Thursday, May 10, 2007

Southampton zoning latest problem for Shinnecock Casino

May 10, 2007

Tribe states case for land


It's not the Shinnecock Indian Nation that is looking to make waves by building a casino on land it has always called its own, but rather it's the Town of Southampton complicating matters by wrongfully enforcing zoning laws there, an attorney for the tribe said Thursday on the final day of a federal trial that could shape gaming on Long Island.

"It is a case for confirmation of sovereignty that already exists and has existed for centuries," the Shinnecocks' attorney, Christopher Lunding of Manhattan, said in his closing statement in the Central Islip courtroom.

Lunding's words came during a four-hour summation in the non-jury trial, which began last year, and followed the town's closing statements delivered Wednesday.

In a brief rebuttal, Southampton attorney Michael Cohen scoffed at the notion that the Shinnecocks are not looking to shake things up, and said that the tribe's immediate plan for development is not the issue.

"If the defendants are given free reign, they can do whatever they want at Westwoods," Cohen said, referring to the property in Hampton Bays. "And there is nothing the town or anybody can do to stop them."

Although the tribe legally owns the 79-acre tract now, it must prove it has "aboriginal title" to the land in order for it to be officially recognized as part of the main reservation to the east in Southampton, where gaming may be permitted under federal law.

With the trial now concluded, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco will decide if the town can block tribe plans for the land. He gave no indication Thursday when he expected to release his ruling.

"Our story is before the judge and we're happy that at least this part is finished," said Shinnecock communications director Beverly Jensen, who sat in court with several other tribe members.

Regardless of Bianco's ruling, the Shinnecocks still have to get federal recognition as a sovereign tribe before moving forward with plans for a casino. That could be years away.

Summing up all the evidence he produced in the trial, Lunding Thursday offered various government records, including current county tax maps, that have historically referred to the Westwoods property as an Indian reservation. He also cited historical records, including journals from tribal elders, that described Shinnecocks living on and using the land throughout the centuries.

Lunding said, despite the town's contentions, no transaction between the Indians and European settlers ever extinguished the Shinnecocks' aboriginal title to the land.

Lunding also said town and state officials, who are also opposed to the project, are both projecting a "mega casino" that has "no basis in reality."

"The Sears Tower could be constructed at Westwoods -- at least it would fit in the space available. But so what?" Lunding said. "The fact that you can squeeze Foxwoods 2 into Westwoods is irrelevant."

TV Ad supporting ratification of expanded tribal gaming compacts

BIA official cites changing climate on gaming

George Skibine, an Interior Undersecretary who heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs, indicated wed. that Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is no fan of off-reservation gaming. He characterized the forecast for any off-reservation casino approavls as "gloomy and bleak." Skibine said new regulations governing off-reservation proposals are due out this summer.

read more digg story

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still eyeing casino sites

Boston Globe reports the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is still shopping for potential casino sites. The tribe's backer has purchased land in Middleborough. But other locations are being considered, a spokesperson said. The tribe's federal recognition is being finalized this month. As a newly recognized tribe, Mashpees can obtain land & casino approvals.

read more digg story

Rep. Doolittle's Appropriations Committee replacement also under scrutiny of FBI


Calvert's appointment creates concern

By Wendy Leung
Staff Writer

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside, was temporarily appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, taking the seat of Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay.

Doolittle stepped down after it was disclosed that FBI agents in April had raided his Virginia home in a probe into his connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Calvert is expected to serve for the remainder of the congressional session or until Republican leadership decides otherwise.

But Calvert's appointment to replace a controversial congressman snarled in the Abramoff scandal is raising eyebrows because Calvert himself is under close FBI scrutiny.

Calvert, who represents western Riverside County, has caught investigators' attention because he had been receiving campaign donations since 1999 from a lobbying firm that has close ties with Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands.

The FBI had been investigating links between Lewis, a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the lobbying firm Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White.

Neither Lewis nor Calvert has been charged with any wrongdoing. But that Calvert's name has been linked to these probes and is temporarily replacing the closely scrutinized Doolittle has some raising objections.

"Replacing John Doolittle, who's under FBI investigation, with Ken Calvert, who's under investigation for shady land deals, certainly doesn't `succeed in restoring trust between the American people and their elected leaders,"' said Fernando Cuevas, Western regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Republicans need to get serious about ethics and accountability."

Cuevas was referring to a statement by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who told CNN, "John (Doolittle) recognizes that if we are to succeed in restoring trust between the American people and their elected leaders, this action is necessary."

In addition to the FBI probe, the Riverside County grand jury sought documents from the Jurupa Community Services District on a land deal with Calvert's real-estate firm, Calvert Properties. The district had sold a 3.3-acre parcel to Calvert and his associates for $1.2million.

Staff writer Wendy Leung can be reached by e-mail at, or by phone at (909) 483-9376.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rep Doolittle says Justice Department officials trying to squeeze out a confession

John & Julie Doolittle - Sacramento Bee file, Renee C. Byer


Feds wanted an admission of guilt, Doolittle says

By David Whitney
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Rep. John Doolittle said Wednesday that the Justice Department tried to get him to admit to criminal behavior before agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his house looking for evidence in connection with the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal.

