A Philadelphia investment group, awarded a casino license this week by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, has substantial financial connections to Gov. Ed Rendell, D.
The state’s 12th slots casino, housing up to 500 slot machines, will be located in the Valley Forge Convention Center.
The Gaming Board consists of seven members, three of whom are appointed by the governor, including the current chairman, Mary DiGiacomo Colins. Mr. Rendell’s influence over which investors are awarded casino licenses has been called into question by some political observers.
The Valley Forge casino’s investor group is headed by Ira Lubert, chairman of GF Management and a co-founder of Lubert-Adler, a real estate private equity firm. Mr Lubert has contributed $141,000 to Gov. Rendell’s campaigns.
He is also a partner in a money management company in which more than $1 billion from the state’s two largest pension funds has been committed. Those pension funds paid Mr. Lubert’s firm $8 million in fees last year. Mr. Lubert has been associated with numerous other businesses that have made significant contributions to Mr. Rendell.
According to the Lubert-Adler corporate Web site, Mr. Lubert was the principal and founder of TL Ventures, whose employee and business donations totaled $62,000.
Mr. Lubert is listed as a co-founder of LLR Partners and Rubenstein Partners. Employees of both firms contributed $109,400 to Mr. Rendell.
The investors are represented by the Ballard Spahr law firm, which has a long history of intimate relationships and high dollar donations to Mr. Rendell.
Ballard is the Democratic governor’s former firm. Brothers-in-law John Estey and Adrian King Jr., both partners at Ballard, served as chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to Mr. Rendell, respectively, and have contributed $35,000 to his campaigns.
Ken Jarin, another Ballard partner, is a longtime confidante and fundraiser to Mr. Rendell, having contributed $90,000 to the governor’s coffers. He also serves as treasurer to the Democratic Governor’s Association, an entity that has contributed nearly $1.5 million to Mr. Rendell.
Ballard Chairman Arthur Makadon, a close friend to the governor, has contributed $87,500 to his campaigns.
The Ballard firm, a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), contributed $481,000 to Gov. Rendell’s campaigns. The Philadelphia Future Political Action Committee (PAC), registered at the Ballard offices in Philadelphia and whose treasurer is David Cohen, former Ballard Chairman and former chief of staff to then-Mayor Rendell, contributed $470,000.
Mr. Cohen donated $80,000, and his wife, Rhonda, has contributed $156,000 to the Mr. Rendell campaign efforts. Ballard associates donated nearly $500,000 to Mr. Rendell.
Additionally, Pennsylvania Department of State campaign filings list the address of Gov. Rendell’s campaign treasurer as the 51st Floor of 1735 Market St. in Philadelphia. Ballard Spahr occupies the entire floor.
Michael Heller, another casino investor and a partner at the Cozen O’Connor law firm, contributed only $250 to the governor. Attorneys at Cozen have contributed $311,400 to Gov. Rendell’s campaigns.
The above contributions total more than $3,800,000.
Chris Freind can be reached at [email protected]