Abramoff Scandal | Opinion

Gabe Galanda: Abramoff's playbook still used in Indian Country






Gabe Galanda

Attorney Gabe Galanda says law firms and lobbyists in Indian Country have learned a few tricks from the Jack Abramoff scandal:
In professional sports “the playbook is a sacred hardbound diary of trust. It's an accumulation of decades' worth of knowledge, tweaked and perfected, sectioned off by scribbles and colored tabs.”

Looming large in Indian Country right now, there’s another kind of playbook; a dark one. The plays were originally designed by Jack Abramoff during his infamous stint at Ysleta Del Sur, Coushatta and Saginaw Chippewa. For the last two decades, Casino Jack’s playbook has been enhanced with the knowledge of other lawyers, lobbyists and executives, especially those in the Indian gaming industry. Even Native lawyers are now picking up and deploying the playbook.

The plays are shrewdly designed to divide and conquer Tribal Councils and communities from within, while federal trustees stand on the sidelines. The first few plays are as scripted as an NFL team’s opening drive.

Play 1—Create a Tribal Leadership Dispute. Whether through “recall, election and takeover,” or some form of Tribal Chairman fiat or General Council coup d’état and resulting insurrection, the Abramoffs of the world—the bad guys—know that if Tribal governmental factions can be created, it will paralyze all interested parties, including all levels of federal government, tribal and state law enforcement, and financial institutions. In turn, those pivotal players will not immediately know who to treat as the “rightful Tribal Council” for purposes of government-to-government relations, law and order, or financial security.

The bad guys will begin their takeover by setting their sights on weak persons or institutions in the Tribe, and then exploiting those weaknesses to drive a deep wedge into the heart of the community. They will tap, even bribe, a weak Chairman, or a group of dissident members, or notoriously unethical Tribal officers or employees. P.L. 280 jurisdictions are particularly vulnerable to such organized crime given perennial inter-agency law enforcement indecision and inaction.

Get the Story:
Gabe Galanda: Inside the Dirty-Tricks Playbook of Jack Abramoff (Indian Country Today 10/20)