What’s the difference between Foxboro and Taunton vis-à-vis casino referenda?
Foreign money - and lots of it from overseas gaming interests who don’t report political expenditures to Massachusetts or U.S. Federal election officials. Genting Malaysia, the world’s largest casino syndicate, is the financing behind the Mashpee Wapanoag tribe casino efforts.
Via the Wampanoag and various lobbyists, tens of millions of dollars in cash from this foreign gambling syndicate has been spent in Massachusetts on lobbying, campaign contributions to local politicians and now direct funding to the City of Taunton for the running of a local election without any of the typically required campaign finance reporting.
In no other circumstance in U.S. elections do we see foreign dollars solely funding both the actual running of and campaigning for a local election. Why, you ask, would a foreign company make such an investment and how is it possibly allowed?
Why? This election will determine whether or not the City of Taunton and the State of Massachusetts turns over all local control and jurisdiction on land where the Genting-backed Wampanoag will then establish a sovereign reservation from which un-regulated and un-taxed casino dollars will flow freely back to their Malaysian financiers. According to Time Magazine’s report “Indian Casinos: Who Gets the Money”, these overseas backers funnel billions of dollars in tax-free, unregulated payments annually from Indian casinos located throughout the United States to their foreign bank accounts. The Taunton Wampanoag Indian casino will yield Genting conservatively $200 - $400 million a year off the top of casino revenues to pay for their financing of the tribe - which is already tens of millions of dollars in debt to them. Genting has said they are pursuing the creation of mini-Macau like gambling islands in the U.S. – but in this case the islands are Indian reservations.
How? Since Indian tribe and casino books cannot be audited and the foreign based financiers are not under the purview of state or federal tax oversight, the finances and expenditures are not open to any public scrutiny. In the case of the Mashpee Wampanoag, the Tribal Council won’t even share the books with their own tribe members. Not exactly the transparent scenario one would hope for either casino gaming operations or elections – both of which have a nasty history of corruption when there is no oversight, checks or balances.
Buying the Taunton election – spending $125 or more per vote
With about 34,000 registered voters in the City of Taunton, MA - noting that fewer than 4,000 voted in the last major city election (Nov 2011) - the Genting-Wampanoag casino campaign team isn’t taking any chances. The tribe, 100 percent funded by Genting Malaysia as it has no other income of its own, has budgeted a cool half-million dollars ($500,000) for the Saturday, June 8th non-binding referendum on whether or not to turn over town jurisdiction for an Indian reservation casino resort complex. This $500,000 is on top of Genting-Wampanoag paying Taunton $340,000 to run the election and fund negotiations with the tribe and on top of the millions already invested in lobbyists and local political campaign contributions.
The highest possible voter turn-out for a non-binding, single issue ballot held on a Saturday in June is likely to be far less than a typical city election. So the tribe will be spending more than $125 per vote. That will easily mark this is as the most expensive per-vote election run in the City of Taunton. In fact, that level of expenditure exceeds what was spent per vote for the most expensive senate races in the country during the last election. Compared to Massachusetts elections, Mitt Romney had one of the most expensive per-vote campaigns when he ran for Governor – spending $16 per vote in 2006. Genting will be spending 700 to 1,000 percent more per vote to secure their Indian casino in Taunton.
Local casino opponents have a budget of zero dollars. Opposition groups are meeting in backyards and around kitchen tables. Grassroots efforts, local volunteers and social media can and will help turn-out strong numbers at the Taunton polls. Whether or not those efforts will be enough to counter the massive Malaysian’s expenditures is a tough call when there are still voters in Taunton who haven't heard the the whole unblemished story. Why not? You see the Genting-Wampanoag casino support machine has run every public meeting about this measure that has been promoted by City officials to date. That said, given that Genting paid the City for the this election some may say that it is only fair that they get the results they want (and paid for).