Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ilitch Team's political contributions & influence helped Nevada's Sen. Harry Reid become Majority Leader

In 2002, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) hurriedly introduced S. 2986 after Michigan's Governor John Engler did an about-face and signed a controversial agreement that would pave the way for the Bay Mills Indian Community (Brimley, MI) to build an off-reservation casino more than 300 miles away in Port Huron. While S. 2986 had a hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on October 10, 2002, the bill was never moved out of the committee and died. It was reported at the time that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) now the Senate's majority leader, was responsible for blocking the bill in 2002. It was suggested that Nevada gaming interests motivated Sen. Reid to stop the bill from making any progress.

During the next four years, the powerful Detroit billionaires behind the Port Huron casino schemes set to work trying to influence congressional leaders to support their plans.

From 2003-2006 members of Detroit's poweful Ilitch Family and their associate Michael J. Malik, the people behind the Port Huron scheme and various other off-reservation Indian casino proposals from coast to coast, ramped up their federal political contributions possibly as much as 2000% and invested several million in Capitol Hill Lobbyists.

In 2004, they gave a combined total of $22,000 in first-time contributions to two of Sen. Reid's politcal committees. And in 2006 they contributed $26,600 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee which helps elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

More significantly, they personally contributed a total of $117,200 -- and encouraged others to do the same -- to efforts to re-elect Democratic Senator Stabenow whose seat was considered extremely vulnerable heading into the 2006 election cycle. Stabenow's re-election helped the Democrats narrowly take control of the U.S. Senate in the 110th Congress; Senator Reid became Majority Leader and the most powerful member of the U.S. Senate.

The Ilitch's and their associate also contributed heavily -- $75,000 -- and provided other political resources to the re-election campaign of Rep. Candice Miller (R- MI 10th); at the time considered to have been one of the best possible candidates to defeat Sen. Stabenow. (Neither the Ilitches nor Malik live or have their primary offices in Michigan's 10th District). Rep. Miller had been asked by President Bush to run against Sen. Stabenow early in the 2006 campaign cycle but she eventually was pursuaded not to run for the Senate seat, and turned down the President's request.

On Valentine's Day shortly after the 110th Congress covened, the Port Huron Times Herald reported the following in an article updating the progress of the Ilitch/Malik backed Port Huron casino proposal:

"The deal still requires congressional approval, but several attempts to obtain it have been blocked. Stabenow introduced a measure five years ago that was stymied by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"Tom Shields, a spokesman for casino developer Mike Malik, said he has been told Reid, who became Senate majority leader last month, has dropped his opposition. Shields also noted Stabenow, who won a second term in 2006, has gained political clout with the Democratic takeover of Congress."

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