$2 million is less a contribution than a whopping attempt to purchase the referendum. The good news is that this allows anti-slots forces to paint the pro-slots effort as what it really is, a huge money grab by wealthy gambling and racing corporations at the expense of Maryland families. Though Common Cause, of course, is neutral on the question itself, it says something that they feel obligated to weigh in against this sort of gross manipulation of elections. Full text of the Common Cause press release:
BALTIMORE, Md. - Executive director Ryan O'Donnell issued this statement reacting to reports that Magna Entertainment, which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park, received authorization to donate as much as $2 million to the campaign working to pass the slots referendum in November:
"The Maryland Racing Commission just announced a ban on performance enhancing drugs for horses, but apparently the gambling industry sees no need to take their campaign contributions off steroids.
Such a gift would be a staggering example of big business muscling in on what should be a democratic referendum decided by the people of Maryland. No one disputes that campaigns require a base level of funding to run, but a whopping $2 million transfer from an interested party like Magna would be hard to justify.
Accepting such a gift would not come without its transaction fees. It would send the signal that the deciders in this referendum are corporations who care about influence, not voters who care about issues.
Even the mere authorization of this political donation is yet more evidence that the time to take money of out politics has come."
If you go over to Politicker, you'll see the new web ad that For Maryland, For Our Future put up. Whose name, by the way, was co-opted by some public relations hack from the Sierra Club's long time slogan, "For our families, for our future." Though as branding goes, the fact that Fred Puddester gets the name of the organization wrong in the video (he calls it 'The Campaign for Maryland's Future) is bad enough. One of two things is happening, as well, either A. My internet connection is running really slow, or B. FMFOF posted their video in VERY high resolution, which would certainly be stupid, because it keeps pausing every second or so to load the video.
In the course of the ad, they promise that passing slots will lead to the following: no new taxes, invest $700 million into schools (not mentioning that this would not be new spending), stop all cuts to public safety and health care, and continue to pay for the tuition freeze at Maryland universities. They also say that not passing it will lead to increased class sizes and layoffs of teachers.
In other words, passing it will give us everything we could ever want. Ever. And if we don't pass it, all government will collapse and we will be thrust into a second dark age from which humanity may never recover. So vote for slots. Or else.
Or maybe I could have just said that I think it's over the top.
A three-judge panel in Anne Arundel County has agreed with slots opponents that the language of the slots referendum is biased. But the only change they want made is to add one word: primarily. As in, slots will primarily benefit education. Of course, their new recommendation doesn't mention that money from the referendum also goes to pay for services for gambling addicts. Because that would reflect badly on the one-armed bandits.
Authorizing video lottery terminals (slot machines) to fund education
Authorizes the state to issue up to five video lottery licenses for the purpose of raising revenue for education of children in public schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, public school construction and improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and higher education institutions. No more than a total number of 15,000 video lottery terminals may be authorized in the State, and only one license may be issued for each specified location in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester, and Allegany Counties and Baltimore City. Any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland is prohibited, unless approved by a voter referendum.
And, as was feared, the language is biased. Rather than simply saying the referendum will legalize slot machine gambling, it ties legalization to education funding. The fact is that any slots money going to education won't be new money, but rather money to meet existing commitments, but the language is worded to suggest to people that it will be more funding for schools. Further, it doesn't mention the money going to horse racing purses or to help gambling addicts, the latter of which would certainly raise the issue of gambling addiction among voters. This needs to go to court, so a judge can impose some neutrality on McDonough.