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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Odds Weren't Stacked Against This Senator

- The feds are looking into a Pennsylvania land deal in which a State Senator was involved with a company that benefited from an apparent sweetheart land deal voted on and approved by the State Senate. In January, 2004 Democratic Senator Michael Stack III failed to disclose his ownership interest in the land when the Senate voted on a bill to sell water rights that would allow commercial development there. Those rights had been appraised at $1.5 million just the previous August, but it was sold to Beach Street Corp, of which Stack owns 4%, for only $100,000, after persistent lobbying by Stack’s business partner. The explanation for the reduction was that

The land was contaminated with old paint and other shipyard chemicals and may need to be cleaned. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Stack abstained from the vote without explanation, contrary to the state Constitution, which requires disclosure, and a PR rep said that the vote Stack missed came in "a flurry of activity" at the end of the session; in fact, Stack participated in the 46 other Senate votes that day. [Philadelphia Daily News] He later explained that he was following the advice of the party attorney.

The day after the Philly Daily News broke the story, Stack acknowledged that Ameristar Casino, Inc., apparently not that concerned about shipyard chemicals, had an option to purchase the land for $37,000,000, contingent on their winning a casino license. At 4% of Beach Street, which in turn owns 46% of the land, it would be a windfall of over $650,000 for Stack. Stack has four brothers who also each own 4% of the company, and Stack’s dad owns a 20% share. The senior Stack, who is actually named Michael Stack, Jr., is a Philadelphia ward leader who is under indictment for allegedly forging more than 200 names on candidate nominating petitions for a 2003 City Council race. [Philly Daily News]

And I think it should be pointed out that Stack III did participate in the vote authorizing slots in Pennsylvania. Guess how he voted?

Links and info via Rendell Watch (Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D), referred to by the proprietor of this blog as “Fast Eddie”, who signed both the land deal and the slots legislation into law, but denies knowing of Stack’s involvement and says the deal was perfectly legitimate) and Albany Law School Racing and Wagering Page.

- In time for the Florida Derby, Gulfstream finally caves to the mounting pressure and increases the run to the first turn to 400 feet, from 370, for their 1 1/8 mile races.
"The 400-foot run into the first turn is virtually identical to other nine-furlong ovals like Aqueduct and Arlington Park," said Gulfstream president and general manager Scott Savin. [Daily Racing Form]
Better late than never, this will hopefully even out the playing field in those races, which have been severely biased towards the inside posts.