Babbitt casino report released
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AUGUST 23, 2000

The final report clearing Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt of wrongdoing involving a casino proposed by three Ojibwe tribes was released on Tuesday.

Independent Counsel Carol Elder Bruce found there was no evidence to prosecute Babbitt for rejecting a proposal by the three tribes to build an off-reservation casino in Hudson, Wisconsin. Babbitt was alleged to have rejected the casino due to political pressure and campaign contributions by other tribes who opposed the idea.

Babbitt was also alleged to have lied before the House Committee on Government Reform about the charges. The report says, however, there is no evidence to indict Babbitt for lying.

In 1998, the Committee held two weeks of hearings to discuss the Interior's rejection to take land into trust for the Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, and Mole Lake Ojibwe bands. Babbitt rejected the proposal in 1995 and cited local government opposition as a factor.

But other tribes have opposed, and continue to oppose, the casino.

The Committee found that the opposing tribes donated at least $356,250 to Democratic party interests in the 1996 election cycle. The Committee also stated there is a pattern within the Interior of tribes making contributions to the party and receiving favorable decisions.

In response to the rejection, the three Ojibwe tribes subsequently sued Babbitt. All parties eventually settled out of court in 1999.

As part of the settlement agreement, the Interior will reconsider the tribes' proposal using the facts on the record as of July 1995. Only additional statements addressing environmental concerns will be accepted.

The Prairie Island Dakota Community in Minnesota, however, has filed suit against Babbitt. The tribe alleges the settlement agreement violates the spirit of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988.

The St. Croix Ojibwe of Wisconsin also attempted to intervene in a lawsuit against Babbitt. But the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in June ruled they could not interfere with the Hudson casino.

The 30-day comment period over the casino began on August 1. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has submitted an environmental study saying the casino would have a negative impact on traffic, noise, and light. The Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission also submitted a report commenting on the negative environmental impact of the casino.

Government Reform Chairman Dan Burton (R-Indiana) issued a statement on Tuesday indicating his disappointment with the final report on Babbitt.

Relevant Links:
The House Committee on Government Reform -
Testimony on The Department of Interior's Denial of the Wisconsin Chippewa's Casino Application -

Letter to Janet Reno from the Committee on Government Reform -
The Office of Independent Counsel -

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