Gambling Industry Donors Questioned for Political Contributions of Gov. Chris Christie

People with ties to the New Jersey gambling industry are among a long list of donors to America Leads, the Super Pac which is funding Chris Christie’s presidential bid. While the gaming industry is by no means the only big contributions to the campaign, the largest single donor wants to build a casino in North Jersey.

One of the major contributors to Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential Super Pac is a man who wants to build a billion-dollar casino in New Jersey, according to reports in NJ.com. The same reports states that the governor’s fundraising team includes lobbyists for Caesars Entertainment, a Las Vegas company which owns three casinos in Atlantic City. Caesars Entertainment was barred from making contributions to Christie’s gubernatorial campaign, because of their New Jersey connections.

The list of Christie’s various big donors has raised eyebrows, because a number have major contracts with the state of New Jersey. Like Caesars, if Christie were involved in a governor’s race, their money would be illegal. Since the New Jersey governor is seeking to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016, contributions to his Super Pac is considered legal. Still, a number of politicians and pundits have spoken out against the way Christie’s campaign raises cash.

Paul Fireman Gave $1 Million to Christie

The money offered by Winecup-Gamble Inc. is of interest to those who follow casinos and gambling laws. Winecup-Gamble is owned by Paul Fireman, the former CEO of Reebook. Mr. Fireman wants to build a $4.6 billion casino in North Jersey, if the state of New Jersey ever approves a casino outside Atlantic City. Paul Fireman’s $1 million contribution is the largest single donation to America Leads, the Christie Super Pac.

John Angelo Contribution

Another contribution which has raised criticisms is a $250,000 donation by John Angelo, the CEO of Angelo Gordon Investments. The state of New Jersey has a perpetual $5.5 million investment in Angelo Gordon Investments, as late as April 2015. Mary Pat Christie, Gov. Christie’s wife, also was employed by Angelo Gordon Investments until recently.

Those with knowledge of federal SEC rules say they prevent such an institution from making donations to the governor’s political campaign, due to the close connections between the two groups. Those are not the only iffy contributions.

Ferreira Construction and George Harms

Ferreira Construction made a $100,000 to America Leads. The company received $34 million from New Jersey in 2014 for its work on the New Jersey Turnpike. George Harms Construction received $100 million in contracts from New Jersey in 2014, while donating $25,000 to the Christie campaign.

Those contributions were dwarved by the biggest donors to America Leads, though. Steven and Alexandra Cohen, a hedge fund billionaire and his wife, gave a combined $2 million to the campaign (thus matching Paul Fireman on a per-person basis). Dan Gilbert, the CEO of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, contributed $750,000 to America Leads.

Hewlett-Packard and Home Depot Execs

Acacia Financial Group Inc made a donation, while a group of engineers from AECOM also contributed. Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard and Ken Langone of Home Depot each made big donations. The other founder of Home Depot, Bernard Marcus, chose to make a $1 million donation to the campaign of Jeb Bush.

Not all of the donations were considered bad, but those who receive contracts from New Jersey or who have expectations of big advantages in the future have received criticism. Bill Schluter, the former GOP senator who helped write New Jersey campaign laws, told the newspaper, “It’s certainly not ethical and it goes against all standards of fair campaign contributions. It doesn’t follow the spirit of the pay-to-play law. It’s just an abuse.”

North Jersey Casino Hopes

Most of the financial activity is unlikely to gain too much notice from the gambling community, though the contributions from Paul Fireman is likely to draw speculation. A North Jersey casino has been proposed by a number of individuals, including NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney. Gov. Chris Christie has never supported such a measure, but many believe approval of such a casino might be given sometime after February 2016, when Christie’s pledge that no casino will be built outside Atlantic City until 2016 expires. The 5-year pledge provided Atlantic City with a 5-year extension of its nearly 40-year casino gaming monopoly in the state.

Caesars Helps with Super Pac

The presence of Caesars Entertainment lobbyists helping to lead the America Leaders Super Pac shows how close Christie is to the Atlantic City gaming industry. Christie approved legal online gambling in 2012. Caesars Interactive has received millions in additional revenue from the legalization and regulation of online gambling in the state.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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