In a 40-minute interview with Tom Sullivan on KFBK radio in Sacramento, the Roseville Republican said that "as a result of my refusal to admit to a crime I did not commit, the government searched our house in what we believe was little more than an attempt to intimidate and pressure us."

The interview ratchets up Doolittle's effort launched over the weekend to turn the tables on the Justice Department, bringing in for the first time his wife Julie, who has been largely silent during the three-year investigation that started with a subpoena for her business records.

Julie Doolittle said she was not a "patsy" who allowed her company, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, to be a conduit for Abramoff money intended to buy the influence of her husband on Capitol Hill.

"This isn't a fly-by-night business I am involved in," she declared. "It's real."

But she said the FBI has questioned each of her clients, whose names she has not publicly disclosed. "They have effectively ruined my business," she said.

Doolittle said he sees political conspiracy in the raid of his home, saying the Justice Department is under pressure to produce more convictions in the Abramoff case, particularly members of Congress, and he is the only member implicated in the scandal that is still serving in Congress.

"If you really want to get a congressman, I am the one who is left," he said.

The raid occurred April 13. FBI agents armed with a search warrant for materials related to Julie Doolittle's business removed files and computers. Julie Doolittle is the lone employee of the company, operated out of the couple's house, that did work for disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and, later, the congressman's campaign and political action committees.

Thieves in high places (Metro Times Detroit)

... as things are rolled out publicly on the Detroit Red Wings arena front let's remind ourselves what Jack Lessenberry previously wrote in the metrotimes ...

Thieves in high places:

"...The threat was strong that if we didn’t pay up, he [Mike Ilitch] would move the Tigers out of town. Politicians sprang to his aid, and told Detroiters, many of whom were wasting their meager dollars on trifles like food and trying to patch the holes in their roofs, to vote to divert tax revenues from the new facility to pay off $40 million in bonds for Massa Ilitch. They did, and Wayne County kicked in another $20 million in tourist taxes.

"The State of Michigan Strategic Fund, which is meant to promote economic development, donated another $55 million to Comerica Park, and I suspect a few other little enticements slipped out of the public purse as well. Never mind that many, perhaps most, of the fans were rather in love with the old ballyard.

"Never mind that the luxury boxes, etc., that the owner said he needed could have been added, and other needed improvements made, for a fraction of the price. The Little Caesar wanted a new stadium, and we and some Japanese banks built him one..."

Comerica Park cost $361 million to build and even with all of the taxpayer subsidies, the debt still remains high. It's not clear what the City would be burdened with, if anything, should the Ilitch Family be forced to sell or move the team today -- well, other than TWO empty ballparks.

However, Forbes magazine last reported that the debt to value ratio of MLB's Detroit Tigers was 59% -- only five teams out of the 30 in MLB have worse debt ratios, suggesting that someone's been slow paying off his portion of the debts.

Given the Forbes analysis, if the Tigers were sold today, nearly 60% of the proceeds from the sale would theoretically go toward his debts. That leaves Ilitch with $140 million; he paid $82 million for the team in 1992. His 15-year investment, would net about $60 million (75% return) -- thanks in no small part to financing placed on the backs of Detroit's hardworking taxpayers.

Nearly a decade ago, when Ilitch originally sought taxpayer assistance to build his new ball park, his net worth was valued at half a million dollars; last year Forbes estimated Mike Ilitch's net worth had tripled to $1.5 billion. And he's still looking for a handout from the taxpayers.

Map suggests Red Wings owner may be making way for a new hockey arena

The Detroit News has created this map of Ilitch owned properties and activity in the Foxtown area of downtown Detroit.

"For years, no one wanted property on this patch of downtown Detroit. Now a flurry of activity is taking place, fueling speculation that Ilitch Holdings is clearing land for a new hockey arena -- to replace the Joe Lewis Arena. "

You may want to review these posts:
--The Verifiable Truth:

City Sells Historic Building to Ilitch for $220,500

Detroit Free Press

Financial headlines

DEVELOPMENT: Olympia's Detroit building purchase OK'd

After a delay of several weeks, the Detroit City Council has approved the sale of the historic but dilapidated GAR Building to Olympia Development, an arm of the Ilitch family organization.

The council approved the sale price of $220,500 Wednesday, but Olympia is expected to invest at least $2 million to make the building usable for its own staff.

Opened in 1900, the castle-like building at Cass and Grand River was built as a meeting hall for the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans group of Union Army soldiers. It has stood vacant for about 30 years.

You may want to review these posts:
--The Verifiable Truth:

Red Wings Owner demolishing, clearing downtown Detroit

Wayne E. Smith/ The Detroit News

Crews demolish a vacant and derelict building this week at 138 W. Columbia St. that was once the Hotel Vermont. Properties controlled by Ilitch-related firms make up a nearly open swath of land in Foxtown.

