A Culture of Pay to Play


Yesterday, I suggested that IGT’s $150,000 donation to the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA) looks kind of quid-pro-quo-ish, given that the organization’s chairwoman is Gina Raimondo, who was at the time preparing a long-term, no-bid contract for the country in her role as Rhode Island’s governor.  WPRI’s Eli Sherman now reports that this instance was actually part of a much more pervasive culture of pay to play:

IGT and Twin River Worldwide Holdings – the state’s leading gambling companies – contributed $150,000 and $100,000 to the DGA through the first half of the year, respectively. The national organization announced Wednesday it raised a record-breaking $19 million during the same period. …

… IRS records show IGT on average has contributed $159,285 each year since 2013, including $175,000 last year and $160,000 in 2017.

For Twin River, the $100,000 it contributed this year marks the first time in at least the last five years the company has given money to the DGA, according to a company spokesperson.

This inevitable mixture of politics and profit is important to keep in mind whenever government gets involved in a line of business, as it is with gambling.  The development of a pay-to-play environment becomes absolutely critical to remember when allowing a state to do as Rhode Island has been doing — involving itself deeply in economic development.  The more central government is in the economy, the more campaign donations increase in importance and the less relevant business viability or the health of the economy becomes.

  • Joe Smith

    and IGT’s contributions to the Republican Governor’s Association – I’m assuming IGT has gaming contracts in states with GOP governors too.

    Kind of sloppy reporting by WPRI.. I’m no fan in any way of Raimondo, but the focus to me is wrong. It’s not that IGT (or Twin River) gave money especially at state level group since lottery is mainly controlled at state level, but the no-bid deal push – especially 4 years early – is a much more personal quid pro quo about Raimondo’s posturing for national level positioning. Finally the RI GOP is actually making a smart move (vice the dopey focus on Dan McKee who may turn out to be the GOP’s best hope for Gov).

    I doubt she’s in the VP discussion anymore, but clearly a cabinet post as a reward for raising lots of money through the DGA. Sweitzer is the point person (and I suspect he has lots of IGT stock still..) and it’s a favor to him in exchange for his help in securing her something beyond RI..

    Heck, it’s not *news* that corporations with public sector contracts seek to influence the terms, availability, or other aspects of those contracts.

    From Open Secrets for REP Governor’s Assn