Americans pride themselves a government by the people and for the people. That core value that is backed up by our democratic elections. We, as citizens, get to decide who our leaders will be. We go to the polls every two years to cast our vote and put our stamp of approval on those wishing to hold offices in local, state, and federal government.
We can also donate money to those candidates we are hoping will win.
Campaign financing in this country has a number of limitations. There are limits to how much money individuals and political action committees can donate to a campaign. These campaign finance laws were under the microscope in Pennsylvania recently thanks to the state’s ban on contributions made by those individuals involved in the gaming industry.
When you think of casinos in the United States, you typically think of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Pennsylvania, however, also has a large gaming industry. In fact, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, horse racing and casinos have generated $15 billion in tax revenue for the state.
Pennsylvania Passes Law in an Effort to Prevent Election Corruption
In an effort to prevent even an appearance of corruption in Pennsylvania’s elections, the legislature, through the Pennsylvania Gaming Act of 2004, banned large campaign contributions from any principal or key employee of a gaming operator. In 2009, the State Supreme Court overturned that ban. So, in response to the Court’s decision in 2009, the legislature then changed the ban from large campaign contributions to any campaign contributions.
That change was challenged in the courts. Pasquale “Pat” Deon, Sr. and Maggie Hardy Magerko brought a suit against the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and State Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleging that the new ban is unconstitutional. Pat Deon is a shareholder in the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Maggie Magerko is a business owner who is also a beneficiary of a trust that owns Lady Luck Casino in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. In that suit, Pat and Maggie alleged that the ban restricted their First Amendment free speech rights, and the Judge agreed.
The Judge in the case, Judge Sylvia H. Rambo, did agree with the State of Pennsylvania’s intention regarding the ban. She agreed that it was a necessary effort to prevent corruption within the State’s elections. However, she overturned the ban because it was too broad. In other words, the Judge instructed the State to narrow the law by defining exactly who was banned from making contributions and in what amount. Simply saying a “key employee” could not make any campaign contribution – not even $1 – was unconstitutional. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has yet to comment on the Court’s ruling.
It is not known yet whether the Pennsylvania legislature will make its third attempt at enacting a law restricting campaign contributions from those involved in the gaming industry. Ironically, whether they decide to move forward with such a law will likely come down to the results of the midterm elections in November.
For more Pennsylvanian legal news, check out our law blog.