Governor’s Group Gets 237 Tickets To Kentucky Derby
For those fortunate enough to attend the Kentucky Derby and join over 160,000 other fans at Churchill Downs, the party and festive day of racing is one to remember. Only the privileged can enjoy the Derby in the coveted spots on Millionaires’ Row, but the Kentucky Governor’s Group had 128 Millionaires Row tickets sold to them by Churchill Downs for both the Derby and Oaks. At a mere median price of $1,700 per ticket, Millionaires’ Row is quite rewarding.
Lobbyists, campaign contributors and state officials bought up the 237 total tickets sold to the governor’s group under Gov. Matt Bevin this year. Most of those tickets are sold to their clients. The allotment to the governor’s office changes annually based on availability, and the office seemed a bit short-changed after 360 tickets were sold in recent years to Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration.
Whenever money is changing hands and financial support is needed, you can bet that there is some politicking going on. The sale of tickets by Churchill Downs to the governor’s group is intended as an economic development tool for the state. Or as the governor’s office press secretary Amanda Stamper calls it, “a marketing opportunity to promote Kentucky to top executives…who are involved in the decision-making process for locating and expanding facilities.”
Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky, says he sees no good reason for Churchill to sell more to the governor’s group than is needed to entertain guests who are considering bringing jobs to Kentucky.
“I’m glad the number of tickets is smaller this year, but it’s another unnecessary opportunity where a governor can grant a request of lobbyists and monied interests that makes me uncomfortable,” Beliles said.
State government paid only for the 62 guests of the Economic Development and Tourism cabinets, Stamper said. All others – including the top Bevin administration officials who used many of them – paid face value for their tickets through the governor administrations Derby non-profit called Derby Celebration Inc.
Attendance at the 2016 Kentucky Derby was 167,227; the second-largest crowd in Derby history. Through the Kentucky Open Records Act, you can make a request to the Governor’s Office for a list of those people and organizations that purchased tickets to the Derby and Oaks through the governor’s office and Derby Celebration.