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Tribal Government Donations to Federal Campaigns

Source: opensecrets.org  Center for Responsive Politics - and the Federal Election Commission

2008 Indian Gaming Donations to Presidential Candidates -

Released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, July 28, 2008.

Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ), the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and a top Senate recipient of tribal donations in the 1990's, proposed an amendment in 1996 that gave the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) more power and authority to regulate their own industry - Indian gaming.   He also stood up during the 1996 Republican convention and mocked Hilary Clinton's book, "It takes a village to raise a child", while at the same time brushing aside concerns of tribal members and non-members about the Indian Child Welfare Act and its effect on the rights of parents. Senator McCain reports much less in Tribal Contributions in the last campaign cycle.

A top aide to Senator Conrad Burns lobbied for The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes during the same years that the federal government was negotiating with the tribe over managment of the National Bison Range.  Senator Burns was in the position to decide the outcome of the negotiations , yet, despite local petitions and national outcry by environmental organizations and federal workers who showed very good cause for concern, he allowed the management transfer to occur.   Why?

   The three article below were written for the 1998, 2000, and 2002 election cycles and provide information concerning Tribal campaign contributions and the effect those contributions might be having on the rights and lives of American citizens.

1 Richardson, Bill (D) $112,600
2 Clinton, Hillary (D) $82,375
3 Obama, Barack (D) $42,650
4 Giuliani, Rudolph W (R) $11,700
5 Romney, Mitt (R) $5,600
6 McCain, John (R) $4,500
7 Huckabee, Mike (R) $1,700
8 Thompson, Fred (R) $1,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Election Cycle Total Contributions Contributions from Individuals Contributions from PACs Soft Money Contributions Donations to Democrats Donations to Republicans % to Dems % to Repubs
2008* $6,935,600 $488,548 $6,447,052 N/A $5,051,530 $1,884,070 73% 27%
2006* $7,722,379 $1,357,230 $6,365,149 N/A $4,792,902 $2,893,823 62% 37%
2004* $7,494,615 $1,650,500 $5,844,115 N/A $5,017,608 $2,477,007 67% 33%
2002 $6,821,546 $803,877 $3,560,038 $2,457,631 $4,522,165 $2,299,381 66% 34%
2000 $3,187,487 $851,974 $62,565 $2,272,948 $2,507,730 $672,608 79% 21%
1998 $1,623,074 $342,846 $91,128 $1,189,100 $976,094 $646,980 60% 40%
1996 $2,033,799 $373,496 $114,782 $1,545,521 $1,723,398 $310,151 85% 15%
1994 $704,200 $168,250 $28,950 $507,000 $574,250 $129,950 82% 18%
1992 $163,971 $49,800 $0 $114,171 $132,950 $31,021 81% 19%
1990 $5,650 $5,650 $0 N/A $5,650 $0 100% 0%
Total $36,692,321 $6,092,171 $22,513,779 $8,086,371 $25,304,277 $11,344,991 69% 31%

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*These figures do not include donations of "Levin" funds to state and local party committees. Levin Funds were created by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

METHODOLOGY: The numbers on this page are based on contributions of $200 or more from PACs and individuals to federal candidates and from PAC, soft money and individual donors to political parties, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. While election cycles are shown in charts as 1996, 1998, 2000 etc. they actually represent two-year periods. For example, the 2002 election cycle runs from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2002. 

Data for the current election cycle were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, July 28, 2008.

NOTE: Soft money contributions to the national parties were not publicly disclosed until the 1991-92 election cycle, and were banned by the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act following the 2002 elections.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics.

 

Center for Responsible Politics, (CRP)        Federal Election Commission (FEC)

 

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Tribal Members Made to Suffer from Congressional Greed.  (2003)

By Lisa Morris

"I'm an Alaska Native Woman who used to work for a Native HealthCare Facility. the President of the HealthCare Facility.promised me a higher position in Juneau, ask(ed) me to leave my husband, .he's lost millions for this facility, people dying on an operated/owned plane by SEARHC, exposed kids to asbestos, it's all on record, he sexually harassed me and I'm getting no help from anyone. .I'm also a US Citizen; what about the Bill of Rights(?), Civil Rights Act (?), nobody wants to help me." - Anon

