Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sector Snap: Casino Operators
MGM Mirage stock may have topped out

The Associated Press
January 26, 2007, 12:14PM EST

Shares of casino operators were trading mostly lower on Friday after an analyst initiated coverage on several companies in the sector.

Prudential Equity Group's Joel Simkins gave MGM Mirage a "Neutral" rating, saying in a client note that he was optimistic about its more than $7 billion CityCenter project in Las Vegas.

But the company's stock may have hit the ceiling.

"While MGM Mirage has an impressive pipeline of domestic and international growth opportunities, we think the shares are due for a breather given a roughly 100 percent move in the stock since September 2006," he wrote.

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. also received a "Neutral" rating, with Simkins expressing confidence in the company's management team.

While he is cautious on Trump due to competition from Atlantic City megaresorts being developed and newer slot facilities in Pennsylvania, Simkins said internal and external development opportunities could provide catalysts for Trump.

Simkins also initiated coverage on Ameristar Casinos Inc. with a "Neutral" rating.
In a separate note, Simkins issued an "Underweight" rating for Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. on a slowdown in Biloxi and more competition.

"After the company came up empty in Pennsylvania and Singapore, we think its growth pipeline is average at best, and we see increasing competitive challenges across the portfolio," he said.
With casinos increasingly coming back online in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Isle is starting to face normalized results in the market, which could lead to further estimate reductions, Simkins explained.

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. also received an "Underweight" rating, with Simkins saying the company may face some risks to its growth plan.

Simkins is particularly concerned about the possible $3.4 bilion to $3.6 billion Pinnacle may spend on new projects, saying in a client note that the amount "is significant considering the company had total assets of $1.5 billion in the third quarter of 2006."

"With so much capital at risk, we think a contrarian view is only fair, particularly as Pinnacle is casting its nets into markets that are fairly mature (St. Louis), highly competitive (Atlantic City) or potentially face new competition down the road (Texas gaming could severely damage Bossier City and Lake Charles)," he said.

Simkins gave Penn National Gaming Inc. and Boyd Gaming Corp. "Overweight" ratings. Penn and Boyd both look to benefit from "solid pipelines" and diversified portfolios, he explained.

Shares of MGM fell 78 cents to $69.15 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Trump dipped 13 cents to $17.84, while Penn fell 21 cents to $43.62 on the Nasdaq.

Ameristar declined 80 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $30.28 on the Nasdaq. The stock has been trading in a 52-week range between $16.73 and $33.41. Isle of Capri dropped 65 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $24.65 on the Nasdaq. The stock has been trading between $18.98 and $34.30 for the past 52 weeks.

Pinnacle's stock dipped 37 cents to $33.43, while Boyd slipped 48 cents to $46.56 on the Big Board.

Friday, January 26, 2007

MotorCity Debt = 100 percent of Casino's profits for next eight years

Is it any wonder that Moody's and S&P have posted concerns about MotorCity Casino's (CCM Merger Inc.) corporate credit rating and the risks tied to more than $300 million in junk bonds issued as part of Marian Ilitch's overall borrowing picture?

Jason T. Hanselman an attorney at the Dykema Gossett Law Firm practices in the following areas of law: Government; Regulatory Law; Gaming Law; Gaming Licensing; Education Law; Charter School Law; Public School Law; Election, Campaign and Political Law; Election and Campaign Finance.

Hanselman notes in his published public biography that he:

"Represents casino licensees, casino supplier licensees and vendors before the Michigan Gaming Control Board; and

"Helped facilitate the acquisition of Detroit's MotorCity Casino, including negotiating $1.1 billon in acquisition financing and obtaining regulatory approval for the acquisition from the Michigan Gaming Control Board, 2005."

The Detroit Free Press published:

"The price of a Detroit casino could be as high as $1 billion, said people familiar with the sale and purchase of casinos." 06.15.04

"The total estimated value of the MotorCity Casino property is close to $1 billion. Last year, the casino generated $436 million in revenue." 04.25.05

Crain's Detroit Business published:

"Marian Ilitch's $525 million offer to buy Mandalay Resort Group Inc.'s share of MotorCity Casino L.L.C. sets a value of nearly $1 billion on that property and highlights how some of the early local investors have become millionaires." 02.21.05

Forbes published in a feature story "Mike Ilitch has backed losing sports teams and pizza before it was dinner fare--and mostly won big. But casinos in Detroit?" that was part of the 2006 "Richest Americans" issue:

"Marian has poured more than $1 billion into buying (last year) and improving MotorCity Casino, one of Detroit's three gambling ventures." 10.09.06

MotorCity Debt =100% of Anticipated Casino Profits for the first 8 years.

Numerous sources estimated MotorCity Casino was valued at $1 billion when Ilitch acquired the 100% ownership. Ilitch has borrowed $1.1 billion and possibly even more using the Casino as collateral in order to fund the $525 million acquisition (53.5%) and subsequent development of a permanent casino and hotel required in the original agreement with the City of Detroit. At last review S&P and Moody's estimated that MotorCity Casino was leveraged at 8x; that's higher than originally anticipate and one of the reasons S&P and Moody's have raised red flags.