Ilitches' downtown power play

Will 4-block area provide home for Red Wings?

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Ilitch Holdings Inc. is quietly increasing its control of a run-down patch of downtown long considered a potential site for a new hockey arena for the Ilitch-owned Detroit Red Wings.

After decades of little activity, a rush of buying, selling and construction work is taking place in the area known as Foxtown, just west of Ilitch Holdings' Woodward Avenue headquarters at the Fox Theatre complex. This week a vacant and derelict building at 138 W. Columbia St. that was once the Hotel Vermont is being razed.

One block away on the corner of Elizabeth and Clifford streets, Ilitch Holdings Vice President of Tax Affairs John Kotlar has taken ownership of a parking garage that has been vacant for decades. Kotlar purchased the structure through a company called Elizabeth Street Properties LLC. The address for the company is listed as the Fox Theatre, according to records from the Wayne County Register of Deeds.

County deed records also show that Olympia Development LLC, the downtown development arm of Ilitch Holdings, now owns the former Chin Tiki at 2121 Cass Ave. The Polynesian-themed restaurant was featured in the Eminem film "8 Mile" but was shuttered in 1980.

Decision Looming on Joe Lewis Arena

The activity comes at a time when the Ilitch family is fast approaching a deadline on whether to build a hockey venue or renovate the Joe Louis Arena. The Ilitches' lease on the city-owned riverfront arena expires in 2009. Mike Ilitch, co-founder of the Little Caesars Pizza chain that started it all, has hinted that he prefers building a new hockey arena near the Fox Theatre.

No decision has been made about whether the Wings will stay at The Joe or move to a new venue, said Karen Cullen, spokeswoman for Ilitch Holdings.

"The bottom line is nothing has changed," Cullen said. "Even without an arena being built there, we care about what is over there," Cullen said. "We continue to study our options."

Whatever options come up for Ilitch Holdings, there will be plenty of land to accommodate them. All told, one Ilitch-related firm or another controls a nearly open swath of land that spans four blocks containing only a few vacant buildings, a nightclub and two transient hotels. The holdings span an area from the Fisher Freeway service drive to Grand Circus Park and all the space behind the Fox Theatre.

The Ilitches already have a huge presence in the area. Their Detroit Tigers play at Comerica Park across the street from the Fox Theatre. The company also owns Hockeytown restaurant on Woodward and the Detroit Life Building on Park, which the Ilitches intend to restore as a high-end residential development.

Olympia Development also has big plans in the adjacent Grand Circus Park area.

The company is looking for tenants for the possible redevelopment of a five-acre site that includes the United Artists Theatre building and the former Statler Hotel parcel, which is owned by the city. Olympia continues to market that site along with the city, including talking with Rock Financial/Quicken Loans about moving its headquarters there, Cullen said. Olympia is also seeking tenants for the former Madison-Lenox Hotel land, which is now a parking lot, and the Fine Arts building at 44 W. Adams, just north of Grand Circus Park.

While Ilitch Holdings remains mum about its plans regarding a new home for the Red Wings, other downtown property owners say they are counting on something big.

"Frankly, I think it's a logical place for a new hockey stadium" said Chuck Forbes, founder of Forbes Management whose company owns the Gem Theatre and the State Theatre just down the street from the Fox. Forbes also owns two properties on Park Avenue, the Women's City Club and the Colony Club buildings, and says he's already invested more then $700,000 in recent upgrades.

"We're talking about a formidable, unique district," Forbes said. "You have top-rated theaters, professional sports stadiums, upscale nightclubs, luxury housing. We're really optimistic of the opportunities back there."

Ilitch Holdings agreed the area has plenty of potential.

"If there are opportunities to purchase properties that are adjacent to ours, we take a look at those properties," Cullen said. "That area is a tremendous sports and entertainment district and we are committed to seeing that develop and grow."

Also near the Fox Theatre, the former C&C Bar at the corner of Cass Avenue and Columbia was partially demolished within the past month and is now being rebuilt. Ilitch Holdings does not own the property.

The Joe Louis Arena opened on the Detroit riverfront in 1979 after former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young built it to keep the Red Wings from moving to Oakland County. The team was under different ownership at the time. Joe Louis is the fifth-oldest arena in the National Hockey League. A new facility would bring the Wings at least $10 million in additional revenue each year from naming rights and luxury box sales alone.

You may want to review these posts...

--The Verifiable Truth:

Taxpayers give Ilitch $95,000 to tear down his building


Detroit DDA OKs $95,000 to tear down Ilitch-owned building

By Robert Ankeny

The Detroit Downtown Development Authority Wednesday authorized a $95,000 grant for an Ilitch Holdings L.L.C. company to demolish of the former Vermont Hotel at 138 Columbia, just west of Park Avenue.

The five-story building which formerly housed Haven Community Mission, was bought by Olympia Development of Michigan L.L.C. in 2001.

It is northwest of Grand Circus Park, behind the Fox Theatre, with much of the surrounding property owned by the Ilitches, who own the Detroit Red Wings.