So begins one of many letters my husband, Roland Morris, and I have received from both tribal members and non-members. Some are seeking legal help, some simply seek someone who will listen and understand. Here are a few other examples:

"I am a full blood Cherokee and a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Marine Corps... if one is born a tribal member on the North American continent, .one has no rights or recourse of action when civil rights violations are caused.by.tribal government. Like a Native American Indian living in a communist organization." - Billy R. McCoy

"I am an enrolled member to a federally recognized tribe. Over the past four and a half years, I have tried to help a friend, who is a non-Indian.The tribe allows the employees that have violated my friends constitutional rights to claim sovereign immunity." - Jessie

"I worked for an Indian Reservation and was wrongfully terminated. My dept. is denying me copies of evidence against me--because they have nothing. I am grieving my action now but it's hard to do when you don't have the so-called evidence against you." - Jeff

"I have a serious problem - my ex husband is fighting me for custody of our children. The oldest is 10 and is not Indian - she was adopted by my ex when she was 6 months old. The youngest is 9. She is a member of the same Tribe as my husband. This is the second custody battle in a year." - Cheryl

"To Whom It May Concern: I am seeking assistance from any legal entity that is willing to take a stand for the rights of Indian heritage within a tribal court setting. Throughout Indian Country, .I am also Native American, a member of the federally unacknowledged tribe of Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation."

"I have been told that ICWA doesn't apply to my children because they are not enrollable, but the tribe has said that it does." - Anon

".our organization is called "United Hinthil Voices",.We meshed together to become a "watchdog" organization for all Indians in Mendocino County and who ever else in California that is tired of the numerous years of corruption." - Debra

"Legal help is sparse and even when available is not very effective or helpful." - Anon

Many Americans that live and work outside of Indian Country are unaware of the difficulties within Reservation boundaries. Many non-members, and even tribal members themselves, are unaware that the Bill of Rights doesn't seem to extend to enrolled tribal members living on the Reservations. Many see the alcoholism, despair, and violence on the reservations and assume it still dates back to atrocities committed 200 years ago. Few consider the effects of Federal Indian policy (FIP) as it functions today.

My husband, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe, was born and raised on the reservation. His first language was Ojibwe. Through our experiences and letters like these, my husband and I have come to believe that current Federal Indian Policy (FIP) hurts tribal members more then it helps them. Over the last thirty years, it seems things have been getting worse instead of better on the reservations. Judy Nichols of the Arizona Republic wrote that Native American death rates from alcoholism are 46.5 per 100,000, "more than seven times the rate for all races." A 2002 Minnesota legislative report revealed that 10.3% of children removed from Minnesota homes in the year 2000 were Native American, although only 1.6% of Minnesota children are Native. U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger has testified that residents of Indian reservations are 2 times more likely to be victims of violent crime.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "the latest Census figures show that most Native Americans remain mired in poverty, and other studies suggest little progress in raising education and health standards. The impact of gambling on the social fabric, including the dangers posed by organized crime, is another concern."

The U.S. Constitution guarantees every state a republican form of government, but on Indian reservations, civil rights, due process and equal protection under the laws aren't guaranteed. According to the member of the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation, "Throughout Indian Country, tribal families are being denied their . rights.in the name of tribal sovereignty. In spite of the atrocity of the Indian vs. Indian ethnocide, innocent Indian people are being injured on a massive scale."

All this despite claims by tribal governments and the tribal Gaming industry that tribal member interests are best cared for under their direction.

So what is the philosophy in current FIP that is nurturing these problems? A pandering to tribal governments, allowing them a control over members that no other Americans would tolerate. Many of the people that write us have already tried to go to the federal government for help, but are frequently rebuffed. The philosophy on Capitol Hill seems to be that tribal governments have a right to do whatever they wish in administering tribal members. Some Senators don't appear to be interested in any opinions other than those sanctioned by tribal government. Senator Max Baucus, opposed to a Dodd/Lieberman bill concerning federal recognition of tribes, stated "I am forced to disagree.this amendment.requires the implementation of.adversarial hearings at the request of any interested party.and requires the Department to provide notice to officials of every state and local government .where a tribal group may have ever been historically located."

In other words, Senator Baucus, a top recipient of Indian Gaming funds, wasn't interested in inviting opponents to tribal recognition hearings and listening to their point of view. Other Legislators show a similar reluctance to listening to opposition.

