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Patrick breaks own rules on casinos

Faces questions over donations, meetings

By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / July 8, 2011

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Governor Deval Patrick, who has said repeatedly and as recently as last week that he does not take donations from or meet with gambling industry representatives, has done both as he and legislative leaders begin their third attempt to legalize resort-style casinos in Massachusetts.

Patrick has collected $6,200 in campaign donations from more than 20 registered gambling lobbyists since 2009, including representatives for Isle of Capri Casinos, Mohegan Tribal Gaming, and Penn National Gaming, according to campaign finance records.

The donations include two checks of $200 each, the maximum allowable amount for a lobbyist, from Paul Tuttle, the chief executive of Suffolk Downs, the East Boston horse track that is hoping to open a major casino if gambling is legalized. Patrick deposited one of those checks last August and the other in May.

Yet the governor insisted again last week on his monthly radio show on WTKK-FM: “I don’t take contributions from gaming interests. I haven’t engaged with any of the gaming lobbyists.’’

He made the same assertion several times during his reelection campaign, declaring in a televised debate in October: “We don’t take lobbying money. We don’t take money from gambling interests.’’

Asked yesterday how the $6,200 from gambling lobbyists ended up in his campaign account, Patrick said to ask the director of his political committee.

“With all due respect,’’ he said, “I don’t count every check.’’

“I’m trying to keep an appropriate distance from the folks who are pressing the question of gaming on either side,’’ Patrick added.

The Patrick committee told the Globe later yesterday that it will return the donations from Tuttle and any others it confirms are from gambling lobbyists.

Steve Crawford, a committee spokesman, said the governor returned $19,150 in donations from gambling lobbyists in November, after the Boston Herald reported that Patrick had violated his policy of not collecting donations from gambling lobbyists.

“The committee’s policy is not to accept contributions from lobbyists that directly represent the gaming industry,’’ Crawford said in a statement yesterday.

Patrick has also met with gambling industry representatives outside the public eye.

Doug Rubin, Patrick’s longtime political adviser and former chief of staff, is a registered lobbyist for GTECH, which produces gambling equipment for the state Lottery. At the same time he continues to meet with the governor, even traveling with Patrick’s business delegation to Israel in March. Rubin’s firm, Northwind Strategies, has also collected $20,000 in consulting fees from Patrick’s political committee this year, including a $15,000 payment last month.

Robert P. Rodophele - a lobbyist for International Game Technology, a slot-machine manufacturer - hosted a fund-raiser for Patrick last fall that drew several gambling lobbyists.

The governor, however, said he did not believe those dealings contradicted his declaration that he has not “engaged with any of the gaming lobbyists.’’

“I don’t sit down and discuss gaming with any of those folks or anyone else who is pressing those issues, all right?’’ Patrick said yesterday. “If I have a cup of coffee or an event with Doug or with - who was it you said? Bob? - I can assure you it is not organized around gaming.’’

Patrick, who has tried twice previously to legalize casinos, has been working for weeks to hammer out the broad outlines of a new casino bill in closed-door discussions with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.

Critics have blasted Patrick for holding those discussions in private, saying it shuts out competing voices and all but assures the gambling bill will pass.

But Patrick has argued that even if he reaches a broad agreement with legislative leaders, casinos are “not a done deal,’’ because Murray and DeLeo will still need the necessary votes.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.