Simply stated, at best case it would take the owners 8 years, using 100% of profits each year, to pay off the large debt before they could realize any profit in their own pockets. Or, if Ilitch were forced to sell the casino today, it's likely that she would face a significant financial loss and certainly so would those who financed her acquisition and expansion. Moody's estimates they would lose at least 88% of their investments.

Ilitch Holdings has a history of extreme leverage with its various subsidiaries. Take the Detroit Tigers baseball team for instance, there are only two other teams out of 30 in baseball that have higher debt to value ratios. If the baseball team were sold today, approximately 80% of the sale would be used to pay off debts.

Moody's Assigns "Loss-Given-Default" Rating to CCM Merger Inc. (dba MotorCity Casino)

excerpted from

IBL - InterNet Bankruptcy Library

Tuesday, October 17, 2006, Vol. 10, No. 247

CCM MERGER: Moody's assigns Loss-Given-Default Ratings

In connection with Moody's Investors Service's implementation of its new Probability-of-Default and Loss-Given-Default rating methodology for the gaming, lodging and leisure sectors, the rating agency confirmed its B1 Corporate Family Rating for CCM Merger Inc.

Moody's also revised or held its probability-of-default ratings and assigned loss-given-default ratings on these debentures:

Debt Issue










Five Year Senior

Secured Revolver





Seven Year Senior

Secured Term Loan B





8% Senior Secured notes





Moody's explains that current long-term credit ratings are opinions about expected credit loss which incorporate both the likelihood of default and the expected loss in the event of default. The LGD rating methodology will disaggregate these two key assessments in long-term ratings. The LGD rating methodology will also enhance the consistency in Moody's notching practices across industries and will improve the transparency and accuracy of Moody's ratings as Moody's research has shown that credit losses on bank loans have tended to be lower than those for similarly rated bonds.

Probability-of-default ratings are assigned only to issuers, not specific debt instruments, and use the standard Moody's alpha-numeric scale. They express Moody's opinion of the likelihood that any entity within a corporate family will default on any of its debt obligations.

Loss-given-default assessments are assigned to individual rated debt issues -- loans, bonds, and preferred stock. Moody's opinion of expected loss are expressed as a percent of principal and accrued interest at the resolution of the default, with assessments ranging from LGD1 (loss anticipated to be 0% to 9%) to LGD6 (loss anticipated to be 90% to 100%).

CCM Merger Inc. owns and operates MotorCity Casino in Detroit,Michigan.

Ilitch owned casino site

50-acre Barstow site is part of larger several hundred acre commercial mega resort plan Ilitch envisions for the Mohave Desert community. Ilitch controlled Barwest would have the exclusive rights, free of future competition, to develop the only two casinos and all encompassing resorts in California's 'High Desert' area from the Cajon Pass Summit north to the Nevada stateline.

BARWEST-Owned Site

Proposed Dual Indian Casinos and Resorts
Barstow, CA

*Map included in 9/06 EIS/TEIR Scoping Report

Barwest owns multiple parcels totalling 110+ acres; 48-50 acres set aside for dual casino resort developments. The Barwest owned land is adjacent to hundreds of acres managed by the Bureau of Land Managment (BLM). BLM has been approached about land swap acquisition of the adjacent lands; presumably part of the larger master resort development plans by Barwest and other commercial developers. Neither Big Lagoon or Los Coyotes Indian tribes own or control any land in Barstow today.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Detroit casino syndicators made large investment in Pombo

The Ilitch Family and Michael Malik invested heavily in Richard Pombo while he was chairman of the House Resources Committee (oversight for Indian Affairs and Indian Gaming).

Included among their gratuities to Pombo:

  • $16,000 from Mike & Marian Ilitch, and Michael Malik to RICH PAC (earning them #9 and #5 spots respectively on RICH PAC’s “Top Ten” individual donors list for ’04 and ’06; Jack Abramoff was #10);

  • Total of more than $40,000+ for RICH PAC including contributions from various Ilitch lobbying firms (from $11,500 bundled on May 18, 2004 – $15,500 bundled on December 7, 2005);

  • $26,600 to the San Joaquin County GOP Committee (Pombo’s home party organization) on October 18, 2004 from Detroit-based Barwest (Ilitch/Malik entity doing business in Barstow, Calif.);

  • A $5,000 per head fundraiser at the 2005 MLB All-Star Game in Detroit (total proceeds unknown as there are no related contributions noted in Pombo’s campaign committee or RICH PAC disclosures despite aides to Pombo indicating he was the beneficiary of the event);

  • Various travel arrangements including private air travel;

  • $50,000 to the RNC recorded the day after (7/13/05)the All-Star Game fundraiser ($25,000 each from Michae l J. Malik and Christopher Ilitch);

  • $220,000 lobbying contract signed by Barbara Bonfiglio on behalf of Williams & Jensen to represent Malik’s MJM Enterprises and Development during the period Bonfiglio was also RICH PAC treasurer.