An example is seen within Congress, which directs Federal Indian Policy. The "Congressional Native American Caucus" consists of 106 House members. This last July, the house voted on whether or not to strike the "Native American Policy Study Commission" from the Fiscal Year 2003 Interior Appropriations bill. The NAPS Commission, if allowed, would have been composed of State, Federal, Local, and Tribal officials who were to review the health, education, housing, and crime status of Indian country and the impact of Indian gaming. This was an opportunity to study and address important quality of life concerns of tribal members.

However, representatives argued the study was not necessary and struck down the Commission. Only 18 of the 106 Caucus members voted for the Commission Study. One Representative stated, "The Indian gaming industry is controlled by the Federal Government under the auspices of the Congress. That is not the case with State gaming operations, and that makes a distinction here. There is no organized crime involvement in this effort."

Nonetheless, something appears to be organized about Indian gaming efforts. Of the top 20 House members receiving donations from the Indian Gaming industry, 18 are members of the Caucus, including the two co-chairs, Representatives Dale Kildee and JD Hayworth. Vice-Chair Patrick Kennedy was at the very top of the list with a whopping $93,550 in tribal gaming funds. The second Vice-Chair, Dave Camp, was also in the top twenty.

Consider also these quotes from the Honorable U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, at a hearing attended by tribal leaders and lawyers on Feb.27, 2002:

"Congress should do something about the present trend of the Rehnquist Court", ".legislation to undo the effects of unacceptable results is necessary." ".the Court seems to be applying a principle that tribal...jurisdiction over non-members would be inconsistent with the domestic status of tribal governments." He then asked law professor David Getches, "... do you believe we can prevent the Court from applying this principle?" Mr. Getches replied, "...Even if the Court finds that constitutionally tribes never had a power, you can do it. .Certainly even if a power didn't exist before, you could delegate it to an Indian tribe."

Senator Ben Campbell then asked, "...Federal law requires Federal courts to implement arbitration decisions even if the Federal courts disagree with the result reached by the arbiters and even if they think the arbiter applied the law incorrectly. Could Congress require the Federal courts to implement tribal court rulings in a similar manner?"

The above discussion has cumulated in a 2003 legislative proposal, Senate Bill 578, an amendment to the Home Security Act, and H.R. 2242, sponsored by top receiver Rep. Patrick Kennedy. This Act appears to have come from a proposal called the Tribal Governance and Economic Enhancement Initiative, which was prepared on July 25, 2002. Co-chairs of the Tribal Leaders Steering Committee and the Legislative Options Committee were responsible for drafting it. If the political shift is toward legalizing the loss of constitutional rights of non-members, what hope will there be for tribal members?

Interestingly, at least $225,414 of Indian Gaming funds has gone to members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. One tribe alone, the Mashantucket Pequot is the top contributor to Senator Daniel Inouye's war chest with $25,000. The Mashantucket Pequot tribe is also among the top fifteen contributors to Senator John McCain, another member of the Senate Committee, having contributed $38,850 to his campaign.

Sizeable campaign contributions could be a factor in the way these decisions have been made. Senator Russell Feingold states, ".tribes are considered "persons" for the purposes of the limits on how much they can give to individual candidates. .(but) not "individuals" for purposes of the annual aggregate limit on how much can be contributed to candidates, parties, and PACs combined." And although he states,

"Under H.R. 2356, tribes, like all other campaign contributors, are barred from donating soft money for federal election campaigns," research shows that over $2,392,631 in soft money had been donated to the parties by its tribal PAC's, individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families during the 2002 campaign cycle.

In addition, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that Indian Gaming has contributed over $15,301,273 to federal candidates in individual donations, PAC funds, and soft money since 1990, with $6,590,824 in the 2002 election cycle alone.

It's not easy to track the funds. But because tribal entities donate under various names, this might not be a total of the funds given. At times, names aren't always recognized as tribal entities either, and therefore aren't always listed. For example, in 1998, listings for Mille Lacs campaign contributions were found under the names "Mille Lacs Band of Chippewas", "Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe/Grand Casino", "Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians", or "Chippewa, Mille Lacs." In addition, the Tribe had two PAC's: one called Mah Mah Wi No Min II and the other the National Unity Caucus, (NUC).