Ilitch Holdings President Chris Ilitch said last year that company is studying whether to make major improvements at Joe Louis Arena or to plan construction of a new home for the Wings. There has been considerable speculation that a new arena could built in the area northwest of Grand Circus Park where the Vermont is to be demolished.

Karen Cullen, Ilitch Holdings vice president for communications, issued the follow statement in response to questions about planning for a hockey arena:

"Our organization is continuing to evaluate all options -- from a remodel of Joe Louis Arena to the building of a new arena at a new location. We have not made a final decision at this time. This is obviously a large and important project and proper evaluation is required. When we have a final decision and something to announce we will do so. All options and locations are still being studied.

Relative to the demolition of 138 W. Columbia, our organization continues to move forward in making improvements to the Foxtown Neighborhood. With the Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, our headquarters operations, soon-to-be renovated Detroit Life Building, Hockeytown Cafe and the numerous other businesses in and around us, we are continually looking for opportunities to make it a pleasant, clean and safe environment for visitors, colleagues and local residents.

The building at 138 W. Columbia is in disrepair and cannot be renovated. To meet the above stated goals for our neighborhood, demolition is the best answer."

Scott Veldhuis, project manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., which staffs the DDA, said the $95,000 demolition grant will come from the DDA’s building demolition program fund of $8 million that came from the state of Michigan.

Detroit-based Adamo Demolition Co. was low bidder at $77,800, with additional costs for environmental remediation and consulting fees.

The fund has already been used to demolish two other downtown buildings. One was at 150 Michigan Ave., where a parking garage is to be built for the renovated Westin Book Cadillac Detroit. The other, at 281 Gratiot, was a vacant night club between Broadway and Randolph at the entrance to Harmonie Park.

You may also want to review these posts...

--The Verifiable Truth:

Related posts at other blogs...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Corruption is systemic not party specific

On the Verge of Political Reform
Getting caught vs. coming clean

By David Sirota

Can you hear that sound coming from Washington? It is the Democrats licking their chops as Republicans seem to collapse under the weight of corruption scandals. With the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, on money-laundering charges, the salivating began. Then there was the guilty plea by Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Del Mar (San Diego County), on bribery charges. Now, with indicted Republican Jack Abramoff signing a plea agreement that could bring down other lawmakers, we detect a hungry growl from the minority party.

The Democrats' excitement is understandable: Republicans as a whole have clearly embarrassed themselves, with California Republicans leading the charge in making their party a national joke. First there was Cunningham. Then came Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands (San Bernardino County), who was exposed for using his powerful positions on the House Appropriations Committee to lavish taxpayer-funded contracts on lobbying clients of his close friend, lobbyist and former California Rep. Bill Lowery. Now, two more California congressmen, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin (Placer County), and Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, are implicated in the Abramoff scandal, having taken large campaign contributions from Abramoff's clients.

In short, the GOP has humiliated itself in a way that only reinforces an image of the party that the public already holds: too beholden to big-money interests.

But underneath all the Democratic Party excitement about the GOP's corrupt missteps, a question still lingers: Is it enough for national Democratic Party leaders to simply point out their opponents' flaws?

The answer is likely no, especially if the flaws are related to corruption. The fact is the public has long believed politicians of both parties are bought and paid for by special interests. And, by and large, the public is right. (Full Story)

Port Huron Casino backers help raise nearly $100,000 for Sen. Carl Levin

Yet further research of Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures and resources availabe from now indicates the backers of a proposal to build an off-reservation Indian casino in Port Huron, MI did more than contribute $18,400 to the political committee of Senator Carl Levin on March 30, 2007; it appears that Michael J. Malik Sr. and Detroit's Ilitch Family (Mike & Marian Ilitch and son Christopher Ilitch) were involved in hosting a fundraiser for Sen. Levin on a day when Sen. Levin brought in nearly $100,000.00 in political contributions.

In reports filed by Levin with the FEC, Malik and the Ilitch Family plus a number of their contract attorneys, lobbyists, consultants, service providers, Port Huron business partners, food supliers, vendors and employees' family members wrote to checks to Sen. Levin on March 30 -- on that one day, Sen. Levin reports receiving 105 checks totaling $96,910.00.

It all appears to be tied to backers of the Bay Mills Indian Community's Port Huron Casino proposal.

Click to see 3/30/07 Donor List

You may also want to review these posts...
--Port Huron :
--The Verifiable Truth:

Ilitch steals Anschutz exec gearing up for major Red Wings arena project


DETROIT - Dana Warg, a 26-year entertainment and sports facility operations expert, has been named president of Olympia Entertainment. In his new assignment Warg will direct one of the most diverse entertainment and sports companies in the United States. In addition to leading the company as it addresses future strategic growth and expansion opportunities, Warg will oversee the operation of Detroit's fabulous Fox Theatre, as well as booking and operations responsibilities for Joe Louis Arena, home to the Detroit Red Wings, Cobo Arena, City Theatre and various other venues in metro-Detroit. Warg will also coordinate the concert bookings and related entertainment activity at Comerica Park, home to the 2006 American League Champion Detroit Tigers...

