JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s well known that NASCAR is huge in Florida. It’s a big show with all the cars, tracks, and lights.
But our review and another by a government watchdog group found stock car racing spends big money in Washington, too.
NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation, which operates some of the nation’s most legendary tracks, have coughed up a combined $460,000 on lobbyists since 2011.
Industry representatives have also ponied up $500,000 in campaign contributions to political candidates.
Melanie Sloan says it paid off on New Year’s Day when Congress tucked a special tax program specifically for motor raceways into the historic Fiscal Cliff deal. It’s an adjustment that’ll reportedly allow track operators to keep an estimated $70 million over the next two years.
“It’s astonishing,” gasped Sloan. “We’re going over the Fiscal Cliff, everything’s getting cut. We all have to wonder why is race car driving more important than things in the Pentagon, hospitals, or other things that Americans would admit are far more important.”
The Action News Washington Bureau dug through federal campaign donations and found thousands of dollars of contributions from NASCAR’s Chief Executive, and from the head of the ISC.
Both organizations declined to answer our questions about the purpose or motives of those donations.
There were some members of Congress who objected to the special tax arrangement.
“We’re not making it better or fairer,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). “We’re not getting rid of the NASCAR loophole.”
The ISC did get back with us. It tells Action News it defends its deal. The ISC says racing is an industry that regularly buys property and already pays fat corporate taxes.
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) says these tax extensions could be a “boost” for the economy.