A Queens lawmaker has been organizing out-of-state gambling trips for hundreds of seniors citizens, which has raised eyebrows among good government groups because the trips are funded by corporate donations.
State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica) solicited about $4,000 in donations for his latest trip in August. The money came from Consolidated Edison, Regal Recycling, Health First, and the Amalgamated Transit Union.
The money paid for round-trip, chartered buses and lunch for the elderly Queens residents.
Nonprofits that monitor government ethics have criticized the concept, concluding it looks more like a self-promotional campaign event rather than a community service for seniors.
"To take a bunch of senior citizens out of state to a casino to show their appreciation -- I would call that very questionable," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union.
Scarborough has insisted that money for the trip was never funneled through his Assembly office.
Instead he says the four companies paid the bus company directly. Still, Deanna Bitetti, associate director of Common Cause, said the donations should have been declared as in-kind contributions on Scarborough's campaign disclosure.
"Kind of reminiscent a little bit of the Tammany Hall political era, if you think about it, Bitetti said. "The idea of buying votes, using corporate money to pay for certain services that may or may not be beneficial to the community."
Although Scarborough's name was prominently spelled out on placards in each bus window, the Queens lawmaker insisted the trip was not self-promotional.
"You could say that anything you do for anybody if you're an elected official could be construed as buying votes -- I mean, it's simply a way to say thank you," Scarborough told NBC New York as the buses prepared to launch for Atlantic City.