Warg, comes to the Motor City from Los Angeles, where he most recently served as facilities senior vice president for AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) since October 2004, and oversaw the day-to-day booking and operations for all AEG owned and operated venues in the United States, England and Germany, including the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie (Texas), and the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (Las Vegas).

Warg replaces Randy Lippe, who was appointed senior executive, Arena Development, for Olympia Development in August 2006. Lippe has continued to oversee Olympia Entertainment while leading Olympia Development's efforts as it evaluates renovating Joe Louis Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings, or designing and building a new arena. Olympia Development is an Ilitch-owned real estate and community development company.

In addition to Olympia Entertainment, Ilitch-owned businesses (Ilitch Holdings, Inc.) in the food, sports and entertainment industries include: Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Olympia Development, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, MotorCity Casino, Uptown Entertainment, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, and a variety of venues within these entities. 2006 total combined revenues of Ilitch-owned companies exceeded $1.6 billion. (Full Story)

Olympia Entertainment

Olympia Entertainment as sports & entertainment co., owns Detroit's Fox Theatre; books & manages Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Cobo Arena & City Theatre. Owned by Mike & Marian Ilitch (Ilitch Holdings). They also own Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Little Caesars Pizza, MotorCity Casino.

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Editorial: Strict prohibitions on reservation-shopping and off-reservation gaming

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Our view: Gambling limits

Strict conditions proper for off-reservation casinos reaction?

Two decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the doors for Indian tribes to operate casinos, and the benefits have been impressive. Many tribes have converted the public's appetite for betting into a reliable revenue stream to address the socioeconomic needs of disadvantaged people.

Tribal gambling income differs from that in the profit-driven private sector. It is the equivalent of a tax base to pay for services a sovereign entity provides to its constituency. For that reason, the 1988 Indian Regulatory Gaming Act has been a success that must be preserved. Still, there needs to be limits.

The federal law allowed tribes and states to enter compacts so the tribes could operate casinos on lands held in trust for them in 1988. Only under a narrow set of conditions could they open casinos on lands they obtained after that date.

After 19 years, Northern Quest Casino, operated at Airway Heights by the Kalispel Tribe, is one of only three off-reservation casinos in the nation. That was due largely to the hostile topography on the Kalispel Reservation and a shortage of suitable water.

At present, however, about 30 tribes have proposals in the pipeline to build casinos on land off their reservations – and not because their land suffers the kind of challenges that hampered the Kalispels. Such an expansion of gambling would pose social problems serious enough to offset the benefits tribes have gained.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs recently warned in a letter to the Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon that approval for off-reservation casinos is going to become harder to get. If that prediction holds up, it's welcome news, but it appears to be based on political circumstances that are in flux.

The letter cites congressional efforts to clamp down on tribal casinos, but that came primarily from Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., who was defeated and whose party lost control of Congress. Moreover, the Bureau of Indian Affairs' cautionary letter to the Warm Springs is said to reflect the feelings of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, whose tenure will probably end when President Bush's does.

Meanwhile, considerable wealth and momentum are working in favor of a radical expansion of tribal gambling. The Mohegans of Connecticut – whose mammoth Mohegan Sun is set for a $750 million expansion – are bankrolling several other casino proposals around the country.

One would give the Cowlitz Tribe in southwest Washington one of the largest casinos in the country. The Mohegans even have their eyes on properties in the Caribbean.

The Kalispels were able to open Northern Quest because the law contained an exception to compensate them for an unavoidable disadvantage. Congress and others who share in the oversight role for tribal casinos, should keep it from being stretched into a loophole.

Casino backers deny thousands in contributions intended to influence U.S. Senator


Donations to Levin raise questions over casino
Contributors deny trying to win support

Times Herald

Pizza king Mike Ilitch, Port Huron philanthropist Jim Acheson and Detroit casino developer Mike Malik made generous donations this spring to the campaign of Michigan's senior senator.
Were those contributions more than coincidence?

A California blogger portrays the money as part of a full-court press to win Sen. Carl Levin's support for a casino at the Thomas Edison Inn. The donors themselves deny this, and the senator's office said he remains neutral, neither supporting the casino nor opposing it.

"He has not taken any position," Levin aide Tara Andringa said Monday. She also stressed there was "no reason to believe" the contributions had any connection to the casino.

On March 30, the final day of the quarterly reporting period, Levin's campaign received more than 100 contributions and nearly $97,000, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission. Several contributors have Port Huron or casino ties, including:
  • Mike Malik, a Clay Township native who proposes spending $300 million to build a 120,000-square-foot casino and 350-room resort hotel on the Edison Inn property and several adjacent parcels on St. Clair Street. He donated $4,600, the maximum allowed by federal law.

  • Jim Acheson, the millionaire philanthropist whose land-development company, Acheson Ventures, has a 10-year plan to revitalize more than a mile of riverfront property in Port Huron. He also gave $4,600.

  • Doug Austin, executive vice president of Acheson Ventures, who gave $4,600.

