$617,000 Spent to Lobby for D.C. Slots; Council Member's Son Hired to Plead for Gambling Hall on N.Y. Avenue

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 13, 2004 | Go to article overview

$617,000 Spent to Lobby for D.C. Slots; Council Member's Son Hired to Plead for Gambling Hall on N.Y. Avenue


Byline: Matthew Cella and Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Two companies from the U.S. Virgin Islands together have spent more than $617,000 since May to put a gambling hall on New York Avenue NE, including fees to a local investor, a former D.C. Council member and the son of a current council member representing the ward where the casino would be located.

One of those companies - Bridge Capital LLC - is owned by John K. Baldwin, a St. Croix businessman whose financial ties with a casino financier prompted investigations by gaming regulators in Maine and New York last year.

In addition, Bridge Capital's chief operating officer, Robert L. Newell, owns North Atlantic Investments LLC - the other Virgin Islands-based company that has bankrolled the District's gambling initiative. The firm incorporated in Delaware on April 21, the day before the District's gambling initiative was introduced.

Together, the two offshore firms - sharing the same address in St. Croix - have spent $617,613 and have accrued $153,454 in debt since May in their efforts to bring slot machine-like gambling to the District, according to contribution and expenditure reports filed yesterday with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

Their expenditures include:

*$187,243.50 to Manatt Phelps and Phillips, the law firm that employs former D.C. Council member John Ray, who has been the chief lobbyist for the initiative.

*$18,000 in consulting fees to Pedro Alfonso, the head of the D.C.-based telecommunications firm Dynamic Concepts Inc., who has been identified as the only local investor in the gambling project.

*$390 to Vincent Orange Jr., a "petition circulator" and the son of council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat.

The contribution and expenditure reports were filed by the Citizens Committee for the D.C. Video Lottery Terminal Initiative, the group lobbying for the casino. The reports show that North Atlantic Investments and Bridge Capital have provided all the funding for the gambling initiative.

Mr. Alfonso has said Mr. Newell is the key investor in the project, but Mr. Newell has said he is the "coordinator" of a group of investors, whom he declined to identify, The Washington Times reported last week.

The reports filed yesterday with the Office of Campaign Finance, the investigative arm of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, show that at least one other venture-capital firm is involved with the initiative.

Currently, the Board of Elections is verifying the authenticity of more than 50,000 signatures on petitions to put a referendum for the New York Avenue casino on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Of the $153,000 that North Atlantic and Bridge Capital have accrued in debt, they owe $107,000 to Mr. Ray, their chief lobbyist.

According to Mr. Ray's lobbying report, his work included meeting in person or by telephone with nine D.C. Council members or their staff, a deputy mayor and the city's chief financial officer.

Mr. Ray and associate Tina Ang met or spoke on the telephone with the elder Mr. Orange eight times to discuss the slots proposal between May 21 and June 22. …

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