February 22, 2017

We’re getting awfully huffy about the Russians interfering in our elections but what about the Cambodians, Japanese, and Thais?

When the Office of Campaign and Political Finance required the Horse Racing Jobs and Education ballot committee to reveal its true donors it turned out that the money came from offshore gambling tycoons. (The committee backing Ballot Question 1 wasn’t about horse racing jobs, it was about a skeevy plan to site a slots parlor in Revere). The foreign interests availed themselves of the All-American practice of funding a political campaign with dark money, but OCPF wasn’t having it.

Nearly all the reported contributions to the committee were listed as coming from Capital Productions LLC, but that was false. When OCPF forced the committee to come clean we found that Toko Kobayashi of Tokyo, Japan and Sok Chenda of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, both listed as real estate developers working for Regent Able Associate, each contributed $200,000.00 to the committee.  Regent Able Associate, laundering through another operation named Miami Development LLC, separately gave $1,565,147.93; and Bridge Capital LLC of Saipan gave $390,000.00 and then Bridge Capital LLC of Miami gave $1,418,201.78 through Miami Development.

Is that clear?

Of course not; it’s not meant to be clear. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting concluded that “More than $3 million in contributions backing an added slot-machine casino in Massachusetts came from offshore entities and their overseas employees in Asia.”

Even with OCPF’s diligence and solid reporting from NECIR, the real funding for the Horse Racing committee remains inscrutable. Who put the money into Regent Able, Miami Development, and Bridge Capital? Corporations can give to ballot committees but as the saying goes, the fish rots from the head down. We just can’t locate the head.

The Horse Racing committee saga points up a major obstacle in uncovering the true sources of dark money – the Russian nesting doll problem. We open one doll to reveal another, then another, then another, and never find the true source of the money. This is expedient for those who want to hide behind slogans like “Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee” or “Great Schools Massachusetts.” Investors understand that if their identities were known to voters, their electoral prospects would collapse.

What was known of the interests behind Question 1 was detailed in a Globe story about the committee’s front man, Eugene McCain, most recently of Thailand. McCain followed the playbook of developer Shawn Scott, who had been denied a casino license in Maine due to “concerns about Scott’s history of lawsuits, the financial management of his past companies, and the criminal background of his partner, Hoolae Paoa.” Scott and Paoa assayed the Revere property with McCain, but McCain denied their involvement. He also refused to reveal the true source of the committee’s money.

A ballot question settles public policy and determines private winners and losers. The foreign pelf driving the Question 1 campaign is another malignancy of the dark money cancer. Great Schools Massachusetts and Families for Excellent Schools, Democrats for Education Reform, Strong Economy for Growth, the Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee – are we content with these covert interests influencing state policy?

Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Great Schools Massachusetts, Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee, Families for Excellent Schools

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