third degree.”  (§ 1513(c)(3)). 

There is no exception for money which is subsequently moved out of the Pennsylvania committee, as Mr. Adelson’s allegedly was; there is nothing in the law which even considers mitigating factors. If the contribution was made, the penalty must be assessed. Based on the most current figures on the PGCB website, this would appear to be a fine of $1,344,442.09.[2]

In 2010, the General Assembly made plain the importance of these provisions, because of the state’s “compelling interest in protecting the integrity of both the electoral process and the legislative process by preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption which may arise through permitting campaign contributions by the gaming industry,” maintaining that “completely banning campaign contributions by certain individuals and entities subject to this act is necessary to prevent corruption, or the appearance of corruption, that may arise when politics and gaming are intermingled.” 4 P.S. § 1102.

Mr. Adelson’s contribution was massive, and strikes at the heart of why the Political Influence restrictions exist.  I urge the Board to act promptly.

Nathan Sooy
Dillsburg, PA

[1]               There are conflicting news reports as to what happened here. According to a June 11, 2014 article in the Allentown Morning Call, Mr. Adelson’s spokesperson insists that "We made it crystal clear from the beginning that any contributions that we made could not be allocated to Pennsylvania," yet the RGA asserts that “Adelson did not direct that his donation go to Corbett or give any other instructions on use of his money.” See,0,167625.story.
[2] Based on May 2014 figures of $26,648,810.85 in gross terminal revenue and  $15,028,894 in table games revenue.

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