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NY Franchise Bidders Paid US$632k To Gov Spitzer
In New York, Governor Eliot Spitzer admitted accepting "more than US$632,000 from groups seeking the state's next racing contract", but said such contributions "do not pose a conflict of interest in the franchise selection process," reported thoroughbredtimes.com. Amid the latest round of headlines accompanying the New York bidding process, Spitzer declared: "We have been meticulous & fully transparent in what we have done. We are weighing & balancing all the factors & look forward to announcing the next step this week." Three organizations (Excelsior Racing Associates, Empire Racing Associates & Australian-backed Capital Play) are challenging the New York Racing Association (whose current contract to run racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park & Saratoga expires on December 31). Meanwhile government watchdog group Common Cause released a report revealing the 4 bidders "spent more than US$2.2 million on political contributions & lobbying efforts in 2006 & early this year (a figure that "does not include the latest round of campaign contributions filed with the state on July 15"). Common Cause spokesperson Christina Bottego noted: "Special interests often attempt to influence any number of political processes, this one included, by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on what amounts to attempted bribery. The current system of campaign finance is set up in such a way as to allow for campaign contributions to funnel in unregulated via loopholes." And Barbara Bartoletti of the League Of Women Voters (a report co-sponsor along with New York Public Interest Research Group) summed up: "This is how it's done in New York state. Anything goes. It's really the Wild West!"