Naked City

Money Smells Like Horses

In its latest "Lobby Watch" report on efforts to legalize slot machines (excuse us, "video lottery terminals") at racetracks – specifically at the proposed Austin Jockey Club in Pflugerville – the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice followed a trail of money, or horse droppings, to lobbyists with close ties to Gov. Rick Perry.

And perhaps the lobbyist closest to Perry is Mike Toomey, who served as the governor's chief of staff until his resignation last fall. Toomey is among a team of lobbyists representing a new player in the Lone Star gambling arena, Big City Capital LLC, a Nevada-based outfit controlled by Billy Bob Barnett, former owner of Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth. Like the Jockey Club, Big City Capital is keen on getting racetrack slot machines legalized in the state, according to the TPJ findings.

The watchdog group's hunch is that Big City, Billy Bob, Toomey, and others are working offstage to promote slot machines for the Jockey Club. "Big City Capital and AJC clearly have amassed serious political capital to pursue what they are after," the TPJ report states. (The Jockey Club's lobbyists, from the Gardere Wynn Sewell law firm, include Carl Richie, who serves on the Travis Co. Hospital District board of managers.) Moreover, Big City was among the list of late donors to Austin state Rep. Todd Baxter, who received $10,000 from the gambling group and $2,000 from Toomey on the same day. TPJ also points out that Big City gave $1,000 to Rep. Elliott Naishtat. More from the TPJ report can be found at www.tpj.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texans for Public Justice, Lobby Watch, Austin Jockey Club, Big City Capital, Billy Bob Barnett, Mike Toomey, Carl Richie, Travis Co. Hospital District, Todd Baxter, Elliott Naishtat, Billy Bob's Texas Honky Tonk, Gardere Wynn Sewell

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