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Tribes hit back Lobbyists sued for damages

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Perhaps Congress wonít tackle the corruption of pay-as-you-go lobbying on the American political system, but at least a couple of Indian tribes are fighting back, playing hardball against lobbyists and lobbying firms that have previously targeted their interests with intent to damage.

Both the Alabama-Coushatta of Texas and the Schaghticoke Nation of Connecticut have recently sued their tormentors among the lobbying set in Washington, D.C.

The Alabama-Coushatta case retells the saga of Jack Abramoff and his associatesí sleight-of-hand bamboozling of Texasí oldest recognized Indian tribe. The tribe blames Abramoff and associates ñ including the recently defeated GOP primary candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed ñ for the loss of millions in revenue, because of their campaign to de-legitimize the tribal economic base in Texas. The suit accuses Abramoff, Reed and three other men of mounting a ìfake religiously themed moral crusade in 2001î that opposed a tribal sponsored bill in the Texas Legislature to certify the legality of Indian gaming in the state. The suit names two former congressional aides, Michael Scanlon, (House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas) and Neil Volz (Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio), who have also pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

The Alabama-Coushatta apparently worked to oppose the gaming interests of the Louisiana Jena Band. But Jena Band was also contracting within the same lobbyist circle to undermine the Alabama-Coushatta. Among Abramoff and friendsí most egregious deeds was the double-crossing of their Indian clients as the tribes freely deployed and were manipulated into attacking each otherís political and economic strategies. Reedís willingness to play the cynical role of turning out his network of evangelical pastors against gaming, while he himself was being hired with gaming revenues, cracked his base of support in Georgia.

The Alabama-Coushatta has seen its economic potential severely disrupted. We welcome the potentials of their lawsuit and hope they exercise discovery options in this case to the fullest. The buying of political influence is at an all-time high in Washington. Corruption is over and under the radar. The tribes have an excellent case for their economic and cultural survival. With a little unity of mind and spirit, the fight for tribal jurisdictions and sovereignty can prevail.

Across the country in Connecticut, the Schaghticoke Nation is suing one of the most powerful law firms in Washington, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, accusing it of destroying the tribeís economic base with its lobbying campaign to reverse their already won federal recognition status.

According to Fortune magazine, the BGR lobbying firm is the most influential in D.C. It was contracted by an interest group in Connecticut to reverse the tribal recognition decision. The Schaghticokes accuse it of ìharmful interference.î They contend that the firm was contracted by affluent residents of the neighboring town of Kent, on the border of the tribeís 270-year-old reservation. The suit also names the local group Town Action to Save Kent, and its leader, Kenneth Cooper, according to reports by Indian Country Today associate editor Jim Adams.

The lawsuit points out the firmís boasting of ìthe ability to influence the political channels to destroy the recognition.î Secret meetings by lobbyists with Interior officials and particularly a March 17, 2004, consultation between Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton, were singled out by the suit. Although faint, the skink of Abramoff is whiffed on the margins of Nortonís nonprofit work, which received Abramoff money and BGRís legal work for the Jena Band in their contest with the Alabama-Cashoutta.

We donít blame Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky for suspecting out loud that White House-level pressure on the Interior Board of Indian Appeals is behind the overturning of the tribeís original recognition, the twist was so resounding. The fish stinks to high heaven on that one. Heaven, these days, being stinky old Capitol Hill, along with the White House.

These days, more than 100,000 lobbyists in Washington usher into being tens of thousands of outright ìearmarkedî federal subsidies and favors amounting to billions of dollars. ìThe fortunes of others be squashed for the benefit of my clientî seems the only philosophy. According to ICTís Washington reporter, Jerry Reynolds, ìEarmarks are behind the explosion of lobbying fees and activities around Washington: $2.1 billion for direct lobbying in 2004, averaging out to almost $5 million per year per member of Congress.î

With such major corruption already in place in Washington ñ and even now with no effort to change ñ how could Indian lobbying efforts succeed out of hand, or avoid the rabid bite of lobbying pit bulls such as Abramoff?

