Monday, January 30, 2006

Casino interests make bets on Doyle


Casino interests make bets on Doyle
Posted: July 27, 2005
Cary Spivak & Dan Bice

When it comes to gambling, nobody around here wins as much as Gov. Jim Doyle.

During the first half of this year, the gamblin' guys' favorite gov raked in nearly $130,000 from folks with a keen interest in turning Kenosha's Dairyland Greyhound Park into a Menominee Indian casino. The dollars flowed in from as far as Connecticut, where the Mohegan tribe that hopes to manage the gambling hall is based. And even more cash came from as near as Kenosha, home of millionaire Dennis Troha, the driving force behind the project.

So why is everybody throwing so much money to Doyle, who's up for re-election next year?

Why, they want good government, of course.

Or so they say.

"The Mohegan see the governor putting the state in the right direction," said Evan Zeppos, the Milwaukee spinmeister for the proposed Kenosha casino. "They're comfortable with that leadership."

So comfortable, in fact, that nine high-ranking officials in the 1,600-member tribe or the hugely successful Mohegan Sun casino poured 20 grand into Doyle's war chest between January and July.

Of course, it's just coincidental that as governor, Doyle can single-handedly approve or kill the project if it wins federal approval.

Zeppos, a veteran Democratic operative, sounded aghast at the suggestion that the Mohegan were trying to win the governor's favor with campaign cash.

"Anyone who knows this governor would find that logic to be out of the realm of possibility," Zeppos intoned.

The governor's guy was clueless about the Mohegan motivation.

Asked if they dropped the money to influence the first-term Democratic governor, Doyle flack Dan Leistikow said:

"If they are, it's not going to work."

Something short of a denial, isn't it?

Is it possible East Coast tribal types have some other issue on their agenda?

"You have to ask them - I don't know," Leistikow said. "If this is the issue they're concerned with, they know full well that the governor is going to make his decision based on the merits."

According to Doyle's campaign finance report filed last week, Doyle received $56,500 from members of the Troha family. Dennis Troha didn't give any money himself because he maxed out by giving the governor $10,000 two years ago.

All told, the Troha clan has given $152,500 directly to Doyle's camp since January 2002. They also gave $25,000 in soft money and another $25,000 to help pay for the governor's 2002 inaugural party.

On top of that, Troha's business associates and allies coughed up another $48,000 in the first half of this year, with most of it coming at a January fund-raiser put on by Troha and others at the Kemper Center in Kenosha. Some 200 attendees got some real face time with Doyle, who made a personal appearance at the gala. Among those at the event were a handful of Menominee tribal officials, who kicked Doyle's campaign $1,550, which is really nothing more than a rounding error with this group.

But, before anybody gets too excited about this campaign largess, Zeppos argued that the Kenosha-Connecticut gang is just a bunch of pikers.

"Other interests probably make that pale in comparison," Zeppos said.

This was a not-so-subtle reference to the $700,000 that the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk tribes made in soft-money donations to Doyle in the waning days of the 2002 campaign. Those two tribes already run lucrative casinos and are fighting incursions into their territories.

And the longer off-reservation proposals remain up in the air, the fatter Doyle's war chest will get.

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