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Campaign 2004: Indian gaming money tilts to Dems - barely

WASHINGTON - American Indian gaming campaign contributions for the 2004 cycle have favored the Democratic Party over the Republicans - but not by much.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Indian gaming interests - both individuals and political action committees - so far have given $977,062 to Democrats, while donating $867,340 to the Grand Old Party.

The percentages (57 percent GOP - 43 percent Democrat), as of a Nov. 3, 2003 release of data by the Federal Election Commission, are much more even than the 2000 cycle, which saw 79 percent of Indian gaming contributions go to Democrats. The 2004 cycle is a two-year term from Jan. 1, 2003 to the end of 2004.

Overall, since 1990, Indian gaming money has gone to the Democrats 71 percent of the time (a total of $12,224,989), and 21 percent to the GOP ($5,091,656).

The escalating influence of Indian gaming is made clear by CRP figures that show the industry made just $1,750 in contributions in 1990. That increased to more than $6.7 million in the 2002 election cycle.

Of the $17.3 million the industry has donated since 1990, $2.7 million has come from individuals, $6.7 million has come from PACs, and $8 million was in the form of "soft money" contributions that are no longer allowed.

As of Nov. 3, 2003, a year before this year's presidential elections, Rep. Richard Gephardt was the frontrunner in gaming contributions. The Democrat from Missouri had received $35,500 as of that date. (Gephardt has since dropped out of the presidential race.) President Bush followed, with $18,000, followed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut at $11,250, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio at $250.

In the Congress, Indian gaming money has gone overwhelmingly to incumbents during this cycle - $760,000 out of $780,000 contributed. In the House of Representatives, 57 Democrats have received $318,000, while 48 Republicans have gotten $199,000. The Democratic candidates averaged $5,588 per candidate, while the average GOP contribution was $4,157.

Top recipients of Indian gaming money in the 2004 cycle include Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., $56,000; Rep. Gephardt at $35,500; Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., $23,750; Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., $20,000; and Rep. Charles Taylor, R-N.C., $18,500.

For the Senate, 22 Democratic candidates have received $151,000, an average of $6,907, while 11 Republican candidates have gotten $90,000, an average of $8,182.

Top Senate recipients are Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., $31,550; Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., $29,000; Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., $28,450; Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., $20,000; and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., $15,900.

Top gaming contributors to date for the 2004 have included the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe ($158,980, 74 percent Democratic - 26 percent GOP); the Morongo Band of Mission Indians ($150,832, 57 percent GOP - 43 percent Democratic); the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians ($130,623, 68 percent Democratic - 32 percent GOP); the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut ($110,300, 51 percent GOP - 49 percent Democratic); and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians ($102,000, 57 percent Democratic - 43 percent GOP).

In the 2000 cycle, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians was first, at $2,060,000, followed by the Gila River Indian Community of Arizona, $1,460,000, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, $460,000, the National Indian Gaming Association, $380,000, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux, $280,000.

Indian groups also turn up in other categories, such as human rights lobbyists, where the 2000 cycle leaders included the Eastern Pequot Indians at 13th with $226,000, the Pauckatuck Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, 14th at $220,000, and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Connecticut, 15th, also with $220,000.

CRP also tracks giving to the most influential Senate committee for Native people, the Committee on Indian Affairs. During the 2002 cycle, members of the committee received more than $25 million. The top industry making donations was retirees, at $5 million, followed by lawyers, $4.7 million, securities/investment, $2.5 million; real estate, $2 million; and health care, $2 million.

Top individual contributors to Indian Affairs members (2000 cycle) included AT&T, $202,699; Qwest Communications, $188,250; Citigroup, $169,000; Lockheed Martin, $133,417; and Verizon Communications, $126,500.

Sen. Campbell, the only Indian member of the Senate, received a total of $1.3 million during the 2002 cycle, which is a six-year cycle to match Senate office terms. More than $200,000 of that came from so-called FIRE firms (financial, insurance, real estate), while energy/natural resources sources gave $195,000. Lawyers and lobbyists made $136,000 in donations to his campaign war chest.

The influential chairman of the committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, also saw the FIRE category contribute the most to his campaign, while his Hawaiian colleague Daniel Akaka's top category was labor.

CRP's data are available for viewing at www.opensecrets.org.