Note: Under California's political reform laws, Barwest L.L.C. was to have reported the $26,600 contribution made 10/18/04 as a "major donor" in disclosure filings due January 31, 2005. No disclosures were filed. A second reporting period for major donor disclosures ended June 30, 2005. Again no disclosures were filed. Michael J. Malik, Sr. did not file disclosure documentation declaring Barwest L.L.C. a "major donor" until September, 5, 2005 -- nearly a year after making the curious contribution and almost nine months (and two reporting periods)after disclosures were required.

Richard Pombo's former patrons might shed light on his future

RICH Political Action Committee is Rep. Richard Pombo's "leadership committee." As described by in March 9, 2006 story:

it is "a kind of extra campaign committee that many lawmakers maintain. Pombo calls his Rich PAC. The money raised for these accounts can be used for nearly any purpose other than to directly get the law-maker re-elected."

Generally reporters and others look at PAC contributions but using g data available from the Federal Election Commission and additional analysis available from PoliticalMoneyLine for Congressional Quarterly (2004 & 2006 ), The Center for Responsive Politics, this analysis looked at individual contributions to RICH Political Action Committee for the 2004 & 2006 election cycles, covering the period of time Rep. Pombo served as chairman of the House Resources Committee.

RICH Political Action Committee

Individual Contributions Cumulative '04 & '06

(couples combined)



1. Bridges, Lowell & Kimberly (WA)


2. Barnett, John (WA)


3. Weinberg, Joseph & Debra (MD)


4. Barnett, David & Kristine (WA)


5. Malik, Michael (MI)


6. Dacey, Scott (VA)


7. Furman II, Harold (DC)


8. Mattoon, Jane (VA)


9. Ilitch, Mike & Marian (MI)


10. Abramoff, Jack (DC)


The following sources were among those accessed during October 2006 in preparing this report: U.S. Federal Elections Commission; PoliticaMoneyLine by Congressional Quarterly; Center for Responsive Politics;

click for: RICH PAC's top 100 individual donors 2004 + 2006

You may also want to review these posts:

Ilitch Family, associate increased political campaign contributions 2000% in four year quest to expand their gambling empire

The Ilitch Family and their associate Michael J. Malik increased political campaign contributions 2000% in the four year quest to expand their Michigan gambling empire.

During the summer of 2005, when controversy erupted over the timing of a big ticket All-Star Game fundraiser the Ilitch family hosted for Rep. Richard Pombo and a House hearing scheduled two days late and chaired by Pombo on matters affecting one of the Ilitch tribal partners, Ilitch publicist Tom Shields, as usual, tried to down play the circumstances saying, “the Ilitches donate regularly to officeholders of both parties.” But he forgot to mention their regularity was fiercely snowballing by 2000 percent.

The following is based on federal campaign disclosure documents.

  • During the six years from 1997 through 2002 (the 105th, 106th , 107th Congresses) the Ilitch Family contributed $23,100, and Michael J. Malik contributed $2,000, for a total of slightly more than $25,000 to federal candidates and committees.
  • During the four years from 2003 through 2006 (the 108th & 109th Congresses) the Ilitch Family contributed at least $332,000, and Michael J. Malik contributed at least $171,000, to federal candidates and committees topping half a million dollars in individual (non-PAC or corporate) political dough. There were additional large contributions made to local and state office holders, ballot measure and the San Joaquin County GOP Committee (Calif.) which are not included in the more than half million dollar figure presented here. In all, these individuals paid out almost $900,000 in local, state and federal political campaign contributions.

  • Collectively for the four years from 2003-2006 their individual checkbooks logged a 2,000 percent increase in federal political campaign contributions over the previous six year period 1997 – 2002; that’s a 2000 percent increase in 2/3rds the amount of time.

  • From 2003-2006 the bulk of the $500,000 went to candidates the Ilitch Family/Malik had not previously backed. It is believed $300,000 went toward support for Senator Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Candice Miller and Rep. Richard Pombo or committees they favored, but none of that was paid out until after each had introduced legislation to help advance Ilitch/Malik efforts to expand their casino empire.

  • Their contributions were often bundled or sent in pairs of large amounts and directed toward Leadership PACs, or related party campaign committees in order to bust the lower contribution limits placed on funds that can be contributed to a candidate’s campaign committees.

The data used for this overview analysis was available from The Center for Responsive Politics at and can also be verified with the Federal Election Commission. By the “Ilitch Family” we represent Michael and Marian Ilitch along with their seven children and respective spouses all with the Ilitch name except for daughter Lisa Ilitch Murray and her husband Glenn Murray. All immediate family members have an interest and are generally part of the privately held family controlled Ilitch Holdings enterprises and any federal political contributions are most often bundled with those of their parent’s or Michael J. Malik Sr.