The top five recipients of Indian gaming funds in the 2002 election cycle include Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, (D-RI), $93,550, Senator Maria Cantwell, (D-WA) $92,700, Rep. J. D. Hayworth, (R-AZ), $82,700, Rep. Dale E. Kildee, (D-MI), $76,250, Senator Tim Johnson, (D-SD) $63,614. Other top recipients include Rep Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Jay R Inslee, (D-WA), Rep. Kalyn Cherie Free, (D-OK), Rep. Mary Bono, (R-CA), Rep Brad Carson, (D-OK), Rep Richard A. Gephardt, (D-MO), Senator Max Baucus, (D-MT), Rep. Dave Camp, (R-MI), Rep. Norm Dicks, (D-WA), Rep. Bill Luther, (D-MN), Rep. Joe (Baca, D-CA), Rep. George R Nethercutt, Jr. (R-WA), Rep. Rick Weiland, (D-SD), Rep. Richard M. Romero, (D-NM), Senator Thad Cochran, (R-MS), and Senator James M. Inhofe, (R-OK).

In Minnesota, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is among the top ten soft money donors. Shakopee Mdewakanton, Prairie Island Indian Community, and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe are among the top twenty Indian Gaming contributors nationwide, together having given almost $447,750.

Top ten contributors to federal candidates include Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; $538,250, the Ho-Chunk Nation; $513,000, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; $447,000, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe; $401,470, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; $248,800, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians; $235,816, the Forest County Potawatomi; $200,250, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; $193,500, the Gila River Indian Community Council; $165,264, and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians; $165,000. Other top tribes include the Mohegan Tribe of Indians, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Tribe, the Tigua Indian Reservation, the Oneida Nation of New York, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the Prairie Island Tribal Council, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians.

Copyright 2003 Elizabeth S. Morris All Rights Reserved

Roland Morris Senate Committee Testimony   Drug Store Racism   Raising Racism   

Roland J. Morris's Story    Standing Up to Be Counted


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March 2006 update:

   In 2003, the Bison Range issue came back with a vengeance. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were again requesting management of this National Wildlife Refuge.  Senator Conrad Burns' spokesman, J.P. Donovan, stated, "He (Burns) wants this to be vetted in the public process - no behind-the-scenes, closed-door meetings." He went on, "He feels this is a local decision. He really wants to hear from constituents."

    Roland Morris arrived to Senator Burns' office in May of 2003 with thousands of signatures opposing transfer of the NBR in hand, and two other valley residents by his side. Unfortunately, this last effort with Senator Burns bore no fruit, and on March 15 of 2005, the National Bison Range Agreement went into effect.

   On March 14, the day before it went into effect, CSKT Chairman, Fred Matt, wrote in a guest column, "Sen. Burns has been a positive and aggressive advocate for Indian Country..." and "Burns fully understands and appreciates consultation with Indian country, our sovereignty, and our right to self-determination." According to the Missoulian, Burns opposed the NBR agreement in the mid-1990s, but seemed to waffle on this round of negotiations.

    In 2004, a FWS official from Denver took me aside and told me that it is necessary for us to get Senator Burns' ear on the bison range matter, just as we had in the late 1990's. He said that Senator Burns was the key - the one that could make the decision one way or the other concerning the negotiations. He told me, "Senator Burns can stop this." But I didn't know what to do about it, because it didn't feel to me that Senator Burns was open to us at all anymore.

   Interestingly, Mark Baker, a former legislative director for Burns and recent Burns' campaign chairman, is partner in the Anderson & Baker law firm in Helena, which was paid $60,000 to be the chief lobby firm for CSKT in 2003 and 2004.

    The total amount Mark Baker has donated since 2001 to both Senator Burns and his Friends of the Big Sky Leadership PAC, is $9000. But Mr. Baker is also affiliated with the D.C. lobbying firm Denny Miller Associates Inc., whose individuals have donated at least $27,784 to both Senator Burns and his Friends of the Big Sky Leadership PAC since 2001.

Mark also worked through his firm, Anderson and Baker, for S&K Technologies, (a CSKT company) and made $120,000 there in 2003 and 2004, (and made $40,000 working for S&K earlier than that as well, for a total of $160,000).

    He also worked for CSKT through another firm he is associated with, the Giacometto Group. Leo Giacometto was Burns' chief of staff from 1995 to 1999. Working for Giacometto, Mark Baker made $40,000 lobbying for the Salish and Kootenai College in 2004.

