Derby donations: Horse special interest groups also bet on politics
The 138th Kentucky Oaks and Derby will gather both northern Yankees and Hollywood elites to embrace in the gentility of Southern identity and traditions. While attendees will bet money on horses to win, horse-focused political action committees, funded by horse owners and breeders, bet money on politics, guaranteeing their win.
Since 1989, PACs such as the American Horse Council and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), along with owners and breeders have contributed more than $8.7 million to political candidates and have spent more than $2.2 million lobbying, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
Horse owners and breeders “have secured multiple tax benefits from a host of bills, including small-bore measures like the Equine Equity Act … and broad legislation like the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which, among its many provisions, offered accelerated depreciation benefits to horse owners,” the Sunlight Foundation found.
The main political beneficiary of the horse lobby is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. A native to Louisville, Kent., the home of the Kentucky Derby, he has received more than $130,000 from the industry. The next largest recipient is former President George W. Bush, who pulled in $129,000. President Barack Obama comes in fourth at $72,000.
The horse-focused interest groups have secured special tax privileges and advice on how best to account for depreciation, record keeping and capital gains. The American Horse Council provides a two-volume manual for $75 to its members on how to best file for taxes. The manual is written by a former IRS official who now lobbies for the group in Washington. And for only $10, Council members can buy the “Tax Tips for Horse Owners.”
The real money, however, is found in donations to PACs, like the American Horse Council and the NTRA.
Take Robert L. Duchossois, a horse aficionado who rescued Illinois’ Arlington Park racetrack in the 1980s, for example. The estimated billionaire has given $5,500 to the NTRA PAC.
“Duchossois, his company, its PAC and employees and his family members have contributed $4.7 million more to politicians, party committees and super PACs,” the Sunlight Foundation wrote. “His daughter-in-law, Janet Duchossois, made $250,000 contributions to both American Crossroads and Restore Our Future.”
Many other horse-lovers have made high ticket political donations. NFL Houston Texans owner Robert McNair has donated over $2.5 million to political action committees, $20,000 of which has gone to the NTRA PAC. Romana Bass, wife of the owner of Bass Brothers Enterprises, who has given $30,000 to the NTRA PAC, totally more than $2.3 million in political donations over the years.
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