We have not included contributions made by their lobbying firms, lawyers, partners or associates other than Michael J. Malik although the contributions by these others are also extensive. Nor have we considered for this discussion almost $3 million paid out to Capitol Hill Lobbyists from 2002-2006.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - MGM Grand Detroit unveils $765 million casino plan

USA Today

MGM Grand Detroit unveils $765 million casino plan

DETROIT (AP) — The MGM Grand Detroit Casino says it plans to spend a greater-than-expected $765 million on a 17-floor, permanent gambling facility that will create 1,000 jobs.

On Thursday, the MGM Grand and the Greektown Casino released new plans for their permanent facilities. The MotorCity is Detroit's third casino.

MGM Grand spokesman Bob Berg said the permanent facility, featuring a hotel, restaurants and stores, will create 1,000 jobs. MGM Grand Detroit now employs 2,500 people. The casino itself will be 100,000 square feet.

MGM Grand is spending $190 million more than previously announced and more than the other two Detroit casinos combined, Berg told the Detroit Free Press.

The Art Deco-style design is "kind of this romantic icon of the future," University of Detroit Mercy architecture Dean Stephen Vogel told The Detroit News. "It's a lot more zooty that what you expect to see in Detroit."

Greektown Casino on Thursday presented plans for a 33- to 35-story garage and hotel tower addition to the City Planning Commission in a rezoning request. The commission is expected to decide by May 4. Other city approvals also are needed before construction can start.

The MotorCity Casino plans to spend $275 million to build a hotel tower and expand its temporary casino. The Greektown Casino says it plans to spend $200 million on its expansion.

Last year, MGM Grand took in $460.7 million, Greektown $335.6 million and MotorCity $432.2 million.
Wikipedia: MGM Grand Detroit Casino

DIGG Story: East Coast Slot Revenue in 2006 Rises 7%, to $8.1 Billion

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., Jan. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Casinos and racetracks from Maine to Florida generated $8.1 billion in slot machine revenue in 2006, an increase of 7.1 percent over the previous year, according to the Gaming Industry Observer's East Coast Slot Report. The report, which tracks vital slot statistics on a monthly basis, includes the results of the 36 publicly reporting gaming facilities in the East. It does not include revenue from the 12 Native American casinos in Florida, New York and North Carolina, whose monthly gaming statistics are not publicly disclosed.

"The rise in East Coast slot revenue is attributable to the start of racetrack gaming in Florida and Pennsylvania, the expansion of racetrack gaming in New York, an increase in the slot-machine cap in Delaware, and healthy increases in the long-established markets of Connecticut, New Jersey and West Virginia," said Joseph Weinert, Editor of the Gaming Industry Observer.

PRNews: East Coast Slot Revenue in 2006 Rises 7%, to $8.1 Billion

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bay Mills & Malik get into Plastics; Senator Stabenow announces they'll get $900,000 federal jumpstart

Blogger fnemecek @ Great Lakes Politics informs:
$900,000 Coming to Chippewa County

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Carl Levin (D-MI) today announced that the Bay Mills Indian Community and Community College will receive $906,000 to construct a PLASTICS technology research, testing, manufacturing and training center. The funds were awarded through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.“This investment is great news for the economy of Northern Michigan,” insists Ms. Stabenow. “These funds will create good paying jobs in Chippewa County and help bolster economic development throughout the community.”

The PLASTICS venture was introduced at a Bay Mills General Tribal Council meeting in November 2004 as reported in the Bay Mills News:

...The council discussed the possibility of funding a joint-venture into a plastics business located in Kinross. Parker said it has the potential to be more profitable than the casino, and the wages in the manufacturing field are better than those associated in the service industry at the casino. The tribe would have to purchase a license to get into plastics manufacturing, but does not have the cost of the license as of yet. The tribe would supply the labor, training, and day-to-day operations, as well as minority status to the business, Parker said. A motion to approve joint-venture funding was approved unanimously...

Parker said the council will schedule a General Tribal Council (GTC) meeting to discuss the Charlotte Beach and Port Huron issue.
As subsequently reported in a Bay Mills News article reporting on a recent General Tribal Council meeting:


...Parker [Jeff Parker, Bay Mills Chairman]said that Mike Malik is involved in the PLASTICS BUSINESS because the tribe did not want to expend any tribal funds on the project. He said the initial concept is to have the business in Kinross until the planned creation of an industrial park on tribal properties at I-75 and M-28.

..Another member said that it was his understanding that Malik would invest $1.3 million into the company and would own 49 percent of it, while Bay Mills would own 51 percent. He also recommended a committee be put together to investigate some of these allegations and report back to the GTC with their findings. Parker said he would like to have the tribe do the venture on their own, but said that they did it this way so they would not be out any money.
According to the watchdog group, Center for Responsive Politics at, Michael Malik and his casino syndication partners contributed more than $113,000 to Senator Stabenow's 2006 re-election campaign prior to the Senator's announcement of the near $1 million grant to finance the startup of the PLASTICS business.

