- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Casino and racetrack operator Penn National Gaming Inc. has spent more money on political campaigns in recent years than Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America combined, according to a new analysis.

The Wyomissing, Pa.-based company doled out more than $40 million in political donations from 2007 to 2008 to help push pro-gambling ballot measures in Ohio and Maryland, according to a study on state and federal political spending by campaign-finance groups.

The findings show that the biggest political donors in American politics often aren’t the best-known.

“These ballot activities can get very expensive very quickly,” said Shelia Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

“What’s being voted on can mean the difference between whether a corporation gets to proceed with a project, plan or their corporate operations, so it’s not surprising that the level of spending is so high for some of these relatively unknown groups,” she said.

The Center for Responsive Politics, located in Washington, and the Institute on Money in State Politics, whose offices are in Helena, Mont., ranked special-interest groups by how much money they spent in state and federal elections combined. As expected, the National Education Association and the National Association of Realtors ranked among the top 10 spenders, but so did five pro-gambling groups that aren’t so well-known outside of Washington.

Together, the pro-gambling groups paid out more than $150 million in political contributions on various ballot measures.

That far exceeds what employees and political action committees for major Wall Street firms and banks gave from 2007 to 2008.

Goldman Sachs gave $6.5 million, while Citigroup gave $6.3 million. Bank of America gave $5.9 million and Merrill Lynch gave $3.1 million.

The NEA was the top political spender at $56.3 million, with the pro-gambling groups Pechanga Band of Mission Indians at $43.9 million and Penn National at $40.5 million ranking second and third, respectively.

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