    For the last few years, my husband and I had wondered about the unexplainable change in the Senator's behavior toward us and toward Federal Indian policy. When the Abramoff scandal broke open, I could only wonder if this had anything to do with it. According to a 2006 report by PoliticalMoneyLine.com and published in Roll Call, Sen. Conrad Burns pocketed $192,090 from tribal entities over these last few years. A quick look at the Open Secrets website shows how tribal campaign contributions to Senator Burn's campaign chest have grown since the year 2000, as he has gradually moved to the top of the list of congressmen accepting money from tribal entities.

     We have no proof that Senator Burns has sold out our Bison Range in return for donations from tribal entities, (many out-of-state tribes are pleased with the precedent this management transfer has set and would have supported it) nor can we say that he and other Congressmen have sold out our parental rights, as well as the civil rights of non-members living within or near Reservation boundaries. But these are very important things to find out.

Roland Morris Senate Committee Testimony   Drug Store Racism   Raising Racism   

Roland J. Morris's Story    Standing Up to Be Counted


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Campaign Contributions Part 2.      (2000)

By Lisa Morris

The amount of money poured into state and federal elections by tribal governments and their entities has increased tremendously in the last decade. During the 1996 election cycle, according to statements filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), tribal gaming interests gave a combined $1.6 million in PAC, soft money, and individual contributions to federal campaigns. According to the Center for Responsible Politics (CRP), Tribes s pent an additional $2.3 million on lobbying. In 1998, Indian Gaming donated over $1.5 million to various federal candidates, including U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye, (D-HI), John McCain, (R-AZ), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and others on the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs. California State candidates were also big recipients, with Rep. Jim Battin receiving at least $327,000 from 10 different tribal governments and Dem. Cruz Bustamante receiving over $400,000. Tribal entities also spent over 6 million on lobbying that year.

For election year 2000, the top 20 Indian gaming tribes together have contributed over $1.4 million so far, with John McCain as the top recipient. Final campaign reports are not in, but this could prove to be the biggest year yet in terms of tribal contributions.

In addition, hard money contributions by tribes to federal candidates are not included in these numbers, and neither are all soft donations. With the many different ways to put money into an election, it is difficult to tabulate everything given. For instance, in 1998, Mille Lacs was found under 6 names; Mille Lacs Band of Chippewas, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe/Grand Casino, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, and Chippewa, Mille Lacs.

The Mille Lac's tribe also initiated the National Unity Caucus (NUC) PAC. Although a report by the CRP initially listed their general purpose as "unknown", research showed the NUC was organized in January of 1996 with Marge Anderson, former chairwoman of the Mille Lacs Band, as Treasurer. The NUC also had the same box address as the Mah Mah Wi No Min II. Mah Mah Wi No Min II listed as officers the names of two women who worked for the Commission that ran Mille Lac's casinos.

Money has also been handed back and forth between entities. In 1996, the Montana Indian PAC reported giving $5,300 to candidates. $5000 of it went to MT House Candidate Bill Yellowtail. Interestingly, a $5000 lump came to the MIPAC just three days earlier from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota.

The Tribal Sovereignty PAC of Oregon had been primarily funded by persons (and spouses) from the Stipe Law Firm of Oklahoma, who also made donations to the NUC. But Stipe Law Firm has also donated directly, and heavily, to some of the same candidates those two PACs have given to. Donations under the name "Stipe Law Offices" or "Stipe Law Firm" do not get counted as donations by tribal entities, but questions arise as to where the funds come from. In 1998, one Oklahoma candidate, supported and represented by Stipe law firm, was unable to explain where $120,000 suddenly came from in the final days of his primary campaign.

The First American Education Project of Washington State has released a flier claiming it is the only tribally owned, funded and managed organization in the election process and is NOT subject to spending limits or contribution limits, not subject to disclosure (revenue or expenditures) requirements, and is not governed by federal election regulations. It also states; "We now have a vehicle to assure that issues of importance to tribal people are elevated to their rightful place in our political process. At the same time, we have the ability to let all candidates know that if they regularly oppose us, there WILL be a political price to pay."

