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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Notes - Aug 4

- Interesting article by Elsa Walsh in The New Yorker this week on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Senator Reid is doing a great job holding the Democrats together in the face of a relentless and ruthlessly shameless majority; and he has some very interesting revelations about his conversation with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. I imagine that the radical religious right will shudder when they read that Reid more than once compared Roberts to Justice David Souter.

I wasn’t aware that Reid was once the head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, and Ms. Walsh relates this interesting and harrowing story of his experience:

In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, “Is this the money?” Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. “I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,” Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

One day in 1981, Landra Reid noticed that the family station wagon was not running properly, and she discovered a cable under the hood and “something” sticking out of the gas tank. Police found a device that would have exploded had it been correctly grounded. Reid always blamed Gordon for the bomb, and the incident frightened his family—by then there were five children, four sons and a daughter—so that for a year they started the car by remote control. Gordon died in April, at the age of sixty-six, and his connection to the bombing attempt was never proved. McCue, Reid’s chief of staff, says that the episode changed Reid. Whatever the issue, she says, his approach is always “No one is going to kill me over this.” [The New Yorker]
- NY Governor Pataki signed a bill to create an oversight board for NYRA. Big deal, really, considering that the organization has been under the microscope of a federal monitor since March 2004. More significantly, the bill officially accelerates the establishment of a committee to solicit proposals for the purchase of the NYRA franchise by Dec. 1. Originally this committee was scheduled to be established prior to July of 2006. [NY Daily News]

A fascinating and potentially divisive issue that is bubbling under the whole NY franchise situation, like the potential fight over access to Judge Roberts’ writings in the first Bush Administration, is the question of who owns the land on which the NY tracks sit. Charles Hayward made mention of this at the Saratoga Institute symposium the other day.
Either way, he said state officials would have to deal with NYRA. He said NYRA has "significant claim" to the land upon which the tracks sit. He said NYRA since 1955 has paid $440 million in property taxes to the local communities where the tracks are located. [Bloodhorse]
A while back I had written Bennett Liebman, who runs the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law program and probably knows about as much as anyone about this stuff, to try and get a clarification of the issues involved, and he responded thusly:
1. NYRA did own the land.

2. In 1983, when NYRA's franchise was extended, the State legislature, in effect, made the State the owner of the land. They made the franchise and NYRA's existence co-terminous. In short, under the 1983 legislation, if NYRA lost the franchise it would go out of existence. It's fairly clear that NYRA management in 1983 understood the situation. Thus, under the law, the State controls the land.

3. There are significant issues as to whether the State could constitutionally take NYRA's property without awarding NYRA compensation. This issue is further complicated by the fact that NYRA's status is so unique that it might not be owed any compensation if it was found to be a State entity.
Well, that really clears things up, eh? The point is that, according to Mr. Liebman, it is indeed the state that does control the land, but NYRA may (or may not) have a legitimate claim to compensation. But even if they do, if they lose the franchise they thus go out of existence. So who exactly is it that would then need to be compensated?