  • Mary Fletcher, who gave $4,600. She is the wife of attorney Gary Fletcher, whose law firm represents St. Clair County and numerous other local governmental bodies, including the municipalities and school districts in Port Huron and Marysville. He also advised the Thomas Edison Casino Committee, which won voter approval for a casino in a 2001 referendum.

  • Linda Anthony, the general manager of the Thomas Edison Inn, who gave $1,000.

Ilitches donate $13,800
Three members of the Ilitch family - Mike, Marian and Chris - also gave $4,600 apiece. The three are:

  • Mike Ilitch, founder of the Little Caesars pizza chain. He owns two professional sports franchises in Detroit, the Tigers and Red Wings, and has avoided direct dealings with gambling interests.

  • Marian Ilitch, owner of the MotorCity Casino in Detroit. She and Malik have pursued casino projects across the nation, from Long Island, N.Y., to Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. She repeatedly has stressed she has no financial stake in a proposed Port Huron casino.

  • Chris Ilitch, the son of Mike and Marian. He is the president and chief executive of Ilitch Holdings, which provides professional and technical services to the companies owned by his parents.

Donors reject speculation
The Verifiable Truth, a Web site that is often harshly critical of Malik and the Ilitches, speculated the March 30 contributions were coordinated by supporters of an off-reservation Indian casino in Port Huron.

"Reports filed by Sen. Levin reveal Malik and the Ilitch family likely called on a number of their contract attorneys, lobbyists, consultants, property managers, insurance companies, accountants, Port Huron business partners, food suppliers, vendors and employees' family members to write checks to Sen. Levin on March 30," said an analysis posted on the Web site,

Donors contacted by the Times Herald disputed the Web site's portrayal.

Austin acknowledged he and Acheson hope to influence the senator but not on behalf of the casino.

"The senator was a big supporter for the Detroit waterfront (revitalization)," he said, "and we're hoping for some federal help with our shoreline here in Port Huron."

Malik described his donation as routine.

"We give to our political representatives every year," he said. "It's nothing new, nothing different."

With the Red Wings playing a critical playoff game Monday night in San Jose, it was not possible to get immediate comment from the Ilitches. Karen Cullen of Ilitch Holdings said she would get a response from the family as soon as she could.

Levin seen as pivotal
Levin's support is seen as critical to the casino proposal, which requires congressional approval to move forward.

Past efforts to push the measure through Congress were stymied in both houses. Five years ago, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., blocked it in the Senate, where he is now majority leader. A later measure was killed in the House by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller indicated the proposal was languishing because it lacked the support of Levin and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

"If we had a united front, it would be much more helpful," she said.

Miller, R-Harrison Township, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, have battled on behalf of a Port Huron casino despite the strong opposition of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and other Detroit officials, who see it as competition for the three casinos in Michigan's largest city.

Levin, a former Detroit councilman, and Granholm, a former Wayne County official, have withheld their support despite arguments that a casino would be an economic boost for Port Huron, which has a double-digit unemployment rate and one of the nation's highest rates of mortgage foreclosures. The city itself is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Cliff Schrader, a former Port Huron councilman and a member of the Thomas Edison Casino Committee, predicted a casino never would be built without strong support from Levin, one the most influential figures on Capitol Hill with the Democrats in control of Congress.

"If he supports (a casino), it happens," Schrader said. "If he doesn't, it doesn't."

Donor plays key role
The Verifiable Truth, citing FEC records, said "Malik and his partners" have given freely to campaigns, including $117,000 to Stabenow, more than $75,000 to Miller and about $22,000 to Reid. However, the Web site also said it had found no past contributions from Malik to Levin.

"(Malik) had never contributed to (Levin), a man with a nearly 30-year history in Congress, although the 53-year-old Malik has lived a lifetime in Michigan and has been politically involved for years," the Web site said.

Of the nearly $97,000 in contributions made to Levin on March 30, about half came from donors with known ties to Malik, the Ilitches or Port Huron.

Those contributors included Lance Boldrey, an Okemos lawyer who gave $1,000. He has played a pivotal role in efforts to bring a casino to Port Huron.

On his last day in office in 2002, former Gov. John Engler - long an outspoken opponent of casino gambling - approved a deal giving the Bay Mills Indian Community the right to build a casino in Port Huron if it surrendered its long-standing claim to land at Charlotte Beach in the Upper Peninsula.

Boldrey, who served as Engler's deputy legal counsel, brokered the deal. He now specializes in the field of Indian law for the Dykema Gossett law firm.

Click to see 3/30/07 Donor List

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--Port Huron :
--The Verifiable Truth:

Monday, May 07, 2007

You can tell a lot about a Capitol Hill lobbyist by the company they keep

Richard “Rick” Alcalde is lobbyist for Michael J. Malik, Sr. and his Indian Casino partners the Shinnecock Indian Nation. Malik’s partner is Mrs. Marian Ilitch.