There are plenty of shenanigans in both of these cases. The tribes are right in pushing back against gun-for-hire lawyers and lobbying firms who attack tribal futures for contractual gain. Godspeed to discovery and the cold light of the courtroom.

erhaps Congress wonít tackle the corruption of pay-as-you-go lobbying on the American political system, but at least a couple of Indian tribes are fighting back, playing hardball against lobbyists and lobbying firms that have previously targeted their interests with intent to damage.Both the Alabama-Coushatta of Texas and the Schaghticoke Nation of Connecticut have recently sued their tormentors among the lobbying set in Washington, D.C.The Alabama-Coushatta case retells the saga of Jack Abramoff and his associatesí sleight-of-hand bamboozling of Texasí oldest recognized Indian tribe. The tribe blames Abramoff and associates ñ including the recently defeated GOP primary candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed ñ for the loss of millions in revenue, because of their campaign to de-legitimize the tribal economic base in Texas. The suit accuses Abramoff, Reed and three other men of mounting a ìfake religiously themed moral crusade in 2001î that opposed a tribal sponsored bill in the Texas Legislature to certify the legality of Indian gaming in the state. The suit names two former congressional aides, Michael Scanlon, (House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas) and Neil Volz (Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio), who have also pleaded guilty to corruption charges.The Alabama-Coushatta apparently worked to oppose the gaming interests of the Louisiana Jena Band. But Jena Band was also contracting within the same lobbyist circle to undermine the Alabama-Coushatta. Among Abramoff and friendsí most egregious deeds was the double-crossing of their Indian clients as the tribes freely deployed and were manipulated into attacking each otherís political and economic strategies. Reedís willingness to play the cynical role of turning out his network of evangelical pastors against gaming, while he himself was being hired with gaming revenues, cracked his base of support in Georgia.The Alabama-Coushatta has seen its economic potential severely disrupted. We welcome the potentials of their lawsuit and hope they exercise discovery options in this case to the fullest. The buying of political influence is at an all-time high in Washington. Corruption is over and under the radar. The tribes have an excellent case for their economic and cultural survival. With a little unity of mind and spirit, the fight for tribal jurisdictions and sovereignty can prevail.Across the country in Connecticut, the Schaghticoke Nation is suing one of the most powerful law firms in Washington, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, accusing it of destroying the tribeís economic base with its lobbying campaign to reverse their already won federal recognition status.According to Fortune magazine, the BGR lobbying firm is the most influential in D.C. It was contracted by an interest group in Connecticut to reverse the tribal recognition decision. The Schaghticokes accuse it of ìharmful interference.î They contend that the firm was contracted by affluent residents of the neighboring town of Kent, on the border of the tribeís 270-year-old reservation. The suit also names the local group Town Action to Save Kent, and its leader, Kenneth Cooper, according to reports by Indian Country Today associate editor Jim Adams.The lawsuit points out the firmís boasting of ìthe ability to influence the political channels to destroy the recognition.î Secret meetings by lobbyists with Interior officials and particularly a March 17, 2004, consultation between Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton, were singled out by the suit. Although faint, the skink of Abramoff is whiffed on the margins of Nortonís nonprofit work, which received Abramoff money and BGRís legal work for the Jena Band in their contest with the Alabama-Cashoutta.We donít blame Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky for suspecting out loud that White House-level pressure on the Interior Board of Indian Appeals is behind the overturning of the tribeís original recognition, the twist was so resounding. The fish stinks to high heaven on that one. Heaven, these days, being stinky old Capitol Hill, along with the White House.These days, more than 100,000 lobbyists in Washington usher into being tens of thousands of outright ìearmarkedî federal subsidies and favors amounting to billions of dollars. ìThe fortunes of others be squashed for the benefit of my clientî seems the only philosophy. According to ICTís Washington reporter, Jerry Reynolds, ìEarmarks are behind the explosion of lobbying fees and activities around Washington: $2.1 billion for direct lobbying in 2004, averaging out to almost $5 million per year per member of Congress.îWith such major corruption already in place in Washington ñ and even now with no effort to change ñ how could Indian lobbying efforts succeed out of hand, or avoid the rabid bite of lobbying pit bulls such as Abramoff?There are plenty of shenanigans in both of these cases. The tribes are right in pushing back against gun-for-hire lawyers and lobbying firms who attack tribal futures for contractual gain. Godspeed to discovery and the cold light of the courtroom.