Schumer Calls Out Hoekstra Super Bowl Ad, But What’s the Real Issue at Hand?


New York Sen. Charles Schumer has donned his shining armor to come to the rescue of his friend and fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan after former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra slammed her as “Debbie Spend It Now” in a Super Bowl ad. Hoekstra is challenging Stabenow for the senate seat.

On Tuesday Schumer sent out an e-mail blast to his listserve expressing how shocked – shocked! – he was by what he called the “incredibly offensive Super Bowl ad.”

The ad shows an attractive Asian woman riding a bicycle through a rice paddy. She stops center frame and speaks to the viewer in what sounds like faux Chinese-accented English. “Thank you, Sen. Debbie Spend It Now. Debbie spends so much American money, you borrow more and more – from us. Your economy get very weak – ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spend It Now.” She rides off screen and Hoekstra appears in an interior scene with a fire burning in a fireplace in the background. “I think this race for U.S. Senate is between Debbie Spend It Now and Pete Spend It Not. I’m Pete spend It Not Hoekstra and I approve this message.”

So what, exactly, offended the senator from New York? Was it the “Otherness” of the beautiful young Asian woman? Was it the rice paddy that brought up images of Vietnam and a young man wincing as he was shot in the head in an extra-judicial assassination shown on the nightly news during that disastrous war? Was it the fear-mongering of the implicit racist image of the Chinese people as the alleged “yellow peril” who have “taken” U.S. money and jobs – rather than the facts that China has invested more than $2 trillion in the U.S. and that U.S. businesses exported U.S. jobs to China and other far off places because of cheap labor costs and the lack of environmental and workplace safety regulations?

No. Other than acknowledging that “even Republicans” called the ad “appalling” and “insulting,” Schumer was outraged “because Debbie has always been one of the strongest voices against the Bush economic policies that exploded the deficit, like bonus tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires – things her opponent supported.” Worse than that, Schumer complained, Hoekstra is “raising money off his offensive advertisement.”

So what’s the remedy? Get back at Hoeksta by raising more money for Stabenow. “Let's make his attack backfire. We need to help Debbie fight back against these outrageous attacks. Debbie is holding a fundraising drive today to see if she can raise more than the $144,000 that her opponent spent to run the ad. We can’t let him get away with profiting off this outrageous attack. Let's send a message to Republicans that we will not stand by and allow these awful attacks to continue,” Schumer wrote, urging supporters to send money so that Stabenow could profit off of Hoekstra profiting off of his ad.

As far as Indian country is concerned, Schumer, readers may recall, worked with former New York Gov. David Paterson in “a back room deal” to give a Wisconsin tribe permission to own and operate a casino in the Catskills in Sullivan County in New York State. His under-the-radar negotiations with the Wisconsin-based Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians failed when the Interior Department rejected the band’s application last February. If approved, the Stockbridge-Munsee casino would have been the mother of all off-reservation casinos since the band’s 22,000-plus-acre reservation in Bowler, Wisconsin, is more than 1,000 miles and several states away from the Catskills location.

Schumer also inserted himself into what became a controversy over a map of the Oneida Indian Nation’s 300,000-acre reservation last year. The Interior Department and court cases have consistently affirmed that the 300,000-acre reservation remains intact and has not been disestablished even though the Nation does not exercise sovereignty over all of it at this point. Last February, Schumer issued a bombastic press release declaring that he had pulled off a “major victory’ for the New York counties around Oneida territory by convincing Interior and the Census Bureau “to retract” the 300,000-acre map of the Oneida Nation’s territory and replace it with a previous map that erroneously showed the reservation to be only 32 acres. The Interior Department rejected Schumer’s claim and re-confirmed that Oneida’s “reservation has not been disestablished and is intact.The 300,000-acres was established by treaty in the 18th century.

And as for Hoekstra and Indian country, in 2005 at the height of the scandal surrounding former Republican lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, Gun Lake Tribe Chairman D.K. Sprague raised questions over a link between Hoekstra, who opposed the tribe’s casino, and Abramoff, who contributed $2,000 contribution to Hoekstra’s election campaign. ''The influence-peddling that was used to delay our application was unethical and disgraceful. It's truly disheartening to learn that Congressman Hoekstra was cooperating with Abramoff to delay our application and then accepted money from Abramoff's firm,” Sprague said in a statement at the time.

According to Gimme Five, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs report on its investigation of Abramoff’s activities, Abramoff sent e-mails in 2002 to the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA) President Italia Federici, urging her to convince her friend J. Steven Griles, then the Interior deputy secretary, to stop the Gun Lake Tribe's plans to open a casino near Grand Rapids, Michigan, for fear it would threaten the market share of the nearby Soaring Eagle Casino operated by his clients, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Federici was sentenced to two months in a halfway house and four years' probation in 2007 after pleading guilty to tax evasion and obstructing the SCIA’s investigation, avoiding prison because she agreed to be a key witness in the Justice Department’s corruption investigation of Abramoff. Also in 2007, a federal judge doubled Griles’ five-month prison sentence for obstructing the Senate after he tried to excuse his behavior in court.

Hoekstra’s Abramoff link is he asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton in a December 12, 2002, letter to extend the comment period on Gun Lake's environmental review for its land-into-trust application. The next day Hoekstra faxed Abramoff that the letter had been sent to Norton. Days later, Interior added 45 days to the usual 30-day public comment period. Abramoff wrote to Federici about the extension in an e-mail on December 19, 2002: ''This is very good. With this extension they can now kill it [the Gun Lake casino project] by ruling that the Environmental Impact Statement shows they should not move forward.'' ''Great!'' Federici replied. Hoekstra later received two $1,000 election campaign contributions from Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's former lobbying firm.

Interior approved the tribe's land-into-trust application, but an anti-Indian casino political action committee called ''23 is Enough'' appealed the decision. In 2006, 23 Is Enough came under fire by Michigan state legislators for distributing racist materials in its campaign against Gun Lake’s casino. The group used material from the website of Frank Parlato Jr. of Niagara Falls, N.Y., a relentless opponent of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The materials included a drawing depicting an Indian as a crazed-looking ''savage'' holding up the scalp of a ''white man'' he has just attacked in front of the Seneca's casino. Hoekstra was a member of 23 is Enough.

Meanwhile, since expressing his concern over Hoekstra profiting from a campaign ad and asking for money for Stabenow, Schumer has turned his attention from campaign finance to what some might consider federal government pork. In a February 8 press release posted on his website, Schumer announced that the Village of Bath in Steuben County, New York has received a federal loan and grant of $563,850 for two new fire trucks. The population of Bath is 5,782, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.