Thursday, September 18, 2008

Race Tracks, Lies and Broken Regulations

Come November 4th, it's no big secret that one of the most important questions facing voters will be Question 3 - the ballot question that could phase out Greyhound Racing by 2010. The efforts of the Committee to Protect Dogs is already well under way. What's been puzzling, though, is the fact that the Greyhound Tracks have remained relatively quiet. Oh, sure, they've spun some interesting tales to reporters, but it's not really working. So what, exactly, do they have under their sleeves?

The Committee to Protect Dogs and Jobs. You've heard it here first. A Washington, D.C. lobbyist named Read Martin ordered the domain name, a site that's currently under construction. Most voters wouldn't be aware of this, but Read Martin is a business associate of Glenn Totten, of Totten Communications, hired by Raynham Park as a politician consultant to defeat the 2000 attempt to ban Greyhound Racing, which was the closest ballot question fight in Massachusetts state history.

So what's the big deal here? Two things - first, it's clear that because the Race Tracks in Massachusetts know they can't win the battle of ideas, they're going to try to confuse the voters. Already posted to Youtube are videos of cute little dogs and their adoptive parents - with one add titled Adopt a Massachusetts Greyhound, Vote No on 3. They're trying to send the message that if you really want to help Greyhounds, you should vote no on 3. Of course, they're skipping the maiming and the sufferring parts.

Even more important than trying to create a campaign solely meant on confusing voters is the fact that it appears as if state law is being violated. Why? The Committee to Protect Dogs and Jobs has not been filed with the State OCPF, the organization that oversees campaign finance law for state elections. As a ballot question campaign, they are required to file with the state before they start raising any money - and certainly before they spend any of it.

From the OCPF website itself:

Political Committees and Other Organizations

A political committee is a committee that raises money for a specific political purpose, such as:

The election of a single candidate (candidate's committee);
The election or defeat of one or more candidates (political action or people's committee);
The promotion of a particular party (state and local party committees); or
The passage or defeat of a ballot question (ballot question committee).

Before it can raise funds for its specified purpose, a committee must be properly organized with OCPF or, if applicable, a local election official.
Emphasis mine.

Of course, as with anything this cynical and irregular, the bludgeon they keep hitting themselves with doesn't stop. Among those sweet, kind-hearted videos on the Youtube site are a few claims that are flat out wrong. In fact, the very title of the ad - "Adopt a Greyhound, Vote No on 3" - is misleading, at best. Adopting Greyhounds and voting no on 3 have nothing to do with each other.

But it only gets worse from there. The first text to pop up on the featured ad is, in fact, false. The ad claims that the Greyhound adoption rate in Massachusetts is 100% - all Massachusetts Greyhounds are placed in a loving, caring home. Not exactly. According to the Massachusetts State Racing Commission, only 14% of track dogs end up being adopted in Massachusetts. For the math-challenged among us, that means the lobbyists are off by a whopping 86% - 65% of the dogs in Massachusetts are just sent to a new track, out of state and out of mind, where we can't keep track of them. Perhaps those are states that don't have such strict regulations as Massachusetts in terms of reporting what actually happens to Greyhounds at Wonderland and Raynham.

The second number that pops up in the same ad is a claim that can only be described as misleading. The ad claims that the state's race tracks have "contributed" $1.34 million to Greyhound Adoption agencies from 2000-2007. In fact, that's false. In 2001, a law drafted by Grey2K was carried by State Representative Pat Jehlin, establishing the Retired Greyhound Care and Adoption Council. Under this law, a portion of the taxes that the state was already collecting from gamblers spending money at Raynham and Wonderland was redirected to this council: that was the funding mechanism. So, in essence, it's the people who gamble at these tracks who have "contributed" these funds, not the tracks themselves.

Moreover, if the money weren't redirected to this Council, it would have been sent directly to the state's coffers. So let's not confuse this money with a generous donation that's being handed down from the industry to the adoption agencies in anyway, whatsoever. While it's good that the state has directed some funding to adoptive services, it's a small band aid on a gaping wound. The very reason for the fund's very existence would evaporate if we began to phase out Greyhound Racing in Massachusetts.

So let's try to get this all straight: the dog tracks are currently in the process of setting up their campaign to defeat Question 3. Their chief tactic appears to be confusing the voters, making them think that voting no on 3 will help Greyhounds. Furthermore, their campaign is currently violating OCPF campaign finance regulations in Massachusetts. I guess this all this shadowy mess is par for the course with the dog track industry - it's not as if they haven't tried to mislead and lie to the voters before.

Crossposted at BlueMassGroup.


Anonymous said...

Ryan, the issue you have raised are worthy of consideration.
Anyone who remembers the 2000 efforts, surely remembers the ad blitz immediately prior to the election. One might expect the same with one little quirk. Would it be expected that the casino gambling investors would chip in? As a voter who is not involved and informed about this issue, it would seem logical since racinos are being promoted to bail out tracks that are no longer widely attended.
One of the issues that is overlooked when discussing 'injuries' is that only track injuries are being reported and recorded.
Much like the horse racing businesss, greyhounds are not bred for strength of bones, but rather speed. Older dogs break bones that might not be readily apparent and they also get into fights (which seems part of the reason for those metal muzzles). The level of euthansia for minor injuries by breeders who don't want to waste the money on vet bills must be staggering.
This is a business that should be allowed a slow death and not subsidized simply because the track owners are major campaign contributors.

Anonymous said...

Man are you a liberal!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I always find the comments more telling than the original article when unmoderated comments are allowed.
When anon 5:10 tossed out that profane (in his opinion) label that the previous poster or the author were (in hushed tones!) liberal, it would seem that us liberals should allow the marketplace to dictate that the Commonwealth should stop bailing out the race tracks with ever expanding slots, simulcast, Keno and any other gambling device they conjure to enhance their revenues.
Just because people are loosing their jobs, loosing their homes, cash strapped because of energy costs, why should track owners and casino investors be forced to endure declining revenues or face bankruptcy like Twin Rivers in RI? Take pity on those poor rich folks, eliminate any moral consideration, he seems to admonish.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, you posted this at 0236, no job to get up for in the AM? While you're posting this crap track workers are napping, not sleeping. These folks work 18 hour days 7 days a week with their dogs. Want some 'lies', how about this - from the Boston Herald 6Nov00 columnist is Joe Fitzgerald " should be equally appalled by the efforts of a group called Grey2K to wage a ruthless campaign of deceit, distortion and defamation of character. Radical animal rights activists are determined to kill the greyhound racing industry in this state by any means necessary, which is why they weren't the least bit embarrassed when forced to admit that much of their advertising has been fraudulent. So if you go to the polls only to vote No on Question 3, you will have made a compelling statement, rejecting this attempt to ambush an industry through the dissemination of lies." Mull that over Ryan, then ask yourself since the MSPCA is responsible to investigate and prosecute any and all claims of animal abuse in this state (which is a felony now), why haven't they come forward with evidence of all this 'abuse' they themselves claim against the racing industry? Oh there are *LIES* Ryan, just not from the racing side, only from the animal extremists. For information on greyhound racing go to or VOTE NO ON QUESTION 3

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