Lobbyist Richard Alcalde (Rick Alcalde), currently the principal at Potomac Partners D.C. contributed $8,500.00 to Members of Congress from January – March 2007. It’s not the amount that’s raising red flags, but the individual members of Congress to whom he wrote checks.

Among the six Members of the House he contributed to, Reps. Rick Renzi, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis and Gary Miller have each been placed on a list of “The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW).

FBI Investigators raided the Renzi family offices in Arizona and the Virginia home of John Doolittle in April. The pair has stepped down from some key committee assignments.

Former aides to or family members of Doolittle, Young, and Lewis are under investigation or have plead guilty to charges stemming from the Abramoff and Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham investigations. Neither Young nor Lewis have stepped down from any leadership positions.

Alcalde Contributions Jan – Mar 2007

[View Image] Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

[View Image] Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ)

[View Image] Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA)

[View Image] Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

[View Image] Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

[View Image] Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

[View Image] Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)

[View Image] Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA)

Detailed report compiled from

The Washington Post revealed that Alcalde had hired the stepdaughter of Rep. Lewis (she lives in Las Vegas) to provide counsel to Alcalde from time to time. And this past year, Alcalde hired the rookie son of Doolittle’s long-time political aide John Feliz to lobby for Native American casino interests (MJM Enterprises and the Shinnecock Indian Nation). The son, Daniel “Dan” Feliz, also has a side contract with Blue Water Resorts, another group tied to Indian casinos.

Alcalde has previous affiliation with the Federalist Group; Alcalde & Fay. He has also represented the Sault St Marie Tribe Chippewa Indians, Station Casinos, City of North Las Vegas, Nevada, City of Las Vegas, NV, Detroit International Bridge, Landon Companies (Daniel Aronoff) and others. Alcalde appears to have had some relationship with former PAC Treasurer/Lobbyist Barbara Bonfiglio (formerly of Williams & Jensen) who seems to have all but disappeared.

Secret deal would at least double size of tribes' twin casino mega resort holdings

Top Secret

Shrewd Detroit casino syndicators have secret side agreements to double, maybe triple, the size of tribes’ casino resort complexes in Barstow, CA

According to documents sent to, the Detroit casino developer Barwest has acquired another 75-100 acres of land in Barstow that it will “sell” to the Big Lagoon Rancheria and Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians after the tribes have 50-acres currently owned by Barwest taken into Trust by the U.S. Secretary of Interior; and complete development of their main casino and resort complexes in Barstow.

The additional 75-100 acres is contiguous to the two parcels, approximately 25-acres each, where both tribe plans their casinos, resort hotels, spas and convention facilities. By terms of this secret deal, ultimately the tribes would control a mega resort that was 125 to 150 acres anchored by two casinos – a far cry from the 20-acres the City of Barstow originally approved for the Los Coyotes Band of Indians.

Specifically, the secret agreement reads:

“Barwest has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire additional land to the south of the Site, bearing Assessors Parcel Nos. 0428-171-56, 54 and 57, and may acquire the parcel bearing Assessors Parcel No. 0428-171-55 (this land is collectively referred to herein as the “South Extension”). The Southern Extension shall be utilized for access, parking and other amenities common to the Project as a whole, and prior to opening of the gaming facilities shall be sold and conveyed to the Tribes for an amount equal to the actual costs and expenses incurred by BarWest with respect to the acquisition and development of the Southern Extension, including due diligence expense, closing costs and attorney fees, and divided in an equitable fashion that guarantees access and parking for both tribes.”

Blogger tells how Detroit Billionaires are getting rich off taxpayer subsidies and the public dole

Letters to the editor (Metro Times Detroit):

Some restoration
The Ilitch gang has been given a free ride in Detroit for too long, from the $8 million in public funds used to clean up the Fox to the barrel of public money they now expect to use to knock down the first in a handful of critical historic buildings they’ve managed to buy for speculation (“Whither Madison Lenox,” Metro Times).

If they were truly “big restorers,” then they’d have found uses for the buildings on Park Avenue they’ve been itching to level. And they’d have taken better care of the Adams Theatre, instead of allowing ever-growing holes in the roof. And they’d have sealed the United Artists Building well enough that it wouldn’t look like a Christmas tree with the recent spate of colorful graffiti in nearly every window.

That’s not to mention the gigantic land grab for Comerica Park or the numerous vacant lots Olympia owns and continues purchasing whenever possible.

I just hope the word gets out to a large enough local audience so that when the Red Wings come begging for another $100 million for a new arena, voters tell them to sell what they haven’t used already or go to hell.

—Michael Boettcher, Detroit

LA Times Editors back Gov. Schwarzenegger, urge Assembly to approve gaming compacts

May 5, 2007

Let casinos expand
The state assembly should approve the governor's tribal gaming plan to bring more revenue to California.

CALIFORNIA GOT A lousy deal after voters in 1998 and 2000 approved measures allowing Indian tribes to open casinos. The compacts negotiated by former Gov. Gray Davis didn't compel the tribes to give a cent of their earnings to the state. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is working to change that, but the state Assembly is standing in the way.