You may also want to review these posts:
The Verifiable Truth: Michigan Senator's re-election realizes $113,000 from Detroit syndicators after she introduces plans for their Port Huron Indian Casino
Candy Land: Calling for More Candy
The Verifiable Truth:
Ilitch Family, Associate increased political contributions 2000%
The Verifiable Truth:
Six bills in Congress, over six years & political gifts in the six figures: That's what Ilitch Family has invested in Port Huron Casino deal

Oscar, say it isn't so

Say it isn’t so: The Ilitch family is holding an Oscar Nite fundraiser to get other people to give them money in order to fund their Ilitch Charities for Children, a non-profit most people assumed was the Ilitch Family’s charitable foundation, their mechanism for tax deducted giving.

The Detroit News published today:

You don't have to shlump on your sofa and passively watch the 79th annual Academy Awards show.

Join the action on Feb. 25 by attending the Academy Awards-sanctioned charity gala Oscar Night America, or by vying against Detroit News Film Critic Tom Long's best award prognostications.

Oscar Night America will be held beginning at 6 p.m. at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $50 and $150 with proceeds benefiting Ilitch Charities for Children. Partygoers will not only watch the Oscars on the big screen but they'll also walk away with a poster and official Academy Award program. (
Full Story)Is the Oscar nite plan for Marian Ilitch to win Best Actress in a Philanthropic role? Or perhaps young Christopher Ilitch will take home the Oscar for Best Director of the people’s charitable funds? Did the Rockefellers or the Fords or the Johnsons actually “raise” money for their foundations? Or do Mike and Marian Ilitch see this like Warren Buffett giving his charitable funds to Bill & Melinda Gates for them to manage? Are Mike and Marian Ilitch our new substitute for United Way?

Or is this a creative way for them to raise capital in an era where they’re already over leveraged?

Regardless of what they're thinking; we're thinking it's absurd that a family worth $1.5 billion is raising money from other people so they can turn around and give it away in their own name.

Monday, January 22, 2007

SuperBowl XLI: Detroiters expected at Windsor Sports Betting Lounge

Casino bets sports book will be huge
Super Bowl fans likely to hit Windsor

January 22, 2007


This year's Super Bowl is in Miami after last year's stop in Detroit, but there will still be plenty of action this year not far from Ford Field -- across the river in Windsor.

Legends Sports Lounge, Casino Windsor's sports betting venue, which allows legal bets on the biggest gambling event of the year, is braced for a big boost from the Super Bowl.

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts won berths in Super Bowl XLI.

"Every time there is a playoff game, you'll see our attendance peak," said Holly Ward, a spokeswoman for Casino Windsor. "What Legends has done is offer a unique opportunity for sports fans in Michigan and elsewhere to come here."

During the Detroit/St. Louis World Series, for example, patrons of Legends had to stand in line for two hours to place a bet, Ward said...

...Since it opened last fall, about 80% of Legends' business has been from Americans crossing into Canada to place bets. Ward said Casino Windsor has become a destination for sports gamblers from throughout the Midwest...

...Nevada offers the only legal sports book in the United States. The Oregon Legislature voted to end a lottery game after this season that allowed football gambling...

...Visitors can bet on professional football, hockey and baseball, as well as college football and basketball... (Full Story)

Deadline Looming in Calif Legislature; Ilitch casino team exactly where they were last year... scrambling for legislative sponsors.

With Friday's deadline (01.26.07) looming to have legislation drafted and in the system for California's 2007 legislative session, the Ilitch Team still has failed to produce anything concrete to suggest they're any further along than they were one year ago. Having failed to announce new legislation or a coalition of legislators prepared to sponsor legislation favoring their plans to relocate tribal casinos for Big Lagoon Rancheria and Los Coyotes Reservation Indians to Barstow in the Mohave Desert, it's a good bet to assume they're scrambling to pull something off by Friday's deadline.

The San Bernardino Sun reports:

"Two other tribes looking to bounce back from legislative setbacks last year are the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians from north San Diego County and the Big Lagoon Rancheria Tribe based in Humboldt County. Schwarzenegger has signed compacts with both tribes for proposed casinos near Barstow, but an Assembly committee killed the deals in June.

"Those two tribes are working with BarWest Gaming, a Detroit-based developer. BarWest spokesman Tom Shields, said the tribes are trying to gain support for their project and are prepared to meet Friday's legislative deadline." (Full Story)

Back in August 2005, Ilitch & company concluded negotiations on their compact agreements with Governor Schwarzenegger's team. They failed in 2006 to generate any momentum or interest among the legislature which must "ratify" any agreements the Governor strikes with tribes. In June 2006 an Assembly committee rejected the agreements and they've failed to produce any true sign of progress since.