Jim Knox of California Common Cause recently reported, "California's Indian tribes, flush with gambling revenues, now spend more money on political campaigns than any other interest group." According to Knox, the Agua Caliente Indians failed to report $271,266 in contributions made in 1998. " The tribe also did not file a contribution report for the first six months of 1998, a period when the tribe gave more than $209,000 to candidates. Like some other tribes, Aqua Caliente has contended that it is a sovereign nation and therefore not required to file disclosure forms."

However, if tribes believe they are foreign nations, then most of their contributions are illegal. Tribes contributed heavily toward gambling propositions 5 and 1A, although California State law forbids foreign nations from contributing to initiative campaigns. In addition, foreign nationals are all prohibited from making contributions to influence federal elections. The term "Foreign national" refers to any foreign government, corporation, political party, partnership, or any individual with foreign citizenship.

Copyright 2000 Elizabeth S. Morris All Rights Reserved

Roland Morris Senate Committee Testimony   Drug Store Racism   Raising Racism   

Roland J. Morris's Story    Standing Up to Be Counted


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Tribal Government Campaign Contributions.   (1998)

by Lisa Morris

According to statements filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by October 1, 1998, the Pojoaque Pueblo Independent Political Action Committee donated $1000 to New Mexico Democrat Eric Serna. Schee-chu-umsh PAC donated $5000 to Idaho Democrat Dan Williams. And Mah Mah No Wi No Min II PAC donated $6,500 to Democrats and $1,500 to Republicans, including $1000 to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

These numbers don't amount to much and are hardly cause for interest. After all, this is a free country and everyone has a right to contribute to the candidates of their choice. It's only when one digs deeper that numbers get interesting. It's only when one looks at "individual" contributions, not just Political Action Committees, (PACs), that the numbers begin to stand out. Interesting numbers, but even this report doesn't tell it all. The methods in which tribal gaming money are being funneled into the pockets of politicians are varied and difficult to track.

According to the Center for Responsible Politics, (CRP), there are six avenues with which "to move political money: Lobbying, soft money to national party committees, soft money directed national party committees by state party committees, individual contributions, PACs, and paid travel."

Campaign finance reforms cap an individual's annual political contributions at $25,000, with no more than $20,000 to a national party and $5,000 to a political action committee (PAC) in a given year. Individual contributions to candidates are limited to $2,000 per candidate per election cycle.

But a soft-money loophole is allowing donors to go around these limitations by giving money to political parties' "non-federal accounts." The money is called "soft-money" contributions because they fall outside legal, "hard-money" limits. Soft-money contributions are supposed to finance only state elections and party-building activities, but federal candidates end up benefiting too and Tribes have clued in to it.

During the 1996 election cycle Indian gaming interests, including tribes, tribal casinos, tribal businesses (such as S&K Construction), and tribal committees and associations (such as the National Indian Gaming Association), gave a combined $1.6 million in PAC, soft money, and individual contributions to federal campaigns. That year, Democrats received 87% of the Indian gaming money, but only 47% of the non-Indian gaming money.
In addition, according to the CRP, "Tribes spent an additional $2.3 million on lobbying."

That's a lot of money but not nearly the tip of the iceberg to what the tribes are making in gaming revenue. The General Accounting Office reports that at the end of 1996, net revenue for 178 facilities operated by 126 tribes was $4.5 billion. By the end of 1997, 275 Indian gambling operations in 28 states generated more than $6 million a year.
Some tribal members may be surprised by the size of that figure. Although the Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA) specifies that gaming revenues must be used for economic development or, with an approved plan from the Department of Interior, per capita payments, some tribal members wonder where all the money is going.

Those members aren't the only ones that would like to see a piece of the action. The feds want some too. During the summer of 1997 House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX), argued that the tribes tax-free status gave them unfair advantage over their competitors and proposed that Tribes be taxed at a rate of 34%. This created a flurry of tribal lobbying and public relations advertising. Gaming interests took out large ads in the newspapers, picturing an elderly, disheveled looking woman and giving the impression that taxation of gaming money would be no different then stealing food from this woman's mouth. The ad campaign claimed taxing gaming money was the equivalent to breaking treaties. The propaganda worked. Rep. J.D. Hayworth was successful in pushing an amendment to kill Archer's proposal. The feds were out of the game, at least on the level public funds.

