Thursday, October 21, 2010

State IG probes problematic Aqueduct racino bidding; no such investigation was made of Vanderbilt Yard process

A New York Times article today, headlined Report Says State Senators Manipulated Casino Bidding, cites the state Inspector General's report on the Aqueduct "racino":
In a scathing 300-page report [PDF] on the competition to install video slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, the inspector general described a chaotic and ultimately doomed process that was without formal rules or objective criteria, and was awash in “unrestrained political considerations,” lobbyists and targeted campaign contributions.
But when Forest City Ratner was anointed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard without any competiton--and when an RFP was issued 18 months later--there was no such inquiry.

And, as I argued in March, the Vanderbilt Yard deal was worse.

Campaign contributions

The article states:
The report says that the bidder, a consortium called the Aqueduct Entertainment Group, or Aqueduct Entertainment, marshaled funds at the behest of the state’s Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, casting “a taint on the motives behind the Senate leadership’s support of Aqueduct.
In Feburary 2008, I reported how Forest City Ratner gave $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account. That didn't make the Times, nor an IG's report.

Abdication of public duty


The article portrays an outraged IG:
“This process was doomed from the start, and at each turn, our state leaders abdicated their public duty, failed to impose ethical restraints and focused on political gain at a cost of millions to New Yorkers,” said Inspector General Joseph Fisch. “Shamefully, the public’s best interest was a matter of militant indifference to them.”

...The report describes the selection process as a “political free-for-all,” with nearly every Albany lobbyist employed by one of the six companies vying for the franchise. Aqueduct Entertainment alone hired seven. The rival bidders showered important legislators and the governor with more than $100,000 in political contributions, the report said, with Aqueduct Entertainment coordinating $40,000 of its own donations with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and instructing a “subcontractor to make a contribution in order for the monies to be pooled with contributions from other A.E.G. members.”

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