As part of Detroit's ongoing effort to block any other tribes from pursuing plans in the Barstow area, Shields bought himself some more time in August 2006, having failed in the last legislative session, saying that their team would get things done in January, but the month is nearly over, deadlines are looming and besides a couple of shallow press releases, the Ilitch team has failed to produce any signs of progress, for Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon casinos in Barstow once again. Sources in Sacramento indicate this is where they were one year ago. The author of their failed 2006 legislation was termed out of office in November 2006 and absent their ability to generate even modest support last year, that left them in a desperate situation.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Where in the world is Barbara Bonfiglio?

as posted 3.09.06 at

UPDATE: The managing partner at Williams & Jensen tells us that Barbara Bonfiglio has left the firm to become a "senior compliance officer" at an unnamed Fortune 100 company. Will post more later if we learn more.

People who've been following our Rick Santorum coverage lately may know the name Barbara Bonfiglio. She's a one-time inside-the-Beltway lobbyist who still works for a leading governmental affairs shop, and who has pulled triple-duty for Pa's junior senator, as treasurer of his campaign fund; his leadership PAC, America's Foundation; and of his controversial charity/not charity, the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation.

Tonight, the ex-lobbyist who does Santorum's books has become a woman of mystery.

Bonfiglio is apparently out at Williams & Jensen, just days after she surfaced to write a letter defending the spending practices and the failure to register at the Santorum-founded Operation Good Neighbor. The wording in this Stockton (Calif.) Record article suggests she abruptly left there on Tuesday. We placed several calls to W&J, which didn't deny the report but -- perhaps because of some missed connections -- also did not provide any new information. (There's more in the Daily Muck.)

We've also emailed the Santorum campaign, though given our recent history we don't know if they'll get back to us. One other "leadership PAC," belonging to U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo of California, said it has severed its ties with Bonfiglio.

In hindsight, it's odd that Bonfiglio hasn't gotten more scrutiny before now. It's not exactly clear how many political committees that she oversees, although it's at least several dozen. Here's what the Center for Public Integrity said about her:

During her tenure as a lobbyist from 1998 to 2001, Bonfiglio mastered the demanding jobs of both overseeing the finances of 31 political committees—more than half of which were campaign committees and leadership PACs—while lobbying for six companies at the D.C. law firm Williams & Jensen. In addition to running FEC-regulated committees, Bonfiglio was also the treasurer of five 527 organizations once connected to Members of Congress, which were allowed to raise money without contribution limits.

In 2004, Bonfiglio's work for one of those politicians -- Tom DeLay (you may have heard of him?...he was in all of the papers) -- caused Texas lawman Ronnie Earle to serve her with a subpoena. And you may also know about one of Bonfiglio's other "leadership PAC" clients, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who was just nailed for taking a whopping $2.4 million in bribes.

Suddenly, there's a certain irony in the title of Bonfiglio's book on campaign finance issues. It's called, "How to Cross the Potomac Without Falling In."

Here's how reported Bonfiglio's departure from Williams & Jensen

posted 3.09.06 at

GOP Money Operative Quits Firm, Pombo

Barbara Bonfiglio, who was once treasurer to political action committees and other organizations for ethically challenged lawmakers Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and others, just quit D.C. superfirm Williams & Jensen. She also stepped down from her post as treasurer of Rep. Richard Pombo's (R-CA) RichPAC.

Bonfiglio's got a colorful past: She was subpoenaed in 2004 by Texas DA Ronnie Earle as part of his investigation into Tom DeLay. She may have been involved in the effort by DeLay crony Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) in sic'ing the IRS on the Texas watchdog group Texans for Public Justice. And she was listed as treasurer for Santorum's Operation Good Neighbor "charity," which used less than half of its money to do actual good deeds.

Or, as the Williams & Jensen Web site -- put it:
    'Her clients include the Leadership PACs and campaign committees of several prominent Members of Congress. She also advises the firm's clients on matters involving House and Senate ethics rules, as well as compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act.'
Needless to say, we will probably hear more about her sooner rather than later. (Thanks to reader LR.)

Note: Bonfiglio signed Michael J. Malik's MJM Enterprises & Development as a client on Indian and gaming matters while she was concurrenty treasurer of Rep. Richard Pombo's leadership committee RICH PAC. While retaining Bonfiglio's firm, Malik his partners, affiliates and advocates contributed close to $100,000 to Pombo's committees and causes. MJM Enterprises, a brand few would have on their radar, quietly paid Bonfiglio's firm $220,000

Barbara Bonfiglio was associated with Rep. DeLay's "Celebrations for Children"

a press release distributed by Common Cause regarding "Celebrations for Children" (CfC) -- a controversial charity former House Speaker Tom DeLay had organized -- described Barbara Bonfiglio as follows:

"Barbara Bonfiglio (CfC secretary) – Worked as treasurer for Promoting Republicans You Can Elect Project (PRYCE Project), the political action committee for Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH). She is a partner for Williams & Jensen, a Washington law and lobbying firm. Bonfiglio’s clients have included DeLay, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), chairman of the House Rules Committee and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), as well as Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-NM). In 2003, watchdog groups filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Pryce established two leadership political action committees in violation of campaign finance rules and that eight Republican congressional candidates violated the law by receiving contributions from the PACs. Bonfiglio was listed as the treasurer for the PRYCE Project and the second committee, Value In Electing Women PAC (VIEW PAC)."

