In a Holland Sentinel article last week, I said the following about the Michigan Lottery giving $40,000 to Grand Rapids for a fireworks display: "This expenditure is motivated by politics, not maximizing lottery sales." Given the context of the article, I appeared to be referring to the personal motivations of a particular individual, the Lottery director. That was wrong, and I apologize for the remark.

The underlying issue here involves a legitimate public policy debate: Should the Michigan Lottery's advertising budget be used to pay for activities that generate "good will" in a particular community, rather than just buying ads?

I think not. One reason (among others) is the risk and appearance this creates of the expenditures being exploited for overtly political purposes. In fact, I believe that such expenditures are inherently political on an institutional level because the Lottery is a government entity whose existence and operations are the product of political decisions. Using government resources to indirectly influence those decisions is problematic at best.

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Besides, the Lottery already exists for just one reason: To augment the resources available for public schools. If that isn't sufficient to generate "good will" in the community, then perhaps policymakers should examine another institution — the public school establishment that benefits from Lottery money.

Reasonable people may disagree with my position, and fair enough. But I should not ascribe their personal motivations to anything other than good will, and was wrong to say something that sounded like I was doing so.


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