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A bad bet: GOP Governors Assn. crossed state law with donation

Billionaire casino investor Sheldon Adelson is not allowed to contribute $ in Pa. politics.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson
Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon AdelsonRead more(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

A POLITICAL-action committee set up to help Gov. Corbett win re-election received nearly $1 million from a billionaire casino investor barred from making political contributions in Pennsylvania.

The Republican Governors Association, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, reported receiving $1 million for its federal political-action committee on Dec. 31 from Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The group immediately moved $987,844 of Adelson's money into its "RGA Pennsylvania 2014 PAC," according to a state campaign-finance report filed Jan. 31.

Pennsylvania's gaming law prohibits casino owners in the state from making contributions to candidates for state office or political-action committees in Pennsylvania.

Adelson, a Republican megadonor known for his keen interest in foreign affairs - especially as they relate to Israel - owns 7 percent of the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem. His wife, Miriam, owns 16 percent. An additional 18.6 percent is controlled by two trusts in the name of Sheldon Adelson.

Ron Reese, vice president of corporate communications for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., said the Republican Governors Association was alerted at the time of Adelson's contribution that the money could not be allocated for use in Pennsylvania politics.

Reese described the movement to Pennsylvania of the Adelson cash as an RGA mistake.

RGA spokesman Jon Thompson tried to blame notice of the mistake on Democrats in Pennsylvania.

"The RGA has transferred the donation out of the Pennsylvania account," Thompson said via email. "It's clear Democrats are desperate to talk about anything other than Tom Wolf's failed record."

Wolf, a York County businessman and former state revenue secretary, won the Democratic nomination for governor on May 20. Three polls last week showed Wolf leading Corbett by at least 20 points in the Nov. 4 general election.

Asked why the RGA put Adelson's money into the group's Pennsylvania PAC, Thompson said it was just one of "hundreds of donations that we put into many of our state PACs."

The RGA Pennsylvania 2014 PAC has given Corbett's campaign $1.8 million, including $210,000 in December and $1.6 million in April.

Thompson said Adelson's money was not included in the contributions to Corbett.

The RGA was Corbett's biggest single donor when he ran for governor in 2010 and holds that status in his re-election bid so far.

Christie hosted a private RGA fundraiser in Philadelphia for Corbett's campaign Monday and another private fundraiser in Pittsburgh on Friday. Both events drew crowds of protesters.