Snippets from Jeff Lindsay:

Wisconsin's Governor Doyle and the Casino Connection

Feb. 2003: In the opening days of his tenure in office, Governor James Doyle of Wisconsin shocked supporters and foes alike with the announcement that he had unilaterally cut a deal with the Oneida Indian Tribe of Wisconsin to give their casinos exactly what the gambling bosses wanted: a sweetheart deal with perpetual rights to expand and grow, allowing the casinos to run 24-hours a day and expand their scope of games -- forever. The unprecedented deal is "in perpetuity" -- an eternal scope. One would think that deal of this scope that will affect Wisconsin for many future generations would be done with careful review by many parties and opportunities for public feedback. But no: the deal was done in secret with no hint that it was coming. Even supporters of Doyle were stunned with the news. The Oneida gaming masters will never have to worry about future negotiations -- their future is secured, and its a future filled with megabucks from the dupes of Wisconsin (and some of our neighbors as well, lured by the seductive tax on idiocy that gambling provides).

What might have inspired Governor Doyle to make such a deal? The tribes will give Wisconsin more money now, helping to alleviate the budget pressures that Doyle faces. But if the deal was being done for the good of the State, surely Doyle would have taken an open, public-spirited approach to the negotiations. Could there be something else behind the secret dealings?

That something else just might be money - not for Wisconsin, but for Doyle and his Democratic Party. Cary Spivak and Dan Bice explain in their article in their Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel article, "Tribes Directed Big Money to Democrats" on Feb. 20, 2003:

Just days before the November election, the three tribes with the most to lose - or win - in state casino negotiations dumped $700,000-plus of soft money into Democratic coffers to help elect Jim Doyle governor.

Previously undisclosed federal election reports show that the Ho-Chunk, a tribe that has long wanted to open a full-fledged casino in Madison, made a $500,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee on Oct. 29. The very same day, the Potawatomi contributed $200,000 to the same fund. Two days later the Oneida, which just signed a tentative deal allowing it to offer a wider array of casino games 24/7, sent $25,000 to the Democratic fund.

That national fund then turned around and within days kicked back about $1 million to the state Democratic Party, which used the money to boost support for Doyle and the rest of the party ticket.

"Tribes are beginning to understand the value of making contributions to candidates who understand the potential of economic development," Potawatomi spokesman Tom Krajewski bluntly stated.

Yes, they understand indeed - as does Governor Doyle.

Spivak and Bice provided more information on Feb. 22, 2003, in their article, "Ho-Chunk Dangled $500,000 Donation, McCallum Aide Says":

The campaign manager for then-Gov. Scott McCallum says the Ho-Chunk dangled a $500,000 contribution for whichever gubernatorial candidate agreed to allow the tribe to run its casinos for as long as the wind blows and the grass grows.

Darrin Schmitz, now the executive director of the state Republican Party, said his guy wouldn't extend the gambling agreements beyond 15 or so years, and ended up not getting a nickel from the tribe.

Officials with new Gov. Jim Doyle denied that they cut any pre-election deals with the Ho-Chunk.

But the tribe did drop a $500,000 soft-money donation with the Democratic National Committee just days before the gubernatorial runoff - certainly the largest political gift by a Wisconsin tribe. The DNC then dumped nearly $1 million in Wisconsin in the final week of the increasingly tight race to help elect Doyle and the rest of the party's slate.

Last week the Doyle team announced, to nearly everyone's surprise in Madison, that it had reached a tentative deal with the Oneida tribe that would allow it to offer a full slate of casino games 24/7 forever and a day - an incredibly generous agreement that was expected to be a model for the other 10 tribes.

"It was very clear to me, given the conversation I had with (Ho-Chunk lawyer) Mike Rogowski, what the end result would be," Schmitz said. "Whoever agreed to perpetual compacts and secondly, more games, could end up being the recipient or the party would be the recipient of vast amounts of money."

They offered former Governor Scott McCallum a cool half-million dollars to slip them a winning hand in perpetuity, but it appears that McCallum had the integrity to say no. Now vast amounts of money for McCallum's opponent helped bring victory to that opponent along with a vast payoff for the casinos. Doyle needs to be held accountable for this vast abuse of power.

With outrage over the Oneida deal still flaring, one would think that Doyle would tread softly and do his best to avoid further scandals. Yet immediately after the Oneida commotion erupted, Doyle again moved quickly to finalize another outlandish casino deal, this time with the Potawatomi Tribe. Author and WTMJ talk-show host Charlie Sykes discusses this story on his WTMJ Weblog for Feb. 24, 2003:


Faced with the loss of his sole power to negotiate gaming compacts -- and hours after we posted the details of the McCallum-Potawatomi negotiations -- Governor Doyle rushed to announce his deal with the Potawatomi.

Assembly Speaker John Gard, issued this statement:

"Governor Doyle's action to announce a sweetheart deal with the Potawatomi today is panicked, partisan and premature. The tribe's current compact does not expire until June of 2004. His mishandling of this executive prerogative makes a compelling case for legislative oversight. We hope that the governor will act quickly to sign SB 41 and that Governor Doyle will live up to the lofty statements made by Attorney General Doyle and Candidate Doyle."

Senator Bob Welch is even angrier: "At no time during our discussions with Governor Doyle did he mention that this deal was close to being done," said Welch. "Looking us in the eye in a meeting and not telling us about this is disingenuous. This deal is sleazy."

Legislators filed an open records request to get details of ongoing negotiations between the tribes and Governor Doyle but no information was ever provided to legislators on this subject.

"Withholding information after an open records request was made is Nixonian at best, illegal at worst," commented Welch.

"This move to secretly sign compacts in the middle of the night while the legislature's bill to gain oversight is sitting on the Governor's desk can be compared to ducking the landlord because you can't pay the rent," said Senator Scott Fitzgerald. "Governor Doyle's absolute disregard for the legislative branch of government is a slap in the face to each and every citizen of Wisconsin."

County Exec Scott Walker noted that Doyle deal did not include the economic development provisions that had been part of the original negotiations.

"[The Potawatomi] had previously placed an investment in creating jobs and cleaning up and developing the Valley on the table as a part of their compact negotiations," said Walker. "Governor Doyle left the idea on the table and left the taxpayers of Milwaukee County holding a losing hand."

Senate Republican Leader Mary Panzer: "The Governor has sold the state's future for a handful of magic beans. There is no going back, perpetuity is forever. He has sold the ability of future governors, future legislatures and future generations to negotiate new compacts."

I smell blood in the water.

The certainly is a peculiar smell in the air of Wisconsin, something besides the dairy air that we're familiar with.

Many of us were hopeful that Doyle would live up to his talk, but his swift and clandestine dealings have already lost my trust. Wisconsin took a gamble with Doyle, but the game was already rigged. Keep your eyes on this dealer. You know there's more sleight of hand in the works.

See the article, "Doyle compact with tribe 'bad for Wisconsin'" in the Burnett County Sentinel, Feb. 26, 2003.

Also see my Feb. 2004 commentary, Wisconsin's Doyle Administration: Dangerously Above the Law.

Jeff Lindsay, Feb. 28, 2003

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