Monday, January 30, 2006

Soft Money, Sweet Deals -- SYKES WRITES


THURSDAY, March 6, 2003, 7:58 a.m.
Soft Money, Sweet Deals

By Charles J. Sykes
(Note: An edited version of this column appears today in all CNI newspapers.)

Some lingering questions for Diamond Jim Doyle:

(1) Soft money. Shortly before the election, three tribes with the most at stake in the gambling negotiations sent $700,000 in soft money contributions to the Democratic National Committee in Washington, apparently knowing that the money would be kicked back to Wisconsin to help elect Jim Doyle.

Was this an attempt to circumvent Wisconsin election law? Who suggested the money laundering to the tribes? And why?

(2) Marty’s role. Marty Schreiber was one of Doyle’s campaign co-chairmen, was the master of ceremonies of his inaugural ceremony and apparently a transition advisor. He is also a registered lobbyist for the Potawatomi tribe. What role did he play in raising campaign money from the tribes? What role did he play in the negotiations?

State Administration Secretary Marc Marotta, Doyle's lead negotiator, said Schreiber "was involved in some of the discussions, no question about it." But, says, Marotta, "I don't think Marty lobbied the governor" on the new Potawatomi compact.

Schreiber says that he had spoken to Doyle about "the importance of long-term compacts for economic development." He also acknowledges that he sat in on some bargaining sessions, but says that none of this constitutes “lobbying” the governor on the deal.

But if talking to the governor and sitting in on the negotiations doesn’t constitute lobbying, what would?

3. The deal. Last year the Potawatomi put its own deal on the table. In a memo to state negotiators, tribal lawyer Eric Dahlstrom wrote: “This document represents a deal we [the Potawatomi] can support and is comprehensive. If we reached agreement on this document, we would not need to raise any other topics or issues.”

That deal would last only 10 years and would have paid the state 15% of net wins over $550 million. Based on those numbers the state stood to receive substantially more under the tribe’s original offer than under Doyle’s deal.

The tribe’s offer to McCallum also offered millions for the redevelopment of the Menomonee Valley. Those offers vanished in the deal Doyle accepted.

Was Doyle too naive to know he had been taken? Or did he intentionally give away the store?

(4) Papa needs a new pair of shoes. I personally think people have the right to be buttheads. That includes gambling away your Social Security check at the craps table. But there’s a fine line between giving people freedom to engage in socially dysfunctional behavior and state sponsorship.

Has Wisconsin now become a silent partner in games of chance? And does having more craps, roulette, and blackjack make a us a better place?

(5) The double standard. Diamond Jim’s plan involves a massive expansion of gambling in a state that makes gambling illegal for everyone else.

The state will continue to fine and jail non-Indian gamers for precisely the same activities that the state’s governor now celebrates as a social and economic windfall for the state.

Is there a moral basis for the distinction (Indian gambling good; non-Indian gambling bad)? Or is that just something that campaign cash buys?

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