Bonfiglio was treasurer for Sen. Santorum's controversial PAC

posted at

Related To Story

Team 4: Treasurer Of Santorum Charity Out

POSTED: 5:36 pm EST March 10, 2006
UPDATED: 6:51 pm EST March 10, 2006

The following report by Team 4 investigator Jim Parsons first aired on Channel 4 Action News at 5 p.m. on March 10, 2006.

Friday's development follows Team 4's report two days ago, and a report Thursday in the Washington Post that Sen. Rick Santorum has resumed his regular meetings with lobbyists -- even though he vowed in January to put an end to those get-togethers.

Now, the lobbying firm principal who controlled the money at Santorum's re-election campaign and his leadership PAC and his charity is out.

Barbara Bonfiglio, of the Washington lobbying firm Williams and Jensen, is quitting to work for a Fortune 100 company, according to Williams and Jensen CEO Steve Hart.

Hart said Bonfiglio's resignation means she will be stepping down as treasurer of Santorum's re-election committee and his political action committee, known as America's Foundation.

It's unclear if she will also resign her post as treasurer of Operation Good Neighbor, the charity Santorum founded in 2001.

A Team 4 investigation Wednesday showed how Operation Good Neighbor's purse strings and day-to-day operations are run by principals in lobbying firms.

The charity's tax filings reveal that from 2001 to 2004 -- the most recent year available -- Operation Good Neighbor spent $501,000 on grants to community groups. But almost half that amount -- $216,000 -- was spent on travel, meetings and conferences.

Team 4 has asked the senator's office and the charity itself for records that would show who was doing all that traveling for the charity and where they went.

The request continues to be denied.

"If there is no question as to the legitimacy and legality of their operation, then everything ought to be on the table for the media and anyone else to look at," said Gerald Shuster of the University of Pittsburgh.

Shuster, a political analyst, said because Santorum has proclaimed himself to be the GOP's point man on lobbyist reform, he should open the books at Operation Good Neighbor.

"He himself ought to make a statement and come to the forefront and talk to you in person or with any of the media and say here's our books, they're open, they're on the table. You guys can peruse the books and examine them for whatever you think there is there. There's nothing to hide. Here they are," Shuster said.

Team 4 asked Operation Good Neighbor if Barbara Bonfiglio will be replaced as treasurer with another employee of a Washington lobbying firm.

A spokeswoman did not answer that question directly, but said in a written statement that Operation Good Neighbor is currently working to fill the position of treasurer.
Note: Bonfiglio signed Michael J. Malik's MJM Enterprises & Development as a client on Indian and gaming matters while she was concurrenty treasurer of Rep. Richard Pombo's leadership committee RICH PAC. While retaining Bonfiglio's firm, Malik his partners, affiliates and advocates contributed close to $100,000 to Pombo's committees and causes. MJM Enterprises, a brand few would have on their radar, quietly paid Bonfiglio's firm $220,000

Rep. Lewis, Daughter used same PAC Lawyer Barbara Bonfiglio

as posted 6.07.06 at TPMmuckraker:

"Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the powerful House appropriations chief who's under investigation, hired a lawyer by the name of Barbara Bonfiglio to be treasurer of his own political action committee, Future Leaders PAC.

And who was the treasurer who helped found the Small Biz Tech PAC, run by Lewis' stepdaughter, Julie Willis-Leon? That's right: Barbara Bonfiglio.

Bonfiglio served as treasurer from the time of the group's creation in March 2005 to this February, when she was replaced by William B. Canfield, another partner at Bonfiglio's firm, Williams and Jensen.

Bonfiglio worked for a number of PACs with unfortunate histories of taking shady donations, including both Tom DeLay's ARMPAC, Randy "Duke" Cunningham's American Prosperity PAC.

Around the time she stepped down from being treasurer of Willis-Leon's PAC, she left similar positions with all of the others and abruptly left Williams and Jensen."

Detroit Mayor chronicles his selection of three casino development teams, explains preferences statute in Proposal E

This links to the text of remarks by Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer on November 20, 1997. At that time he announced his final three choices to develop and manage Detroit’s three commercial casinos as provided for under the passage of Proposal E in 1996.

The post is a great backgrounder on the Detroit casino chronicles leading up to the selection of MGM, Detroit Entertainment LLC (dba MotorCity Casino) and Greektown to develop and manage Detroit's three Las Vegas-style casinos.

