SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Amid renewed charges of racism over comments made
last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger arranged for a campaign event to
highlight his opposition to two measures on the California November ballot.
Flanked by several dozen opponents of the measure, representing at least 40
opposition groups Schwarzenegger blasted Propositions 68 and 70. A
campaign-placed placard stood on both sides of the stage listing the
opposition groups, most significantly the California Democrat and
"The people see and you cannot pull the wool over their eyes," said
Proposition 68, whose ... have quit campaigning for the measure, seeks to
allow slot machine expansion to card clubs and race tracks if tribes do not
agree to give a quarter of their earnings to the state. Proposition 70,
sponsored by the Agua Caliente tribe of Palm Springs seeks to set the
payment rate by tribal casinos to that of the state corporate tax rate in
exchange for allowing tribes to expand their casino operations.
Although there was a brief mention made of California Indians during the
event no other mention was made by the governor regarding a controversial
remark made last week to patrons of a San Diego Mexican restaurant in which
the governor said, "The Indians are ripping us off."
The governor's remarks have elicited an outcry from several corners of
Various press outlets have featured reactions from Indian country in
California that have ranged from suggestions of inappropriateness to a
charge of outright racism by Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua
Schwarzenegger's comments have also elicited two separate demands for an
apology, one from the National Association of the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP) and the other from the California Nations Indian Gaming
"That's a repugnant statement. You must know that it has the ring of the
old western movies where the 'Indians are always the bad guys' ... there
are many tribes in California that are not in the gaming business. Are
they, too, ripping us off," wrote California NAACP president Alice A.
Huffman in a letter to Schwarzenegger.
The governor would only take a handful of questions after the event and did
not directly answer questions regarding the remarks.
However, Schwarzenegger spokesman Vince Solito said that the remarks were
taken out of context and accused CNIGA and the NAACP of "playing the race
"For these organizations to make these claims is a shameful play of the
race card," said Solito.
Furthermore, Solito accused the NAACP and CNIGA of being "politically
motivated." Both organizations are on the record as supporting Proposition
Solito said that Schwarzenegger would not apologize for the remarks because
of the "context they were given." That context, said Solito, was in
response to an anti-Proposition 70 event and that Schwarzenegger was only
referring specifically to that initiative.
"The bottom line is that he said 'Indians' and not proponents of
Proposition 70, or even Palm Springs Indians. How could those remarks be
construed to mean Proposition 70 proponents," said Milanovich in reaction
to the governor's defense of his remarks.
The remarks and the reaction to them are the direct result of a
high-powered campaign that has grown increasingly heated. Backers have
spent $21 million thus far in favor of the initiative while Schwarzenegger
has led his star power and considerable weight against the measure.
Remarks aside, Schwarzenegger has mainly set his sights on Proposition 70
because the backers of Proposition 68 have quit campaigning due to low poll
numbers. Schwarzenegger claims that Proposition 70 would allow for a
proliferation of casinos throughout the state and that it takes local
governments out of the process for casino planning.
Proposition 70 proposes that casino owning tribes pay 8.84 percent of their
earnings to the state's general fund and allows casino expansion to the
level that proponents say the marketplace will allow.
Schwarzenegger claims that this will lead to an unlimited expansion of
casinos and turn California into "one big casino." Furthermore, the
governor also claims that 8.84 percent is actually below the level of taxes
paid by businesses since they have other taxes, such as property taxes that
they have to pay.
Since Proposition 70 would set into place 99-year compacts Schwarzenegger
characterized the initiative as establishing a monopoly for tribes in which
there would be no recourse for the state.
Milanovich disputes these claims and said that local governments would be
allowed at the table for their input during the negotiations that would
craft the new compacts.
Countering Schwarzenegger's claims that casinos would expand unabated
should Proposition 70 pass, Milanovich claims the marketplace would not
allow such expansion.
"They are trying to claim that Palm Springs will turn into a mini-Las
Vegas, but the truth is there is just not that kind of market for gaming
here," said Milanovich.
Schwarzenegger is at odds with some prominent members of his own party over
the initiative. The measure still has some prominent backers such as former
California Senate minority leader Jim Brulte and former Republican
gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock.