LAKELAND TIMES EDITORIAL CONDEMNS DOYLE CORRUPTION
What lies beneath the governor’s lie: corruption
By: Gregg Walker
Of all the revelations – and there have been many – in our series of articles on the relationship between politics and gaming in the Forest County Potawatomi Community, perhaps nothing is more shocking than the lie told by Gov. Jim Doyle about former Gov. Martin Schreiber’s role in negotiating the tribe’s gaming compacts.
That’s not to say there haven’t been other appalling disclosures. There have been.
Putting $7.2 million in the tribe’s politics/government account – a 75 percent increase – is startling. It is also outrageous to learn the tribe has paid out more than $1.2 million to Quinn Gillespie and Associates, a Washington-based consulting firm, and that it pays Mr. Schreiber more than $73,000 a month to do its bidding.
But the lie is so telling it must be dealt with before all the other issues at hand, for understanding the importance of that is essential to understanding the dreadful political situation we face here in Wisconsin.
To recap: On July 17, 2003, in an interview with WisPolitics.com’s Jeff Mayers, Gov. Doyle, when pressed, told Mr. Mayers that his friend and former campaign co-chair Martin Schreiber did not participate in the negotiations leading to the ill-fated 2003 gaming compact the governor signed with the Potawatomi.
Of course, because of our reporting, everyone now knows this was not true. This is an important point, so here is the relevant verbatim transcript:
Mayers: “We deal in rumors sometimes, but I mean there has been a lot of speculation of what former Governor (Martin) Schreiber’s role in all of this has been. I mean, can you clarify that?”
Doyle: “This was negotiated completely between Marc Marotta and the representatives of the Potawatomi Tribe.”
Mayers: “Not Schreiber.”
Doyle: “Right. He was not part of these negotiations ...”
However, in statements since our stories broke, both tribal spokesman Ken Walsh and Mr. Schreiber have on separate occasions insisted Mr. Schreiber played the same role in those negotiations that he did this year.
That’s problematic, because documents obtained by The Lakeland Times reveal that, in the new compact signed last month, Mr. Schreiber was not only part of the negotiations but served on the tribe’s compact negotiation team and is bound by his consulting contract to represent the tribe before governmental entities.
So he’s one of those “representatives of the Potawatomi Tribe” the governor was talking about. Yet the governor looked Mr. Mayers in the eye and denied it in 2003.
With gubernatorial elections approaching, voters should think hard about the governor’s statements. I, for one, find them unforgivable, both as a journalist and a citizen.
It’s true that it’s not a crime to lie to the press – it goes on all the time – but how can any reporter in this state now believe anything the governor says? Credibility is everything in this business, and Mr. Doyle has irretrievably lost his.
More important, when the governor lied to Mr. Mayers, he was in effect lying to every citizen in the state. Just as credibility is the cornerstone of journalistic integrity, honesty is the foundation of our political system.
A democracy depends on the free flow of truthful and accurate information to and between the people; a misinformed public, lied to by its leaders, cannot possibly govern itself effectively. The system becomes doomed.
The governor is certainly not without his accomplices in this sad affair. His partners in crime most recently are the mainstream and corporate media downstate, which have chosen to overlook Mr. Doyle’s duplicitous behavior.
Most reporters and observers have simply failed to call the governor on the carpet and make him explain himself. The only exception I know of is the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which has called its members’ attention to the governor’s now misleading statement.
For its part, WisPolitics.com – the very media the governor made his false statements to – ran our coverage of Mr. Schreiber’s role in the negotiations as, of all things, an opinion piece.
I would like WisPolitics.com to point out one opinion in that news story. Sorry, but it’s a fact that Mr. Schreiber is on the tribal negotiating team and is contractually obliged to represent the tribe before governmental entities. It’s a fact that the tribe and Mr. Schreiber have on more than one occasion insisted that that’s the same role he played in those 2003 negotiations.
And it’s a fact, a painful fact, that the governor denied Mr. Schreiber had any such role.
Apparently, at WisPolitics.com, if you don’t like the facts, you make believe they are opinions. Instead of conjuring up such fiction, the editors and reporters there would better serve the public by making Mr. Doyle explain his own invented story.
The lie is not the only troubling aspect of Mr. Schreiber’s role in the negotiations. It’s enough on its own to judge the governor, but let’s assume for a second it doesn’t exist, that he never said it.
Even in that circumstance, there is the matter of ethical disclosure to consider.