However, many States are allowed to negotiate agreements with the Tribes to assess regulatory fees or revenue agreements. The State of Connecticut prohibits non-Indian gaming, but its State/tribal compact allows the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes to operate gambling facilities. The Tribes, in return, give the state 25% of their gross revenues from machines. However, they are not required to pay anything from their tables. Other states ask Tribes for anywhere from 6.25% to 16% of machine revenues.

This mouth-watering State/tribal agreement could be part of the reason the Mashantucket Pequot Nation appears at the top of most of the political Contribution lists. This Tribe is listed by the CRP as being the top donor to Sen. Inouye, (D-HA), a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and top recipient of Indian PACs. He has received $41,000 from the Mashantucket Pequot Nation in the last few years. In 1996, the Mashantucket Pequot also gave over $400,000 in soft money alone to National Party Committees.

All in all, Tribal entities gave over $1,200,000 in soft money to the National Party Committees in 1996. This amount DOES NOT include money funneled through the National Parties to state party committees. For example, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe funneled $265,500 to Democratic State Party Committees in seven different states in 1996, but the funds didn't appear on state reports until some months later.

Republicans are reaping from the gaming money, too, although more from non-Indian gaming sources then Indian. Still, it is interesting to see which Republicans and which Democrats are lining their pockets with Indian Casino money. It makes more sense now as to why certain Republican Congressmen push certain legislation. Many of the Republicans receiving tribal money are on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

In 1996 Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ), member of the Committee and a recipient of tribal donations, proposed an amendment that gave the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) more power and authority to regulate Indian gaming. This is also the same Senator who stood up during the 1996 Republican convention and condemned Hilary Clinton's book, "It takes a village to raise a child", while at the same time brushing aside concerns of tribal members and non-members about the Indian Child Welfare Act and its giving of rights to Tribal governments by stealing rights from parents.

The reports aren't all in yet as to who donated what to whom in the current 1998 campaign, but as of October 1,1998, the total amount of hard money reported by tribal entities to Candidates, PACs, and Party Committees this year is $145,401. Almost 73% has been given to Democrats. Mashantucket Pequot Tribe/Foxwoods is at the top of this list so far with a total of $51,700 donated; $30,000 of which has gone to Democrats and $21,700 to Republicans. However, Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Nation gave $50,000 in SOFT money to Republican National Committee in June 1998. The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe doesn't appear to have given hard money, but has given $120,000 in soft money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Mohegan Indian Tribe/Mohegan Sun Casino has given $21,250 in hard money, but $46,500 in soft money, most of which went to Democrats. Almost 85% of hard money has gone to Democrats. And this doesn't include dollars gone thus far unreported.

The Montana Indian Political Action Committee, organized in late October of 1994 and whose Treasurer is Mickey Pablo of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, had, at the time of this report, not yet submitted a statement to the FEC for the year 1998. A message of inquiry left at his office went unanswered. Tardy filing of statements has been a pattern with this PAC since its inception, but when correct filing for the 1994 and 1996 election years were finally completed, it showed this PAC hadn't been a major player anyway, with only $1400 going to six candidates in 1994, including Democrats Pat Williams and Jack Mudd and Republican John McCain. In 1996, $5,300 was reported, $5000 of which went to Democrat Bill Yellowtail, $100 to Democrat Sen. Baucus, and $100 each to two out-of-state Democrats. It is interesting to note though that the $5000 lump given to Yellowtail came to the Montana Indian PAC just three days earlier from a Minnesota Tribe: the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. This is an example of why it isn't always easy to track how much any particular tribe has given and to whom. Money is handed back and forth between entities in order to be given under different names.

The Montana Indian PAC isn't the only one not submitting reports though. The Indian Citizen Empowerment Political Action Committee, (ICE-PAC), of Concho, Oklahoma hasn't submitted a report for either 1997 or 1998. But they must be still active; they gave $2500 to the NUC PAC just last month.

Tribes have also been using different variations of their own names. The Seminole Tribe of Florida can be found contributing under the name "Tribe, Seminole." The Oneida Indian Nation also donates under the name "Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, Oneida PAC, and "Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin." And Mille Lacs can be found under Mille Lacs Band of Chippewas, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe/Grand Casino, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, and "Chippewa, Mille Lacs." In addition, a PAC called Mah Mah Wi No Min II, lists Molly Big Bear and Carol Towler as officers. A source indicates that Molly Big Bear and Carol Towler also work for the Corporate Commission that run the Mille Lacs casinos. However, although their paperwork also isn't complete, this PAC doesn't seemed to have handled alot of money either.

