Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Michael Lamb charged yesterday that opponent Bob O'Connor is engaging in "back-room deal making" for accepting campaign contributions from potential gaming interests.
Lamb counted almost $45,000 in O'Connor contributions from a Cleveland development firm, a city financier and a Beaver County businessman trying to get involved in a Pittsburgh slots casino.
In a bill last summer approving 14 slot machine sites statewide, lawmakers prohibited Pennsylvania slots applicants from donating to political campaigns in Pennsylvania. In a press statement Lamb released yesterday, he used that prohibition to raise questions about some of O'Connor's contributions.
Because there are no slots license holders or official applicants in Pittsburgh, or anywhere else in the state because the state Gaming Control Board has not yet written rules for applying for the licenses, O'Connor's donors have not broken the law.
Additionally, there are no state laws governing how much money individuals or businesses can contribute to Pittsburgh campaigns.
Lamb, the Allegheny County prothonotary, questioned $29,000 in O'Connor contributions from people tied to Forest City Enterprises, which owns Station Square and is interested in placing a slots casino there; $10,000 contributed last year by investor Charles Zappala, who is trying to invest in a Pittsburgh casino; and $5,000 from Beaver County businessman Charles Betters, who is trying to build a racetrack and casino in the city's Hays neighborhood.
"Contributions from those with gaming interests represents the same back-room deal making and the politics and policies of the past that has gotten Pittsburgh to where it is now," Lamb said.
He said Pittsburgh residents "deserve a fresh start in city government, and they want a mayor not beholden to special interests."
O'Connor last night said: "Mike's campaign has been negative and about attacking me. His campaign has put out about 25 press releases, half of them with headlines attacking me. That not what substantive leaders do and it's not how to get elected or to lead."
O'Connor has said he has made no promises to anyone during the mayoral campaign in exchange for their support.
Campaign reports filed last week showed O'Connor raised $840,000 during 2005 while Lamb raised $253,000. The other Democrat in Tuesday's mayoral primary, William Peduto, raised $161,000.
Tim McNulty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1542.