WASHINGTON - The horse industry's political action committee has become the largest gambling PAC, exceeding casinos in both donations and political contributions, according to the PAC's annual report issued this week.
The PAC, an outgrowth of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, has been active only since 2002 but it has already received $1.5 million and disbursed more than $1 million.
In 2006, the horse industry, including many horse farm owners and breeders in Kentucky, as well as executives at Churchill Downs Inc.'s Kentucky tracks, donated $369,323. The PAC then disbursed almost $360,000 to members of Congress and their political action committees.
And what did the industry get for its money?
"A major success in the legislative arena during 2006 was the passage of the landmark Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act with specific protections for account and Internet wagering on pari-mutuel horse racing," according a statement from PAC President Peggy Hendershot.
The PAC focused its contributions on members of key committees, as well as congressional leaders and those who "endorse tax legislation benefiting race horse owners, breeders, players and business," the report said.
Other key issues also include equine identification, the Interstate Horseracing Act, security for major racing events and immigration.
Members of Kentucky's congressional delegation got by far the most money in 2006, $57,500 in direct contributions. Second was New York with $28,500, followed by California with $27,000, and Ohio with $23,500. In all, members from 38 states got some money.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., got the most, $7,500 for himself and $15,000 for two PACs. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, received $5,000, and another $5,000 for his PAC. Then-Rep. Anne Northup, R-Louisville, Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Fort Mitchell, and Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Elizabethtown, each received $5,000.
Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., got $5,000 for his PAC, as did Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset.
The contributions skewed Republican (62 percent) last year, but that is expected to change with the shift to a Democratic majority in both houses.
This year, according to the report, the PAC will be lobbying for two new initiatives: raising the level of winnings that triggers automatic federal tax withholding from $5,000 to $10,000; and making sure that animal manure is not considered hazardous waste, thereby exempting livestock facilities from potentially tougher Superfund laws.