But another Mille Lacs PAC with a name not easily identifiable as a tribal entity seems to attract alot of dollars. The National Unity Caucus, (NUC) has the same box address as the Mah Mah Wi No Min II.. Although a report by the CRP initially list their general purpose as "unknown", further research by this reporter showed the NUC was organized in January of 1996 with Marge Anderson of the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewas as Treasurer. If there is any question as to whether this PAC is tribally related merely because its treasurer is the Chairwoman of a moving and shaking tribal reservation, that question was answered when reading a form letter written by the Chairwoman and sent out to donating tribal governments. In that letter she states, "Thank you for your recent contribution to the National Unity Caucus. Together we hope we can obtain the goal of supporting federal candidates who are the friends of American Indians and Tribal Governments and mobilize on a political basis against all enemies."

During the 1996 election year, in addition to $109,950 this PAC received from various Tribal entities, they also accepted $53,000 each from two tribes alone: the Viejas Indian Reservation of Alpine, California and the Barona Tribe of Lakeside, Ca. for election cycle total of over $215,000. The $106,000 received at the end of October was then evenly distributed between 53 candidates. Some of their recipients, having received other checks from NUC, accepted up to $5000 each. These included Democratic Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and Minnesota Representatives Sabo and Oberstar. Senators Young and Domenici, both on the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs, received $3000 and $4000 respectively.

Contributors to NUC, besides the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and most of the other Minnesota Reservations, include the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and the Lummi Indian Business Council.

In 1997 NUC donated $15,000 to the war chests of J.D Hayworth, Inouye and Gephardt, among others. In 1998, $28,000 has so far been reported and distributed to the campaigns of Sen. Kennedy, McCain, Nighthorse Campbell and others, including some California candidates. (California, due to an initiative limiting Tribal gaming there, has been the focus of a considerable amount of tribal dollars this year.)

Again, this is as of Oct 1 and full reports won't be in until after the election. Remember, in 1996, NUC distributed $106,000 at the end of October and could be following the same pattern again this year.
The campaign dollars are big but the lobbying dollars are even more stunning.

In 1996 $2.3 million was spent on lobbying by tribal interests, (not including lobbyists who reported income of less then $10,000), with the biggest spender being the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians at $700,000. The Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida was second at $320,000, followed the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association at $160,000, and the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin at $120,000.

During the 1997 calendar year, lobbyist spending topped $5.5 million. Some of the tribes at the top of that list included again the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, this time at over $1 million dollars, The Seminole Tribe of Florida at $420,000, the Pueblo of Sandia at $260,000, both the Gila River Indian Community and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community at $180,000 and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe at $140,000.

Other Minnesota tribes purchasing lobbyist services included Mille Lacs Band of Chippewas, spending $80,000, The White Earth Band at $50,000, the Red Lake Band at $40,000, Prairie Island Tribal Council at $20,000, Grand Portage Tribal Council at $4000, and the Leech Lake Tribal Council at $2000.

The Crow Tribal Council of Montana spent $60,000 on lobbyists in 1997.

Did I say this is a free country and everyone has a right to contribute to the candidates of their choice? Well, not everyone. Corporations, labor organizations, federal government contractors and foreign nationals are all prohibited from making contributions to influence federal elections. Who is a foreign national? A foreign government, corporation, political party, partnership, or any individual with foreign citizenship. Also, a US subsidiary of a foreign corporation or a US corporation that's owned by foreign nationals are also prohibited from forming a PAC or making federal, state, or local contributions if the foreign corporation finances the PAC or individual foreign nationals participate in the operation of the PAC. The reason for these restrictions is to prevent compromise of the interests of taxpayers.

Although many people believe tribes are sovereign nations and should be held to the same ground as other foreign countries, in 1831 a case called Cherokee Nation v. Georgia held that Indian nations are not considered foreign nations but "distinct political communities" or" "domestic dependent nations." In 1924, all Indians were made US citizens. But although individual tribal members are required to pay federal taxes, the IRS does not require Tribal governments to pay.

Information obtained from:

Center for Responsible Politics, (CRP)

Federal Election Commission (FEC)

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