Penn National Gaming was a $44 million loser in its bid to block expanded gambling in last month's election, but it came out on top in terms of its spending locally.
Get the Facts — Vote No on 7, the Pennsylvania-based casino company's ballot committee, spent almost three-quarters of its money in Maryland in Maryland's most expensive campaign ever. Penn National and a rival coalition led by MGM Entertainment together spent almost $95 million in the fight over Question 7, which opened the way for table games and a new casino in Prince George's County.
MGM and its allies won, 52 percent to 48 percent, but not before Get the Facts made a sizable contribution to the region's economy.
The Penn National committee spent $31.6 million, or 72 percent, of its money in Maryland, and almost all of it went to one company. Mentzer Media, a Towson-based buyer of media services for political campaigns, received $31.4 million for a contest that lasted about two and a half months.
Media buyers typically take their clients' money and buy advertising time on TV and radio stations, keeping a percentage. There is a little doubt that a big chunk of that money found its way to Washington-based media outlets, but at least it started out in Maryland.
By contrast, MGM's ballot committee spent only a small percentage of its money in state.
Another Maryland beneficiary of Get the Facts' spending included Family, Faith, Future, a church-connected nonprofit that did grass-roots advocacy against the casino expansion. It received $200,000. Jacqueline Goodall, mayor of the Prince George's town of Forest Heights, was paid $15,000 as a campaign staffer.
Despite its location on the far side of Baltimore from the nation's capital, Mentzer is a nationally known, Republican-oriented firm that that has worked extensively for conservative advocacy groups, including Karl Rove's Crossroads America and the Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity.
Even when Get the Facts wasn't spending its money in Maryland, it was keeping it in the region. Most of its remaining money — just over $12.2 million — was spent in the District of Columbia. Of that, the lion's share went to DCI Group, a GOP-aligned public affairs company. Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s old firm, picked off most of the rest: $95,120 for legal services.
MGM's ballot committee, by contrast, threw most of its business to Democratic-leaning firms.