Last summer, Schwarzenegger struck deals with five Southern California tribes allowing them to expand their gambling operations well beyond their original limits. From 10,000 slot machines, they would be able to install 32,000 — enough to make some of these California gambling palaces far bigger than any Las Vegas casino. In return, they would have to give the state up to 25% of the revenue from the new machines. Opinions differ about how much money this would add to state coffers, but even the most conservative estimate suggests that it would amount to at least half a billion dollars a year within three to 10 years.

Despite that, the Legislature last year declined to approve the compacts. They got the OK last month from the state Senate but still face a tough fight in the Assembly, where Democratic lawmakers fret that the deals don't contain provisions making it easier for workers to unionize and don't allow for enough regulatory oversight.

The former isn't the state's problem — tribal lands are sovereign territories that make their own labor rules — but there's some reason for concern about the latter. Under the terms of the compacts, the California Gambling Control Commission is empowered to perform such critical oversight functions as financial audits on casinos, employee background checks and slot-machine testing. But the underfunded agency has been slow to do the job. Lawmakers upped the agency's budget last year, and as casinos expand they may have to do it again.

The growth of Indian casinos has prompted a lot of worries across the state, some legitimate and some less so. Neighbors whose communities are overrun with casino traffic have a legitimate beef, though they should be pleased with the governor's compacts; while formerly the tribes weren't required to do anything about such local effects, now they have to perform environmental studies and negotiate with local governments before expanding. The casinos haven't ended poverty on reservations, and the revenues they generate haven't been shared evenly, but they have brought hope and economic development to what were once tribal wastelands.

It's time for the Assembly to fold; the compacts are good for the tribes and taxpayers.

Rep. Doolittle's own words as published in an Auburn Journal op-ed

May 5, 2007

Moving forward: My right to the presumption of innocence and justice

By: John Doolittle
4th District Congressman
Since the genesis of our country, the presumption of innocence has served as the foundation of our judicial system.

Despite that fact, history is replete with examples of an overzealous government, press and public jumping to unfounded conclusions and destroying the reputations of innocent people in the process.

Many of us remember Ray Donovan, President Reagan's Secretary of Labor who was irresponsibly indicted for larceny and fraud. After the government provided little evidence that he had done anything wrong, a jury quickly acquitted Donovan of all counts.

Upon leaving the courthouse a beleaguered Donovan famously asked, "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?"

My wife, Julie, and I understand those feelings. Next month will mark three years since the government first contacted Julie with questions about her work for Jack Abramoff. Since then, Julie has been responsive to every request that the government has made of her. Despite that fact, we have been subjected to leaks by the government, which in turn have led to irresponsible speculation and sensationalized reporting by the media, which in turn has led to the erosion of support and trust of my constituents.

All of this activity culminated in last month's unnecessary search of our home which I am convinced had much more to do with an attempt to intimidate us and garner media attention than the pursuit of the truth.

In fact, the search occurred after my attorney had a meeting with the government, and I now believe that the search of our home was in large measure an attempt to strong arm my wife in order to get me to admit to a crime - a crime that I did not commit.

During the search, Julie was sequestered in the kitchen and not allowed to move without an escort. She was not even allowed to use the bathroom in our own home without an FBI agent escorting her there.

Then, the agents systematically searched our home, removing every book, turning over every couch cushion and every pot and pan, and rummaging through every drawer, file cabinet, cupboard and closet.

Even though the search warrant only pertained to items related to Julie's business, agents seized many personal items that clearly had no relevance to their investigation.

Julie's personal journals, sensitive information about our two children, phone lists and personal files were all taken and have yet to be returned. They even took her mobile phone and Ipod.

However, what is more revealing about the government's motives is what they left behind.

While the agents were busy rummaging through our personal items, they failed to take an accordion file with information about the work Julie did for Jack Abramoff, all of which was legitimate and legal.

Then four days later, details of the search were leaked to a Washington, D.C., newspaper.

I do not believe it was a coincidence that the leak came the day before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress on charges that his office was overly partisan in its firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, especially considering Gonzales specifically cited his recent prosecution of Republican members of Congress as evidence to the contrary.

In my mind, these events clearly indicate that there was more behind the search of our home than the pursuit of justice. As such and while my political opponents work to exploit this incident to further propagate speculation of my guilt, I ask my constituents to withhold judgment and stand with me in protecting my right and that of my wife to the presumption of innocence while we work to ensure that the truth is revealed.

In the interim, I will continue to perform my duties as the representative of this district to the best of my ability.

I will continue to return to my district to meet with my constituents and fulfill the commitment I made to them to be more accessible and responsive. I have been an effective representative for this region, and I am committed to remain one despite this unfortunate situation.

John T. Doolittle is a native of California, born in Glendale on October 30, 1950, and he has lived in Southern California, the Bay Area, and Sacramento. He is married to Julia Harlow and is father to son, J.T. and daughter, Courtney and in 2005 became a grandfather for the first time to Lorelai Taylor Doolittle.

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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.

NEWS: Marian Ilitch Mapping Social Networks

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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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