Kentucky Ethics Commission Critical of Churchill Downs

While finding no state ethics laws were violated, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission was harsh in its criticism of Churchill Downs for contributions to lawmakers just a few days before the start of last month's legislative session.

Churchill and the state's other tracks are pushing hard for legislation to allow them to install video lottery terminals.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported the commission voted unanimously that the track broke no laws when it sent $15,500 to legislators on the eve of the session. Many returned the money. However, it criticized the track for its actions.

"We would be remiss if we did not observe that the PAC fell well short of exercising good judgment in making these contributions at the time they were made in light of the likelihood that a matter of great legislative interest to Churchill Downs and other race tracks could be considered during the session," the commission wrote.

John Asher, vice president of racing communications for Churchill, said the track was pleased with the commission's findings. However, he added, "While saying that, I do want to say on behalf of the company that if we brought any legislator--or this institution or in fact our own company--under any unfavorable light we sincerely regret that."

The complaint to the commission was filed by Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky.

The vote was 4-0 with commission chairman George Troutman abstaining because he has a son employed at Churchill Downs.

The commission found no evidence any Churchill employee linked a contribution to support for a bill, or that any legislator promised any support.