Indianapolis Motor Speedway greased politicians pockets to get 'free' money
In the middle of 2011 — with a decision to ask state lawmakers for financial help still months away — Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials began donating tens of thousands of dollars to political candidates.
By the time the election campaign had ended, the IMS had contributed more than $100,000 to Hoosier politicians and campaign committees -- 12 times more than speedway officials had donated over the entire previous 10 years when such contributions totaled about $8,500.
“We made a strategic decision,” IMS spokesman Doug Boles said, “that it was time to be more than a passive observer.”
Boles said the Speedway’s increased involvement arose from a general desire to become more politically active and came before it made specific plans to ask for state assistance.
“It did not,” Boles said, “coincide with our planning.”
Whatever the timing or motivation, the strategic decision seems to be working. A bill pushed by the IMS to create a taxing district to help fund facility improvements is zooming through the Indiana General Assembly. Submitted last week, the bill has cleared the Senate and awaits action in the House.
The bill would set aside up to $5 million annually of the tax revenue generated in the district for 20 years. The money would help the Speedway pay off bonds that would finance up to $100 million in improvements at its facility at 16th Street and Georgetown Road.
Experts said the giving has surely helped the company in its legislative push. When an interest group wants change, it needs access to the government’s decision-makers, said Ray Scheele, political science professor at Ball State University and co-director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs. “And one of the best ways of getting access is obviously a campaign contribution.” More at Indy Star