Opinion: Gaming tribes and campaign contributions

"The five southern California tribes currently seeking permission to vastly expand their gambling empires have spent millions of dollars on California politics and elections to achieve their goal. By now, every Californian has seen the flapping eagle that was a component of Morongo’s planned $20 million TV campaign to win expansion approval. Some might also remember “Team 2006”, the $10 million independent expenditure committee funded by the tribes last fall to extract political retribution when the tribes’ expansion agreements stalled in the Assembly.

This combination of brute financial intimidation and dupe-the-public ad campaign has brought these gaming tribes to the threshold of their objective: permission to triple the number of slots in their casinos. Not-so-quiet whispers in the corridors of the Capitol suggest that the Legislature is about to cave into the tribes, demonstrating yet again the power of the dollar in Sacramento.

But even as these tribes have spent tens of millions of dollars to impact California law, they have sought in the state’s courts to exempt themselves from California laws regulating election and political spending. (Apparently, this is how much audacity a $10 million political warchest will buy you.) This self-serving exceptionalism – “the law applies to you, but not to us” – could be stopped in its tracks if the Governor and Legislature demanded that any gaming compacts between the tribes and the state included agreement by the tribes to abide by the laws protecting California’s political process.

Now, one of the five tribes with an expansion proposal, the Agua Caliente of Palm Springs—the same tribe deeply involved in the Abramoff bribery scandal, has quietly positioned itself to continue arguing its privileged status in front of the US Supreme Court, a petition now scheduled for July 28, AFTER it gains its permission for a huge gambling expansion in Sacramento."

Get the Story:
Ned Wigglesworth: Sacramento Politicians Should Use Gaming Compacts to Protect California Election Law (California Progress Report 6/14)