Racetrack, gambling interests donate thousands to state GOP

Washington fund-raiser brings in about $200,000

January 08, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

When Maryland Republicans gathered for a fund-raiser in Washington Monday night, horse racing interests that want slots at the state's tracks were there with checkbooks in hand.

William Rickman Jr., a Delaware racetrack casino operator who wants to build a track in Allegany County was a $15,000 sponsor; the Maryland Jockey Club, minority owner of Pimlico and Laurel Park, chipped in $10,000, according to state GOP Chairman John Kane.

Kane said he sees no difference between racing interests and other businesses contributing money to the party.

"It's the way the system works," Kane said. "I don't look at it as buying influence or even as buying access. ... It's nothing short of an investment in good government."

Racing interests also give to the state Democratic Party, Kane noted.

"I would expect to see our level increase because we have control of the governor's office now," he said.

About 30 sponsors contributed various amounts, Kane said. The racetrack interests were among eight major sponsors that contributed between $10,000 and $25,000, he said. Others included Verizon Communications at $25,000 and Nextel Communications at $15,000, he said.

Rickman and the Jockey Club have been supporters of the state Republican Party "for a good 10 years" and regularly serve as trustees, Kane said. A trustee contributes $5,000 annually, he said.

The event, held at the offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, drew about 450 people who paid $250 each for tickets.

The ticket sales and contributions from sponsors raised about $200,0000 for the state party, he said.

"We use the proceeds in our operations account to pay rent and salaries," Kane said. "It's not used for direct candidate support."

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