GAMBLING WITH FREE SPEECH
CHALLENGE TO CAMPAIGN BAN MAKES NO SENSE
AND HERE WE thought that the dazzling entertainment that the casinos have been promising to provide along with gambling wasn't going to come until the slots parlors actually opened.
But as riparian rights, zoning issues and other legal matters drag through the halls of government and the courts, delaying the building of the two casinos granted licenses in the city, one of the owners of the Foxwoods casinos must have decided to keep us entertained.
Peter DePaul, a Blue Bell developer who owns about 10 percent of the proposed Foxwoods, was fined $100,000 last year for making illegal campaign contributions.
The original legislation enabling gaming in the state has an explicit ban on political contributions from owners, investors and key employees of casinos as a way to protect elected officials from being unduly influenced by cash-rich casino companies. (The way former Attorney General Ernie Preate was in 1994 when he was charged with soliciting campaign contributions from video poker companies in exchange for not investigating them.)
DePaul said he wasn't aware of the ban when he made 21 contributions totaling over $30,000 while the casino application was pending. Right before awarding Foxwoods one of two slots parlor licenses for Philly, the state Gaming Control Board fined DePaul $100,000 for the donations and added a $100,000 fine to his Foxwoods partners.
Last week, DePaul went to court to challenge the ban. He claims that the ban on political contributions would limit his free speech and is therefore unconstitutional.
This would almost be entertaining . . . if it wasn't such an outrageous display of arrogance. Or maybe it's not arrogance; maybe it's just tone-deafness.
Could anyone be so deaf to the sounds around the state calling for more integrity in government, that they would challenge one of the too-few times Harrisburg has made an attempt to keep itself from being corrupted?
DePaul's certainly tone-deaf to neighborhood groups and civic organizations in the city who vociferously oppose the casinos.
His challenge looks unlikely to gain much traction; There are at least five states with a similar ban, including in New Jersey, which is a regulatory model. But even if he does win the legal battle, the public perception battle is long lost. *