The other day, I listened to a story from WHYY on Delaware legislators who get money fron casino interests. The report they referenced noticed the recent casino bailout and wanted to see if there was any clear connection to votes for the casino interests with contributions from those interests. They led with their conclusion: Legislators who supported Del. casino ‘bailout’ received more industry cash. Referencing a recent report from the Follow the Money website called Ante Up: Gambling and Casino Contributions in Delaware, they reported:
The National Institute for Money in State Politics has compiled campaign contribution data showing lawmakers who voted for the legislation on average received higher donations from the casino industry than those that did not.
This is always a chicken and egg question. Did casinos donate to Delaware lawmakers in the hopes that they would give the gambling halls a break or does the industry donate to candidates who are already more likely to vote their way? [...]
“We came up with $822,000 in contributions over that timespan which doesn’t make them a top player in Delaware politics but makes them pretty sizable,” he said.
Quist says these numbers cover the industry broadly, everything from casino political action committees to contributions from people working in the gambling business.
“On average,” the report says, “$1,032 went to legislators who supported the measure, compared to only $523 for legislators who opposed the bill.”
Interesting. This report notes that Democrats received more in “gaming contributions, accepting $287,649 compared to $206,385 accepted by Republican candidates”. If you look at the actual report, here is the breakdown of contributions:
They make the point that while most of the top recipients voted for the casino bailout this year, some of those who received no money from industry sources also voted for the bailout, so there is not a solid correlation with votes for the bailout with contributions. Here’s the list of contributions to legislators with their vote listed (go to the website link to see all of them in Table3):
And they also look at the Governor’s contributions for the last 3 election cycles:
The Governor points out, however:
As the report itself indicates, the amount of contributions the Governor received from the gaming industry was a very small portion of the total support he received. The Governor’s record on casino issues shows he has always put the overall interests of the state first, not any one interest group. He pushed for an increased state share of gaming revenue in 2009 and won that battle against the interest of the casinos. However, since then the casino industry has become substantially more competitive in this region, and he supported SB 220 because it can make our casinos more regionally competitive and reduce state reliance on casino revenue. If this out-of-state group is looking at contributions back to 2008, they should also look at all legislation since then, and not just pick one piece of legislation from this year.
What to think about this? I’m not so sure yet. But this *is* an interesting exercise — taking a look at major legislation that benefits a single special interest through the lens of that special interest’s campaign contributions.