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GannettUSA Today

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The ethics of lottery bidding

The appearance of conflict in having the same lobbying firm represent the winning bidder and the Lottery Commission that awarded the contract is just so obvious. State Treasurer Bradley Abelow had no other choice last week but to toss out the contract for the next five years of lottery management.

The winning bidder, GTech, had hired as its lobbyist the same Trenton firm, MWW, that does public relations work for the commission. Even if MWW's roles for both clients never intersected, as the lobbying firm insists, Abelow couldn't help but conclude that the relationship between GTech and MWW "created a sufficiently troubling impression'' to warrant rebidding the contract.

GTech claims it was denied a chance to make its case to retain the contract. That argument doesn't hold up given the potential conflict of interest, which couldn't be any clearer. The public has reason enough to be upset that the commission awarded the bid to the higher bidder. GTech should be glad to have a chance to participate in the new bidding process. It could have -- and maybe should have -- lost the contract altogether.

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