Penn National Gaming underwrote the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's August mailer that sought to mobilize supporters of Maryland's marriage equality bill against a gambling expansion measure, a Maryland politician told the Washington Post.
The comments by Maryland state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Democrat opposed to the expansion effort, go further than those made by Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who supports the measure. O'Malley told BuzzFeed in September of the Task Force's actions, "I think they got spun. They had some board members that had a conflict of interest with the gaming companies, and they got a bit spun on that and hopefully they’ve learned from the experience."
The Post today reported:
On Thursday, Muse, who opposes the ballot measure, said that [Penn National's Steven] Snyder told him Penn had given money for the mailer to the DCI Group, a Washington-based consulting group, which in turn gave funds to the Task Force for the mailer.
Asked to confirm the report, neither Task Force executive director Rea Carey, deputy executive director Darlene Nipper nor communications director Inga Sarda-Sorenson responded to multiple requests for comment. The Post also reported that "Penn has spent more than $18 million in a bid to defeat the expanded gambling measure in November — more than any party on either side."
BuzzFeed had reported in August that the mailing could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, an estimate corroborated by the Post today, which reported that the mailer cost $343,125. Although not an overwhelming amount by Penn National's standards, the cost of the mailer would represent a significant about of the Task Force Action Fund's activities, based on prior year's filings. The most raised by the entity in the three most recent annual filings available on its website was $822,747.
In August, the Task Force would only say that the mailer "was funded by the Task Force Action Fund," although BuzzFeed reported that officials with the Task Force initially told people who asked about the mailer that it was funded by an anonymous donation.
Monique Hall, a vice president at DCI Group (bio) and member of the Task Force Action Fund board of directors, has not responded to repeated requests for comment over the past several months on the matter. A DCI Group receptionist today told BuzzFeed that Hall would be out of the office for an extended period of time, but would give no further information. Task Force officials did not respond to a request for comment about whether Hall remains on the Task Force Action Fund board.
The other board members, according to the group's website, include Marsha Botzer of Botzer Consulting, Hans Johnson of Progressive Victory, Mark Sexton of Revlon, Alan Bernstein of Harper Management and Brad Carlson of CIC Group. Carlson was listed as the treasurer of the "National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Maryland Political Action Committee" on the mailer, which BuzzFeed reported is an independent expenditure entity. Eric von Kuersteiner, listed as a Task Force Action Fund board member in August, is no longer listed as a member of the Action Fund board. BuzzFeed attempted to reach all of the board members in August seeking comment, but none have ever responded with any comment.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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