Casino Stalker | Opinion
Opinion: Dirty politics in Wisconsin off-reservation casino battle

"If Wisconsin voters think Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is the kind of guy who fights on behalf of the poor against the rich, they need to wise up. The man who carries Democrats' hopes to unseat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election took sides with wealthy Indian tribes who successfully sought to freeze out competition for their casinos. The poor tribes who wanted a way out of poverty are still poor. And a business that employed 200 people has shuttered. Barrett's side won. That's just the kind of guy union bosses like to deal with, too.

As a congressman (1993-2003), Rep. Barrett behind the scenes also supported wealthy Wisconsin tribes -- by lobbying a government agency in 1995 against three impoverished Wisconsin tribes seeking a casino of their own in Hudson, Wisconsin, a border town next to Minnesota's populous Twin Cities' market.

Three dirt-poor tribes, bands of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, aligned with a dog track owner to remake his failing track into a casino under provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. They followed all the rules. Then wealthy tribes from Wisconsin and Minnesota, jealous of their shared monopoly with one-armed bandits, ganged up on them and lobbied hard and dirty to block that would-be rival casino at St. Croix Meadows Race Track, just 30 miles from downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. Theirs was a textbook case in successful lobbying to rub out competition.

Led by the powerful Shakopee (Minnesota) Sioux of Minnesota and the Turtle Lake Band of Ojibwe in western Wisconsin, a consortium of tribal governments, all with existing casinos of their own, hired an army of well-connected lobbyists to deny their poor Indian brethren a casino of their own in Hudson.

Newly affluent Indians got their way when Secretary Bruce Babbitt's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) shot down the poor Indians' petition for a Hudson casino. They did so by getting to Democrats in Congress, including liberal Congressmen Barrett and firebrand David Obey from Wisconsin, plus Rep. James Oberstar and the late and seemingly saintly Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, among others now retired or also deceased."

Get the Story:
Gary Larson: Barrett and the Ho-Chunks (The American Thinker 5/25)