It is always interesting to see how people react in public when what they have been doing in relative secrecy and privacy is called into question and the sunlight of full transparency rains down.
I guess there are several options that they can consider with their Public Relations’ team of experts offering suggestions and reams of one-pagers and one-liners.
One can open up and be honest. But, let’s be honest, since this one requires honesty. Most don’t take this opportunity to go straight or set the record straight. I really don’t know what happened to the old-saying that “Honesty is the Best Policy.” But few seem to employ that logic any more.
One can deny. Unfortunately, I find this to be the case way too often. You can ask former President Richard Nixon how that worked out for him.
“Fake News.” “Social Media Bull.” This “get out of jail card” was made popular, oh, let me see, about 5 years ago? When a certain politician used their own Twitter Account to say “wrong, wrong, wrong.” Yet, I digress.
One can offer facts and figures. But you know the old saying there, too, right? “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
If you don’t know by now, on Saturday, I wrote an “Opinion Piece” about the current debate in the Kentucky General Assembly regarding legislation that would authorize and authenticate Historical Horse Racing Machines in the Commonwealth.
One of the questions that I raised was whether or not the Stronach Group — which has hired a very well-respected and highly-regarded lobbying firm in Frankfort for the first time and have had on retainer since last October — was working with, collaborating with, or assisting, in any way, the Family Foundation and others to fight the measure and attempt to kill it from passing.
Seemed to be a legit question. After all – since October and until this weekend and according to all accounts and sources — the Stronach Group’s “team” has not been involved in any way to support the Kentucky Horse Industry in passing the legislation. They have not recruited votes and supporters. They have not engaged in discussions with the group of advocates or attended any of their meetings. And, by all accounts, all they have done is question the merits of the bill’s language and definitions and have raised concerns of how Kentucky’s proposed legislation may negatively impact them in other states.
When things don’t seemingly add up, and suspicion outweighs logic? Questions need to be raised. In public. So I did. I posed the question. And, I don’t regret it. Not a single bit.
Those practicing outside of what might be considered conventional wisdom, and in the dark of the night need to supply answers. In public. So, I invited the discussion.
As one might expect, the column made it to the social media platforms. Soon, it was brought to the attention of the Stronach Group’s Aidan Butler – who was elevated last October to the positions and titles of Chief Operating Officer to 1/ST Racing and to President of 1/ST Content.
It didn’t take Butler long to respond on Twitter. He wrote:
On Sunday, the Stronach Group employed some of its’ finest PR specialists and issued a lengthy statement — that probably cost the racetrack conglomerate about has much money as $1,000 per word would equate to, and it was plenty wordy. If you have not seen or read it, I’m sure you can easily find it. But in essence:
The Stronach Group vehemently denied any involvement with the Family Foundation. They bragged boastfully of their contributions to the entire concept, origination and deployment – from conception to delivery — of HHR. And, they spent more words negatively targeting the author of the opinion piece – calling me “ill informed” — than committing to get the measure passed.
How is a question ill informed?
I don’t really know, but my long-time acquaintance, some-time friend, some-time foe and always worthy adversary and former President of the Kentucky State Senate, David Williams, had the best response when he was faced with such a backlash of words and criticism.
Often he would stand at the President podium and quote another great line from the master of the written word, Shakespeare, and from one of his most applauded plays, Hamlet:
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
In the play, those words were spoken by Queen Gertrude, and in response to the insincere overreaction to a question about who may have killed Prince Hamlet’s father – the King of Denmark. Appears that Prince Hamlet’s uncle may have denied any wrongdoing a bit too much, and, thus, became the prime suspect.
Today, the reaction of both the Stronach Group and the Family Foundation seems to warrant that same response. The vehemence of their denial – combined with their lack of interest to assist — could make a skeptic wonder, if not completely doubt, the sincerity in their disapproval or how strongly they disavow.
After all, in their Sunday press release, the Stronach Group failed to commit to three essential things:
- It made no mention of instructing its’ lobbying team to work votes in favor of the proposed legislation;
- It made no commitment to work with the consortium of racetracks and other community and racing groups to help pass the legislation;
- And, it did not detail — in any specific terms — how they are willing to help educate legislators as to the utmost importance of the legislation to the Kentucky horse racing industry and the industry world-wide; when they will begin to recruit legislator’s support and commitment to vote for the measure; and how they can and will assist in the ultimate goal of getting the measure passed and submitted into law.
Interesting. Despite all the words of defense and denial, there was still a significant lack of commitment to help and assist.
Yet, in the spirit of fairness, I think the best way to address a situation like this is to invite the allegedly offended party the opportunity to answer a few easy questions. Maybe the answers can enlighten us all.
And, if Mr. Butler and the Stronach Group truly do think they were “wronged” in any way by the opinion piece, and, in fact, that our questions about the Stronach Group’s role in this Kentucky drama are “completely false,” then I would suppose that they would have no qualms about travelling to Kentucky to meet with any and all persons to answer just a few legitimate questions about the role they are playing in this critically important debate.
(For the record, if travel expenses are an issue, then I will start a “Go Fund Me” page to help alleviate that burden. Just let me know. And, I am sure we can find a proper venue where those interested can attend and pose their own questions.)
In the end, it is the 138 members of the Kentucky General Assembly who will ultimately decided the fate of this legislative proposal – and, to a large degree, the future success of our Commonwealth’s signature industry.
Yet, in the mix, are the thousands of Kentuckians who work each and every day in the Thoroughbred industry and who will be the most impacted by the ultimate outcome of this legislative proposal. They deserve to know the truth.
There’s an old saying that my friend and former Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representaives, Greg Stumbo, used to say to me often:
“If you are not with me, then you are against me. Which are you?”
So, in order that Mr. Butler and other representatives of the Stronach Group can properly and accurately answer that same question, we have prepared just a few questions for consideration.
They should be easy to answer.
And, the answers should be easy to decipher true commitment and intent.
- Specifically, is the Stronach Group lobbying in support of SB 120 – the measure to permit and police the pari-mutuel wagering conducted by HHR machines and venues?
- If they are in favor, have you, your organization and your paid representatives been involved and engaged in group conversations with the consortium of racetracks, other racing interests, and other major corporate and community leaders that are in favor of this legislation? If so, when did that occur? And, if so, are you committed to asking your lobby team to recruit votes in favor?
- According to the Stronach Group’s press release on Sunday, two of your company’s wholly owned subsidiaries manufacture and sell HHR devices, and currently there are approximately 300 machines in Kentucky at the Red Mile facility. Wouldn’t this proposed legislation allow those machines to continue to operate? And, if so, wouldn’t that be reason enough to support the legislation? Yet, we have been told that your subsidiary has less than 10% of the total amount of HHR machines operating in Kentucky. Do you think that warrants a veto over the language in the proposed legislation?
- Finally, are you currently seeking and currently negotiating to add more machines in Kentucky HHR venues, and are you, in any way, leveraging your support for the legislation as a negotiation tool to get more of your machines introduced into Kentucky?
Thank you for your prompt response. After all, as former Speaker Greg Stumbo used to say:
“If you are not with me, then you are against me. Which are you?”