Monday, January 16, 2006


Ed Garvey: Tribe's millions for elections a nail in democracy's coffin
By Ed Garvey
I have always liked Marty Schreiber. Nice guy. Honest, hard-working and earnest. But is he worth $800,000 per year from one Indian tribe? (Is anybody worth $800,000 per year?)

The Lakeland Times, a Minocqua newspaper, uncovered some interesting facts last week. The Forest County Potawatomi Community is planning to spend $7.2 million on politics in Wisconsin in the 2006 election cycle.

The Potawatomi are no strangers to politics. In 2004 the tribe "kicked in nearly $900,000 in an effort to defeat a referendum proposal for a Menominee tribe-owned casino in Kenosha County," according to the Lakeland Times. An impressive $370,000 for gaming compact litigation went into the trust account of a major law firm "for use in the November 2004 vote."

The paper found that the tribe quietly distributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic and Republican candidates as well as to party committees. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reminds us that, in 2002, the Potawatomi gave the Democratic National Party $200,000 on the same day as the Ho-Chunk gave the party a check for $500,000. Days later, the national party gave the state Democratic Party $1 million.

Apparently, there is a battle between a Connecticut tribe that would run the Kenosha casino and the Potawatomi. Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford was quoted by the Lakeland Times: "The Potawatomi are against a Connecticut tribe making millions from a Wisconsin casino at the expense of Milwaukee and Wisconsin ... the proposed Kenosha casino is set up so that Connecticut wins millions of dollars while Milwaukee loses jobs and tourism."

Simple enough. With almost $3 million more promised on political action in 2006 than in 2004, the consultants are drooling. In 2004, $1.3 million was set aside for consultants, "the lion's share to Schreiber," plus $620,000 for lobbying and $900,000 for compact litigation. Not exactly chump change where I'm from.

Two weeks ago, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnists Cary Spivak and Dan Bice reported that the Doyle campaign visited a casino hotel run by the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut for a fundraiser. Why? Rich Judge, spokesman for Doyle, said, and I'm not making this up, "The Mohegan officials love Doyle's views on national issues. The governor is recognized as a national leader on many issues," citing stem cell research, importation of drugs from Canada and others.

Yah, sure, Ole. Judge must have consulted the best-selling book by Harry Frankfurt titled "On Bulls--."

So back to Martin Schreiber, who at $200 per hour would have to bill over 4,000 hours to earn the $800,000 retainer. That's a lot of billable hours. He claims he didn't directly lobby Gov. Doyle in connection with the 25-year deal the Forest County Potawatomi recently signed with the governor. Really? Then what did he do to earn the $800,000 from the Potawatomi? If he didn't do anything to advance the Forest County Potawatomi compact, who did? Or did he lobby someone else in the Doyle administration? Don't we have a right to know?

My friends, the system is out of control. According to the New York Times, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg "has spent $66 million in his re-election campaign." I'm not kidding. Sixty-six million. Must be a hell of a job. Jon Corzine, running for U.S. Senate a few years ago, spent $59 million. I joked that for $59 million he could buy the entire Senate - why stop with one seat? Multimillionaire Sen. Herb Kohl will go unchallenged in 2006. Why? You guessed it, so no need for an explanation.

The Brewers will never again win the World Series. They will hit the .500 mark and declare victory. Why? George Steinbrenner has fixed the system, with the complicity of the players, so that the Yankees and other big-city teams will always have 10 times more money to purchase free agents than small media market Milwaukee. Simple. And Bloomberg, Corzine and Kohl will be elected time after time because, like Steinbrenner, they have, with our complicity, fixed the system. They will always outspend their rivals four, 5 or 10 to 1.

So, with all this money flowing into politics, the Doyle people will argue there is nothing wrong with tribes spending millions to offset Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce contributions to the Republican candidates and personal fortunes used to purchase offices. Nothing, I guess, unless you feel a twinge of nostalgia for democracy. Perhaps, just perhaps, Jim Doyle will wake up one morning and ask himself if this money chase feels good or bad. Does the appearance of government for sale cheapen all in government, good and bad, Republican or Democrat?

Governor, do one simple thing. Announce that no entity or individual doing business with the state may contribute to your campaign. That includes the tribes, Accenture, road builders, lobbyists and ... well, you get the picture. It might cost you the election but the current system will cost you your soul.

Published: November 8, 2005


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