Walt Disney World, no stranger to extracting subsidies and deals from the government, is throwing its weight around in the Sunshine State partly for the purposes of preventing the development of big casinos. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
Walt Disney World has spent nearly $2.5 million on political candidates and causes in Florida so far this election cycle, according to an Orlando Sentinel review of state records, as the giant resort attempts to influence elections from the Keys to the Panhandle.
Disney's political spending in Florida has ballooned to unprecedented levels: It has spent nearly twice as much money as it had at this same point during the 2010 elections, and it has spent about six times as much as it did during the entire 2008 cycle. …
Disney's goal? To elect politicians who will support its legislative agenda in the state Capitol — especially those who commit to voting against any plans to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.
"Our contribution levels in 2012 reflect increased efforts to support candidates who oppose the expansion of casino gambling in Florida," Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius said.
Is there a bigger display of power than actually telling the media outright you are using your money in politics to try to harm your competition? It's particularly telling when you're angling for even more subsidies:
In addition to lobbying against casinos, Disney this year helped persuade lawmakers to substantially increase — to $54 million — state spending on tourism advertising. And it got them to earmark $1 million for incentives for professional soccer teams that hold spring training in Central Florida.
Lobbyists for Disney and for International Speedway Corp. of Daytona Beach also wrote a multimillion-dollar package of tax breaks designed to benefit their sports facilities, including the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World and ISC's Daytona International Speedway. But their legislation failed to pass amid concerns about its cost and criticism that it was corporate welfare.
But then, it's hard to feel bad for casino developers because they're more than willing to do the exact same thing to each other. In August, BuzzFeed noted a mailer sent by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Maryland encouraging gay marriage supporters to oppose putting a casino expansion vote on the ballot. The argument was that a casino vote would bring out more conservative voters than just a gay marriage vote and would increase the likelihood of gay marriage rejection. That argument made no sense, and the gay organization played coy with the source of the money for the mailers.
But last week John Wagner at The Washington Post was able to nail down Penn National Gaming as the source of the funding for the mailer. Penn owns 26 gambling facilities in 18 states, including a race track in Maryland.
At this point, there's practically no room at the table for anybody who actually opposes gambling for moral reasons.