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GOP operative admits hatchet job on Wayne Smith
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Update: Roger Stone this morning criticized The Village Voice for its "reckless inaccuracy" and put up a web site seeking to refute the article.

A Republican operative who helped Neal McCaleb and Aurene Martin get their jobs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs admits to orchestrating the campaign to fire former BIA deputy Wayne Smith.

Smith was ousted after letters from Phil Bersinger, a former business partner, surfaced in the spring of 2002. In the letters, Bersinger touted his close connections to Smith, who handled land-into-trust, federal recognition and gaming issues for the BIA.

At the time, Smith was trying to resolve a leadership dispute within a small California tribe. Republican operative Roger Stone worked with one faction of the Buena Vista Rancheria that wants a casino. According to The Village Voice, this faction has a contract to pay Stone a $250,000 retainer plus 7.5 percent of annual gaming revenue from the proposed casino.

When Smith refused to overturn a decision favoring Stone's clients, Stone told The Voice that he "faxed the letters to certain members" of the press, leading to stories in Time Magazine and other outlets. The stories suggested Smith was using his position to help Bersinger hire tribal clients.

Neal McCaleb eventually got rid of Smith but McCaleb told The Voice "there was no reason to believe that Wayne had some complicity in Bersinger's activity." Aurene Martin, a former GOP Senate aide, was then promoted to Smith's position. After McCaleb resigned, she took over his post in an acting capacity. Stone helped both get hired as a member of the Bush-Cheney transition team.

Martin at one point testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on the Buena Vista dispute. But she claimed to know so little about it that Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), her former boss, chided her for not being prepared.

The dispute may be resolved, according to The Voice, paving the way for the casino. According to The Voice, Stone wants to insert language into a technical corrections bill Campbell is sponsoring to ensure the Buena Vista Tribe receives trust land without going through lengthy reviews by the BIA and the state.

Get the Story:
A Dirty Trickster's Bush Bonanza (The Village Voice 4/19)

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BIA fires Wayne Smith (5/24)
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Wayne Smith given the boot (5/23)
Decision on tiny tribe fought (5/21)
BIA affirms leadership of tiny tribe (5/13)
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Norton asked to investigate BIA deputy (4/23)
McCaleb aide reports friend to FBI (4/22)
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'I think you get the picture' (4/17)
BIA deputy recused on recognition (4/16)
Wall Street Journal blasted for 'drive by' (4/5)

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