Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Former Pombo aide rumored to be lobbying House Members to support a Port Huron Casino

Although there are no official lobbying disclosure registrations on file, it's rumored that Tom Brierton, formerly senior staff to the House Resources Committee under then-Chairman Richard Pombo, has been lobbying hard in the House of Representaives to win support of H.R. 2176, the bill that would pave the way for an off-reservation Indian casino in Port Huron, Michigan.

Casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr. (Blue Water Resorts) and members of Detroit's Ilitch family (Mike Ilitch, Marian Ilitch and their children) are backing plans for the Bay Mills Indian Community to build a casino resort in Port Huron. Blue Water Resorts would apparently develop and manage the casino.

After Pombo failed to win re-election in 2006, he paid Brierton $13,000 for "political consulting." Brierton left the House of Representatives and started Franklin Creek Consulting in Lovettsville, Va. He's subsequently been a featured speaker at several major gaming industry conferences.

Prior to his years with the House Resources Committee, which has oversight for Indian gaming matters, Brierton learned the ropes on Capitol Hill as a staffer to Rep. Dennis Hastert; before the Illinois Republican became Speaker of the House. And prior to that Brierton had worked as a lobbyist in Washington. His Republican connections are said to be "considerable."

Malik along with Mike and Marian Ilitch were among Rep. Pombo's top 10 donors during the California Republican's final two terms in Congress. Malik was known to fly Pombo around in his partners' private jet.

In fact, controversy erupted in July 2005 when an AP reporter disclosed that Malik and the Ilitch Family had plans to host a high-priced ticket fundraiser for Pombo in their owner's box during the MLB All-Star Game in Detroit.

The fundraising bash took place a couple of days before Pombo was scheduled to hold hearings on matters impacting the Shinnecock Indian Nation. Malik and the Ilitch Family have partnered with the Shinnecock Indians on plans to develop a Long Island casino resort for in The Hamptons.

Funds raised at the All-Star Game fundraising event were never disclosed by Pombo's political committees leading to speculation that the funds were diverted elsewhere to shield the names of contributors.

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