In the 1970s former Mayor Coleman Young had been the first to propose consideration of gaming in Detroit as a catalyst for economic development. In making his announcement Archer chronicled the quest for Detroit casinos beginning in 1994 advisory measure to repeal Detroit’s ban on Gaming. That had been backed by local business people including Herb Strather, Nellie Varner and the group that formed the Greek Town team.

Archer explains how Governor John Engler blocked Detroit’s desire even after a blue ribbon committee and others had approved Gaming in Detroit and then to the eventual passage of statewide Proposal E in 1996 which included preferences for development teams that included local business and community leaders.

Archer detailed how it was he came to pick the three finalists over teams that included Mandalay Resort Group, Don Barden, Trump and Paradise Valley Rio. (later Circus Circus would merge into Mandalay Resort Group and so Mandalay ended up as part of the Detroit Casino scene anyway).

Marian Ilitch was a substantial partner in Atwater Casino Group (ACG) at the time Archer awarded one of three casinos to the partnership known as Detroit Entertainment LLC (DELLC). Circus Circus Michigan (Mandalay Resort Group) controlled majority interest in DELLC. ACG controlled 45% of DELLC most of which was owned by Marian Ilitch and was one of six ACG reps on the Management Committee yet Archer stated:

The Atwater Casino Group recognized that it did not alone have the capital and the knowledge and experience to construct and manage a mega casino complex of the size and sophistication that we are contemplating for Detroit. Although others may not agree with his partnership decision, many analysts and other observers will readily assert that Herb Strather made a shrewd business judgment that married the business assets of both partners and put Atwater Casino Group in the best position to compete successfully in this selection process.

Mayor Dennis Archer
November 1997

Fast forward to 2005, Marian Ilitch acquired outstanding shares of DELLC and is said to have sole control over MotorCity Casino although Ilitch Holdings wasn’t any better off in 2005 then it was in 1997; and the major Casino development phase (and requisite financing) that Archer had anticipated back in 1997 had still not begun as all three casinos were still in their temporary facilities.

The Atwater group including Marian wasn’t substantial enough, in Archer’s eyes to take on a project like MotorCity casino in 1997 but somehow on her own Marian Ilitch is capable of taking on MotorCity Casino and the development of the permanent casino and hotel in 2005? Just one more curious set of circumstances.

Those convicted in Jack Abramoff case

Those convicted in Jack Abramoff case

Ilitch partners and affiliates near $3 million in Capitol Hill lobbying expenses

Various Ilitch/Malik Backed Partnerships

Federal Lobbying Expenditures 2002 - 2006


5 yr total



Bay Mills Indian Community


Blue Water Resorts


Gateway Casino Resorts


Little River Band of Ottawa Indians


MJM Enterprises & Development


Shinnecock Indian Nation




NOTE: Includes disclosure reports through mid-year 2006 available online from

the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records. Click on the “client” names above to

see more detailed disclosure documentation

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Google News: Indian Gaming

NEWS: Bay Mills Indian Community & Casino Proposals

NEWS: Shinnecock Indian Nation (Gateway Casino Resorts) Casino Proposals

NY Times: Shinnecock Indian Nation

NEWS: Los Coyotes Indian Tribe

NEWS: Los Coyotes / Barwest Barstow Casino Proposals

NEWS: Michael J. Malik, Sr.

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certainly must reads!

Ilitch has backed loosing sports teams and pizza, but casinos in Detroit? 10.09.06 ● Marian Ilitch #1 on "25 Most Powerful People" to Watch 2006” global gaming business o1.oo.o5 ● My Kingdom for a Casino Forbes 05.08.06 ● Big Lagoon’s casino dream awakens north coast journal 07.28.05 ● Shinnecocks launch legal claim to Hamptons land 06.16.05 ● Ilitch Plans to Expand Casino Empire 07.05.05 ● Ilitch outbids partners 04.14.05 ● Ilitch enmeshed in NY casino dispute 03.20.05 ● Marian Ilitch, high roller 03.20.05 ● MGM Mirage to Decide on Offer for Casino in Detroit 04.16.05 ● Secret deal for MotorCity alleged 02.15.05 ● Los Coyotes get new developer 02.08.05 Detroit casino figure to finance Barstow project 07.07.03 ● Indian Band trying to put casino in Barstow 06.04.03 Pizza matriarch takes on casino roles 10.23.02 ● Vanderbilt gets short straw in negotiations for a casino Lansing Journal 10.06.02 ● Indians aim to drive family from tribe in vicious dispute san diego union tribune 04.09.00 ●Malik owns 2000 Michigan Quarter Horse of the Year 01.01.00 ● Detroit Team to run Michigan’s newest Indian casino 05.23.99 Tiger ties tangle Marian Ilitch 04.29.99 ● Three investors must sell their Detroit casino interests 04.25.99 ● Partners’ cash revived election; They say money was crucial to Prop-E 04.25.99 Investors have troubled histories las vegas review journal 04.27.99 ● Investor served probation for domestic assault on 12 year old boy 04.25.99 Can a pair win a jackpot?: local men hope to... 03.17.97

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