Just days after President Trump called out House Republicans for supporting legislation promoted by presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Democrat leaders are scrambling to determine whether they can ram the bill or one of similar profile through the House this week.
Warren has been promoting legislation that would grant a Massachusetts-based Indian-tribe, called the Mashpee Wampanoags, recognition of land over 40 miles away from its tribal headquarters to build a $1 billion casino.
The political show heated up on May 8, when the president tweeted, “Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!” This denouncement caused Democrats, who recognized that the bill would now never receive two-thirds majority approval as required, to scramble and pull the scheduled vote from the House floor.
Nevertheless, bad ideas never seem to die in Washington, and the special interests seldom give up. This case is no exception, and with the news of Trump’s twitter opposition fading, members of the Massachusetts delegation are now back at work pushing H.R. 312, as well as H.R. 375 – a bill that makes H.R. 312 look like the epitome of ethical D.C. governance by comparison. As such, allow me to take a step back and walk you through the current state-of-play.
Aside from the fact that the Massachusetts senator pushing this bill is the same one that once said, “gambling can be a real problem economically for a lot of people,” there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the intentions of those pushing the legislation.
The first among them is that both the Supreme Court and Department of Interior agree “the Tribe does not satisfy the ‘under Federal jurisdiction’ requirement of the…definition of ‘Indian’,” which it would need to receive any handouts of land from the federal government.
In accordance with the Indian Reservation Act, that would require the tribe to have received recognition from the federal government before 1935. Michael Graham at The Boston Herald noted that not only did they miss this deadline but, “The Mashpees weren’t federally recognized until 2007. And that only happened because of the money they poured on notoriously corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.”
In addition to H.R. 312, which would specifically grant the well-heeled Massachusetts tribe a casino away from their reservation, another bill being pushed in the House, H.R. 375 would not only grease through the casino long sought after by Warren and the Mashpees; it would also allow for the same to occur for every tribe in the country – creating an endless cycle of lobbying victories in place of Supreme Court precedent, the rule of law, and states’ rights.
Should H.R. 375 pass, all that the roughly 600 recognized tribes in the country would have to do to strong-arm the federal government into recognizing their land is demonstrate that their tribe has received acknowledgement from the Department of Interior. And as we’ve seen from the Mashpee’s lobbying efforts, often all that will require is having enough lobbying connections and sums of cash to influence the right bureaucrats and representatives with key committee assignments.
The Native Americans that have sharply called out the Mashpee’s land claims would ostensibly agree that by advancing the interests of crony capitalists, this bill is a raw deal for the Native American people. Should the legislation go into effect, the rich and powerful will succeed at the expense of everyone else, and that’s simply not fair.
Republicans should not be fooled. Elizabeth Warren is just trying to provide crony favors for groups with strategic political value to her and Republicans should reject both bills outright.
(George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom — a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.)
By Peter Roff • The Hill
In a lot of places it has worked well. In others it has failed to live up to expectations. Some people are still getting rich but the overwhelming poverty the casino revenues were supposed to alleviate remains. Nor have they created a limitless stream of wealth. The economic downturn that began with the crash of 2008 affected the gaming industry just as much as the rest of the economy and you don’t have to be Donald Trump to know it’s a bigger “crap shoot” than most people believe.
Since the act went into effect it has generally been left up to the discretion of the U.S. Department of the Interior whether a specific tribe can go into the casino business and how many sites they may operate if they can. During the Bush administration, standards were reasonably rigorous and considerable heft was given to the sentiments of state and local officials. That’s one of the reasons Arizona voters were given the chance to vote on Prop. 202, which is essentially a master plan governing the spread of tribal casinos throughout the state that is scheduled to be in force until 2027. Continue reading
I don’t know if the ancient language of Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Native American tribe includes a word for “hubris” — defined as excessive pride or self-confidence, with synonyms like “arrogance” and “deceit.”
Regardless of whether they have an equivalent word for hubris, the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) leaders have proven themselves masters of the concept. And the casino they plan to open December 20th in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale is a monument to hubris, not to mention greed and a shameless distortion of the principle of tribal sovereignty. Now, it appears, federal legislation is the only solution.
All 17 Arizona gaming tribes – including TON – joined in a compact with the state, supported by a public referendum that gave the tribes exclusive rights to operate gambling casinos in Arizona. In return the tribes agreed to specific limits on the number of casinos in Arizona. This was intended to prevent over-saturation thereby providing financial support to the tribes and host communities through gaming revenues, a structure that has proven profitable since enacted in 2002.
The TON casino in Glendale violates the agreed upon limit of seven casinos in the Phoenix area at least until the compact expires in 2027. TON already runs three lucrative casinos on their reservation lands near Tucson. Its Glendale invasion is empire-building pure and simple, not to be confused with a poor tribe trying to pull itself out of poverty. Continue reading
by Peter Roff
Originally designed as a way to compensate Indian tribes for their mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government, casinos operated by Indian tribes have become something of a shell game. Those who follow the issue can recite anecdote after anecdote involving lawyers in limousines showing up at the headquarters of one tribe or another offering tremendous wealth and opportunity to anyone willing to roll the dice and apply for a gaming license.
With billions of dollars at stake, you might think the Indian gaming industry is more heavily regulated than it actually is. But up until now the process in many states has been heavy on the influence-peddling and light on the responsibility to protect either taxpayers or the tribes. Continue reading