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Indian Tribes Biggest US Gambling Donors
2/12/10 - The non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics has released some startling numbers regarding political lobbying in the United States, which go some way to explaining the extraordinary clout that the tribes appear to wield.
The biggest single political lobbyist in 2007 and 2008 was the National Education Association, which disbursed $56.3 million in federal and state campaigns. However the following three top donors were Indian tribes with gambling interests - two of them from California, where hearings were conducted this week on the possibility of legalising intra-state online poker (see previous InfoPowa reports).
The San Jose Mercury News was quick to pick up the story, observing that 6 of the top 10 largest donors to political causes nationwide were Indian tribes, spending a total of $160 million. By comparison, the powerful Service Employees International Union spent $35 million and the National Association of Realtors dished out $28 million.
The newspaper goes on to take a look at the motivation behind such activity, pointing to Congressman Barney Frank's initiative to legalise online gambling in the United States and commenting that Indian tribal gambling interests appear to support legalisation....if it benefits their operations and not those of offshore companies.
The San Jose Mercury News also flags the Californian moves of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians to obtain exclusivity in legalised online poker along with commercial card room partners and possibly other tribal groups, noting that supporters estimate this could generate tens of millions in taxes.
"Ten years ago, Indian casinos took in just more than $100 million a year in this country, mostly at bingo halls," the newspaper observes.
"Today, Indian casinos are a $25 billion [a year] business. With the tribes' new financial power, voters have to wonder if gaming issues will be decided based on the merits or on the amount of money contributed to lawmakers' campaigns."
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