Gambling Industry Money Flows to Lake Worth and Palm Beach County Election Campaigns

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Photo by Corpse Reviver via Wikipedia Commons
Several candidates for Palm Beach County and Lake Worth municipal offices have taken money from a Political Action Committee largely funded by gambling interests. The money went to Melissa McKinlay, candidate for County Commission ($1,000); Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo ($500) and City Commissioner Andy Amoroso ($500); and School Board candidate Erica Whitfield ($1,000).

See also:
- Genting Executives Contribute To Incumbent County Commissioners

The PAC, Committee for a Prosperous Florida, is the creation of state Sens. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) and Jeremy Ring (D-Margate). It has received tens of thousands of dollars from Florida companies that operate internet gambling cafés and from the Malaysia-based Genting Group, a global giant in the casino industry.

CPF, which has also received major support from agricultural interests, including Big Sugar, has been funded to the tune of $194,000 since January of 2009 and had more than $40,000 on hand as of this week. Genting, which has sought and failed to gain legislative approval for a Las Vegas-style casino in Miami, has given CPF $35,000, $20,000 of that just last month. The company in two years has spent more than $3 million on political activity in Florida. Its latest plan is to be licensed for slots and off-track betting in Miami.

County Commission candidate McKinlay -- the only local candidate to respond to New Times' request for comment (other than Whitfield, who we could not reach) -- said she "was not aware of the PAC's contribution sources... I knew this contribution came from Senator Clemens. I have the utmost respect for him. I am honored to have his support."

In a phone call, Clemens readily acknowledged his leading role in CPF. "Pretty much every Florida senator and many of the representatives have political committees they're affiliated with," he said."Different groups make contributions based on their support of that person and the issues they support."

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Clemens, who sits on the Senate Gaming Committee (which has yet to pass any legislation but is gearing up to do so), said he's "been vocal for years, extremely laissez-faire as far as gaming. It's not a moral issue for me. It's just another business... It's not a quid pro quo; I've been clear on the issue long before any contributions."

As far as social ills associated with gambling, Clemens acknowledged their reality. "If you're going to allow expanded gambling," he said, "you have to put money aside for that small section of the population." He said he would support no measure that did not include such steps.

Clemens disavowed the label of "kingmaker," despite CPF's spigot of cash. It "certainly allows me to support the candidates who are good for my area," he said. "I especially like supporting strong female and LGBT candidates."

Do contributors like Genting oversee whose campaigns CPF's funds go to? "I'm sure they're well aware the money goes to local candidates," Clemens said. And are the candidates aware of the money's ultimate source? "They have no idea," he said.

"The whole question of money in politics disturbs me," Clemens said. "But while I'm here, I'm going to try to use my power for good. If I can use these corporations' money to help good people get elected, I'm going to do it."

Clemens suggested his PAC's contributors could grow to include individuals and organizations opposed to the expansion of gambling in Florida. But, he granted, that has not happened yet.

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There's a good reason why Melissa McKinlay is getting money. And a good reason why Clemens and certain leaders are backing her.

Please look into this. It is true, and we don't need this in Florida. Someone posted this on another news site, and I have to agree. I've had the same experience with her going after my fiance. Tomorrow is Palm Beach County Day at the capital and Melissa's birthday based on my fiance's calendar. The best present she could give is dropping out. Her biggest supporters have been former flames. So many others are better qualified:

As a mother, and as the wife of a local Palm Beach County leader, I have had the opportunity to watch Melissa McKinlay’s actions and politics over the last few years in both political and social environments. I also have many friends who have also been around Melissa. Have lies been spread about her as defenders have been quick to say? It is not her support for public education or lack thereof that ultimately influences my vote. It is not her bringing home the bacon in Tallahassee that has swayed my opinion. It is simply this: Melissa McKinlay is not the good-hearted, Christian mother that she claims to be. Some of her most fierce politician advocates back her not on merit, but because they were recent paramours. I am not judging how she lives her life, as one of the few men was rightfully single at the time. But the others, such as a newly-married, barely-elected legislator who was engaged when Melissa dated him, and the others who were married or otherwise committed…their endorsements are worthless and filled with protected self-interest. If she denies these things, she will add “liar” to her repertoire. There are many truly qualified leaders in our county. We do not need this type of “climbing the ladder” politics in Palm Beach County. This is not the type of new thought to embrace. And, for those Melissa is not romantically linked to, beware of her “friendship.” She is not one to keep confidences, as those she has dated should have known by now, and she will continue to manipulate people and politicians to her advantage. Please vote to keep Melissa away from the Commission and away from good family-men like my husband. She is unqualified, unreliable, unfit to lead, and will stop at nothing to advance. Look closely at who is sending her money. Who is endorsing her - they have ulterior motives and quite the history with her.


I can't imagine why this article did not generate one comment.  It just shows how corrupt the system has become. Exposing it no longer matters as people have given up.

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