Monday, June 16, 2008

Ex-Pombo aide waited months to disclose he’s been lobbying on matters considered by former colleagues

A one-time aide to former Rep. Richard Pombo has been lobbying on Capitol Hill for passage of H.R. 2176, an unprecedented bill that would pave the way for a Detroit casino syndicator and his Indian tribe partners to build an off-reservation casino in Port Huron, Michigan.

Tom Brierton, formerly senior staff to the House Natural Resources Committee when then-Rep. Pombo was chairman, has been lobbying for support of H.R. 2176 in the House of Representatives since February 1st; but didn’t report his activities to officials who monitor such lobbying activity for four months, until June 13.

The bill was heard and passed favorably out the House Natural Resources Committee during February; the committee Brierton, now apparently a lobbyist, had most recently served as senior staff. It's likely that Brierton was employed by the House Resources Committee just 12-18 months before he started lobbying on the matter. Similar bills on the matter failed to pass out of Committee during the 107th and 108th Congresses.

Further, when Brierton finally filed disclosures indicating he had been retained months earlier by Detroit casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr. to represent Malik’s casino development company MJM Enterprises (and an affiliate Blue Water Resorts), Brierton failed to disclose as required that he had previously been a senior staff official to the House Resources Committee – the primary committee to hear Indian gaming matters like H.R. 2176.

After the House Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 2176, the House Judiciary Committee reviewed the matter in March and April, and voted unanimously to oppose the bill.

At congressional committee hearings, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and others called for investigations into the schemes promoted by private developers to acquire land in the 110-acre Charlotte Beach subdivision on Michigan's Upper Penninsula and then leverage Indian claims to such land in exchange for the rights to develop gambling 350 miles away in Port Huron.

Is it possible that for months others have also been lobbying on behalf of Malik's off-reservation casino scheme but have yet to officially report their activities?

Some suggest former Rep. Richard Pombo -- immediate past chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and someone who received thousands of dollars in political contributions from Mike Malik and Malik's partners Mike and Marian Ilitch -- has been spotted at congressional hearings on this matter and could be lobbying in support of H.R. 2176.

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