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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Stoned Zone

- Here's an item that just keeps popping up. I've started to write about it in the past, but decided not to complete it due to the lack of credibility of the key figure involved. However, it's turned out to add up in an interesting fashion, so here goes.

However, I'll preface this by pointing out that Roger Stone is a longtime Republican operative who has been suspected of being associated with a variety of dirty tricks. Most significant of those to current events is the street demonstration that shut down the Florida recount in Miami-Dade in 2000, which helped lead to Bush and his lies that have led us into the current mess in Iraq. Thanks a lot for that Rog.

Most recently though, Stone was apparently caught red-handed - or red-throated if you will - making that threatening phone call to Eliot Spitzer's father while he was in the employ of Joe Bruno and the Senate Republicans, a position from which he was subsequently dismissed.

Via Albany Law School's Racing and Gaming Today page, today I come across an entry from Stone's blog, The Stone Zone. Yes, despite his voice being caught on that tape from Mr. Spitzer's answering machine, Stone continues to carry on that special shameless Republican way. He refers to an item, which I have seen before, on a site called RADAR On-Line, originally published on April 24 of this year, which claimed that Stone was introduced by Donald Trump to Steve Wynn, who in turn hired him to lobby Senator Bruno on behalf of Excelsior. He brought this up with respect to an inquiry on the matter he recently received from the New York State Temporary Commission on Lobbying. Stone, as he has in the past, flatly denies the story.

I have never met Mr. Wynn nor spoken to him or anyone from his office and I have never lobbied Senator Bruno or any other State Official. I have received no compensation whatsoever from EXCELSIOR, and in fact, I have friends involved with both EMPIRE GAMING and CAPITAL PLAY. [The Stone Zone]
He goes on to point out that he had immediately contacted the Albany Times-Union and the NY Daily News, the latter of which promptly printed his denial in this blog entry.

But what I find most relevant for our purposes is this; Stone continues in his blog entry:
Interestingly, both reporters told me that staffers from super-lobbyist Pat Lynch's office called to push the story. Lynch represents EXCELSIOR'S competitor and arch rival, EMPIRE GAMING.
And indeed, I went back into my email inbox, and found a message from that very day that came from a representative of Empire; this when they were still speaking to me. And guess what? It contained a link to the RADAR On-Line piece, an unflattering article on Stone from the Village Voice, and an accompanying note that read: FYI - New player in the racing bid raises some eyebrows.

So, this all reveals an attempted smear, not directly of Stone, who has since done an effective job of doing that to himself, but of Excelsior and Steve Wynn by Empire. They attempted to tie Wynn to both an unsavory character in Stone, and to the same sort of questionable lobbying of Bruno that their own Jared
Abbruzzese was, and still is, being investigated for (by the same Temporary Lobbying Commission). This came at a time when Excelsior had just added Steve Wynn to replace the Steinbrenners. If we are to believe Stone in this particular case (and again, to be fair, consider the source), we see the kind of depths that Empire was willing to go to in order to sully its rival's reputation once its ridiculous name calling campaign only called attention to its own pettiness and distortions of the truth.

- We've mentioned the concept of a Commissioner of Racing in the past, one who could, in theory, get all the tracks on the same page on matters such as stakes schedules and coordinated post times. In his Wire to Wire column on, Andrew Cohen writes of a response he received from the U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) executive vice-president Eric Sharbaugh to his suggestion that the standardbred sport do the same. It reveals issues that I imagine would come into play for the NTRA as well.
Sharbaugh first cited anti-trust laws which “restrict the USTA differently than they do certain other sports entities” like Major League Baseball or NASCAR. “In contrary to those entities,” Sharbaugh wrote, “the USTA does not own the race tracks, does not enter into contracts with the drivers and owners to race at racetracks, and is not a harness racing league of club owners…. The USTA has no power to apportion racing dates, stakes races or determine who can and cannot participate in racing based upon arbitrary or subjective standards…”

Moreover, Sharbaugh wrote, “the sport of harness racing is subject to direct governmental regulation in ways that most other sports are not…. [Therefore], the USTA has no power or authority to establish a national Commissioner with nationwide powers similar to those of the various state regulatory authorities. In order for such a national racing Commissioner[‘s Office] to be created, all state agencies and legislative bodies that regulate racing would need to agree to create such an office and to transfer some of the powers currently exercised by the state agencies and legislative bodies to such a national racing Commissioner.” []
But while acknowledging that those problems are real, Cohen won't take no for an answer and responds that it's the USTA's responsibility to look into how to tackle them.
It shouldn’t stutter because its leaders believe the result is impossible to obtain; it should march on because its members believe the effort is worth making.
Wise words that the thoroughbred side should heed as well.


Anonymous said...

You should preface every column by saying "I hate Republicans".

Two Conservative Judges on the Supreme court since 2000...Beautiful.

Alan Mann said...

Well, some of my favorite readers are Republicans, so I certainly wouldn't use such a generalization. I have a problem with a few of them though. Not the readers of course, but

Anonymous said...

First, not that it matters, but one inaccuracy in his statement is that MLB does not own its stadiums or sign its players.

A commissioner could not wield power with regard to regulatory matter suchs as takeout, but certainly could create one standard for testing and penalties, stewards ruling, simulcast fees, television contracts and race schedules.

Nothing would prevent this.

Anonymous said...

Alan, another of your Republican faves checking in! Who is Roger Stone's counter-part on the Democrat side? Or, should I say "counterparts", plural, as the Dems have many shadowy operators a la Roger Stone! You know full well that the Clintons are masters at this kind of below-the-radar stuff; it's just like the NFL Wars- everybody does it! So far, Roger Stone is in the lead for the Bill Belichick Award, doncha think? By the way, the columns on the stonezone website are pretty good- did you read any of them? /S/Green Mtn Punter a/k/a Possibly the Last Republican in Vermont

Alan Mann said...

Green Mtn - Yeah, I know that dirty tricks abound on both sides, but you guys are the ones that seem to be getting caught lately!

I'll have to check out The Stone Zone in more detail. I actually heard from Mr. Stone too, and he was actually very affable despite my insults. More on that later...

Anonymous said...

Alan, maybe Stonezone is a racing fan? Can he tell his VIP client Joe Bruno to get off his Spitzer vendetta for 5 minutes and get this racing franchise deal done?! And if to boot he could actually pull off some real reform in the racing and wagering laws, ol' Joe would be a real hero!
/S/Green Mtn Punter