Native Tribes Create A GOP Split?
This article was edited from a column by Washington Post Writers Group member E.J. Dionne appearing in the March 16th issue of The Arizona Republic.
The Republic has been exposing the business dealings of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and several Indian tribes with casinos which has already involved the Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton and her creation of CREA, Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy which claims tax exemption.
Now, Tom DeLay the controversial House Majority leader is on the griddle because of a golfing trip he took to Scotland in 2000 that was allegedly financed by two of Abramoff’s clients – the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and eLottery Inc.
According to Republic articles, tribes currently involved with missing political donations to lobbyist Abramoff and his public relations associate Michael Scanlon are: The Tigua Tribe of El Paso Texas; Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, California; Pueblo Sandia Tribe of New Mexico. Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana; Mississippi Band of Choctaw; Louisiana Jena Tribe of Choctaws; and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan.
Traditionally, it was the tribe’s Democratic allies that furthered the cause of casino gambling creating a new industry for the previously impoverished tribes. Abramoff’s innovation and the source of his profits lay in his ability to convince casino tribal leaders they needed Republican and conservative allies now that the Republicans were in control of the White House and Congress.
At one time, Abramoff was working both sides of the fence by taking money from the Tiguas to help reinstate their casino in Texas when he had been instrumental in having their casino closed in the first place.
One of the casino tribe’s strongest opponents is Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA whose opposition to the spread of gambling has been his most central cause. Last year Wolf specifically urged the Justice Department to investigate whether the Indians were victims of fraud, but it has taken Senate Indian Affairs Committee chaired by Arizona’s John McCain to bring the issues into the open.
“Tom DeLay’s ethics troubles now threaten more than his own political future. They have the potential to create a much wider scandal over lobbying on Indian gambling and to open a rift among socially conservative Republicans.”
This puts the White House smack in the middle of the controversy as the administration has voiced its support for the House Majority Leader. It also should send the message to tribal councils with casino interests to beware of “silver-tongued” lobbyists.
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