If everything was above reproach, as the governor says it was – if Mr. Schreiber never lobbied the governor on behalf of the tribe, if Mr. Schreiber did not serve as a go-between whose job it was to secure a good deal for the tribe in exchange for political contributions for the governor – then why not disclose Mr. Schreiber’s role in the negotiations?
Imagine this dialogue from Mr. Doyle as he announced he was going to sign a deal instead of the backwash we actually got:
“Look, folks, I want to tell you right now that my good friend and campaign co-chair Martin Schreiber worked for the tribe in negotiating this compact. He never lobbied me, he has never discussed this with me, and there is no quid pro quo. Everything was above board and this is a good deal for the taxpayers of Wisconsin. But I owe it to the people and the public interest to be forthcoming.”
That might have killed the deal right there, both in 2003 and this year. Or maybe not. But the appearance of a conflict of interest is as bad as a real one; the governor should have been up front with the people – that’s his job, after all – and let the people make up their minds.
That he did not sends up a whole bunch of red flags.
The truth is, every time the levers of the political slot machines are pulled in Wisconsin, everything comes up cherries – both for the governor and for the tribe.
There we were back in late 2002, when the gaming compact with the Potawatomi was being feverishly negotiated and the governor’s race was being just as feverishly contested. And there was Mr. Schreiber, working busily for the governor and just as busily for the Potawatomi.
Working, as it were, from both sides of the table.
And what do you know? Suddenly and coincidentally the Potawatomi run issue ads supporting Mr. Doyle and $200,000 of its money finds its way to the Democratic National Committee and back again to the Doyle campaign, along with $500,000 more from another tribe.
Mr. Doyle – dancing around with tribal money in his pocket – is elected and unveils a perpetual gaming compact, locking in for eternity very low rates of revenue-sharing payments to the state. Who could possibly be suspicious?
Now, the Supreme Court having foiled that plot, the same cast of characters is at it again.
There’s Mr. Schreiber, in the back room dealing once more as another election looms, there’s the sweet deal for the tribe, and, lo and behold, there’s the tribe budgeting a record $7.2 million for its 2006 government/politics account – the account where the political contributions come from.
The tribe doesn’t deny it has put that money aside but says it’s for various litigation purposes, to be used to fight lawsuits it says could end tribal gaming in Wisconsin.
Nice try, fellas, but we don’t buy it, and neither should the public. While a lot of that money may be in so-called litigation line items, we have documents proving that the tribe has routinely shifted hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the budgeted litigation line item, only to use it for political purposes.
Hmmm. Wonder what those political purposes could be in 2006? It certainly won’t be for Mark Green, whose pockets will be empty of tribal money after the tribe’s executive council voted recently not to contribute to his campaign.
Anyway, if you don’t believe the new compact is a sweetheart deal, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. As the article in today’s paper demonstrates, the outcome is another perpetual compact, albeit a cleverly disguised one, giving the tribe gaming exclusivity in the immediate Milwaukee area.
Most outrageous are the low payments the state will be receiving compared to what tribes are offering and paying in other states and also compared to what corporations in this state are paying – the tribe’s and Mr. Doyle’s arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.
And those corporations don’t have the same contractual guarantees against competition that virtually lock in windfall profits for the tribe. Only the tribe is not paying the equivalent of a windfall tax, or even of a fair one.
Assembly Speaker John Gard and other Republican opponents of Mr. Doyle have pressed these arguments, but, it’s important to note, the same criticism has come from some liberal quarters, and that is especially revealing about the sweetheart nature of the deal.
Calling the governor’s gaming negotiations controversial and sometimes flawed, the liberal newspaper, The Capital Times, has also questioned whether the state has gotten the best deal and has called upon the governor to consult with legislative leaders.
That’s exactly what the governor should do, instead of spinning tales out of thin air.
That gets us back to the governor’s footloose and fancy-free attitude toward telling the truth. As I wrote at the outset, it is essential to understand the governor’s misstatements to understand the political situation we are in here in Wisconsin.
Where there are lies there are cover-ups, and where there are cover-ups there are serious violations of the public trust. In this administration, the violations are rampant.
We have had our own version of Travelgate; we have seen the rigging of the competitive bidding process inside the DNR, with no punishment; we have seen agencies go to extraordinary lengths to conceal facts about alleged wrongdoing on the job, just to name a few of the goings on in this ethically tainted administration.
Now we know why the corruption is so pervasive. That’s because the governor sets the tone, and officials follow his example.
That’s why it is critically important to hold this governor accountable for misleading the public. And that’s why we must call for the latest compact to be renegotiated with the doors open and the light of day shining in.
Published: November 15, 2005