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Washington in brief


Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell will seek publication space from the Wall
Street Journal for a rejoinder to the newspaper's Aug. 23 front-page
article on Indian gaming, according to Paul Moorehead, chief counsel to
Campbell on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

The Colorado Republican found the article misleading in several respects,
Moorehead said, especially in the impression it left that the industry is
weakly regulated. "Anyone who doesn't know Indian gaming will come away
from that article with a negative view," Moorehead said.

Speaking for Campbell, who retires at the end of the year, he added that
many lawmakers fall into that category.

For that reason Campbell, the committee chairman, has misgivings about
resistance in Indian country to his current Senate bill to amend the Indian
Gaming Regulatory Act, S. 1529. The resistance has not been aggressive, but
it has raised the issue of the so-called "Seminole fix," a measure to
protect tribal casino revenues from state exactions. S. 1529 doesn't
address the fix because Campbell is certain it has no chance of being
enacted in the current 108th Congress or in the foreseeable future,
Moorehead said.

What can be foreseen is that if Democrats take back control of the Senate
in the November elections, Nevada's Sen. Harry Reid could end up chairing
the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Given the gaming industry in
Nevada, Reid has a penchant for seeing slot machines behind Indian-specific
legislation, in Campbell's view. Indian country will not like any gaming
regulation he might offer on the committee in the 109th Congress as well as
Campbell's, which offers "reasonable and good provisions that will protect
the [Indian gaming] industry," Moorehead said.


A comprehensive study of public land opened to oil and gas drilling through
federal leases didn't include 24 million acres of Western Shoshone treaty
land, according to a spokesperson for Environmental Working Group, which
issued the study.

The acres are located in four states, Utah, Nevada, California and Idaho.
All four are among the 12 states where, the study contends, the government
has opened 229 million acres to energy development since 1982. The study
analyzed 125 million Interior Department records.

During the current 108th Congress, the government passed a law forcing
payment of a court award for the treaty land. Tribal governments had
refused to accept the payment for fear it would cancel their land claims.
The recent law dictates that the forced payment indeed cancels tribal land
claims. Successive bills are poised to open portions of the Western
Shoshone treaty lands to private sector energy developers.

Opponents of the payment have long contended that the settlement of Western
Shoshone land claims is actually a seizure of energy resources.