Republicans want gaminginvestigation
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DECEMBER 18, 2000

Two Republican members of Congress on Friday called on the federal government to investigate the $10 billion Indian gaming industry, claiming it doesn't benefit most tribes.

Citing a recent news series on the issue, Representatives Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn) said they have become concerned about how alleged corruption has affected the gaming industry. Since the number of highly successful tribes is few, they say tribal members are getting the short end of the deal.

"The government should do more on a legitimate basis to help Indians," said Wolf.

But while Wolf and Shays appear to be seeking help for tribes, their stance on a related issue would appear to say the opposite. In September, Wolf and Shays were joined by other House Republicans and requested a full investigation into the federal recognition process and a six-month moratorium on recognition decisions.

Such an investigation might strain the already over-burdened and small BIA staff which handles recognition petitions. A moratorium could prevent a deserving tribe from receiving educational, housing, health care, and other federal benefits.

So far, the Republican request for an investigation into federal recognition, which was made to the General Accounting Office (GA0), hasn't been answered. With a new GOP administration entering the White House, however, George W. Bush's choice for Secretary of Interior might prove to be crucial in how the Department addresses gaming.

"I will be asking the new Secretary of the Interior, whenever the new appointment is made, to look at the whole process and to clean house," said Wolf.

Outgoing Secretary Bruce Babbitt was the center of a 1998 Congressional investigation over campaign contributions to the Democratic party. He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

Although the Bush camp has kept a tight lip on whom might be the new Secretary, the defeated Slade Gorton (R-Wash), Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo), and Montana Governor Marc Racicot have been suggested for the job.

Connecticut has two federally recognized tribes and several seeking, or near, acknowledgment. A gaming investigation would probably do little to help tribes there, as the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe are financially successful.

Virginia has no federally recognized tribes and Wolf opposes a bill that would extend federal recognition to eight tribes there. Although the bill has an anti-gaming clause, Wolf fears recognition would lead to casinos in his state.

Related Stories:
Republicans call for BIA investigation (Tribal Law 09/22)
Virginia tribes: Recognition Yes, Casinos No (Tribal Law 09/19)
Babbitt casino report released (Money Matters 08/23)

Relevant Links:
Rep. Christopher Shays -
Rep. Frank Wolf -