Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Even more connections between Michigan Casino Promoters and Rep. Rangel

There’s yet another direct connection between Michigan casino interests attempting to push their schemes through Congress and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY 15th), powerful Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.

In 2007, shortly before the introduction of H.R. 4115, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians switched lobbying firms and hired David Jones (Capitol Counsel LLC), a lobbyist who "The Hill" reports has been Rangel’s fundraiser for a decade. The Sault Tribe has paid Jones’ and his firm $500,000.

The Sault Tribe is one of two tribes with Reservations on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that had pushed the 110th Congress to approve H.R. 4115 and H.R. 2176, a sister bill advanced by backers of the Bay Mills Indian Community.

Both bills would have granted Congressional approval of questionable land claims settlement agreements. Those settlements were crafted to grant the tribes, and those bankrolling their plans, the right to build and operate tax-free off-reservation casinos some 300 miles away from their existing reservations in separate Detroit area suburbs (Romulus and Port Huron). Both tribes already own and operate casinos in Michigan.

The Bay Mills Indians have the backing of partners Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik, experienced Michigan gaming entrepreneurs. That pair is also bankrolling federal approvals for Indian casinos in New York & California. This week TVT reported that in 2007, several Ilitch/Malik casino affiliates and the Bay Mills Indians also added a new lobbyist with close ties to Rep. Rangel.

Annie Minguez, a personal assistant/legislative aide whom Rep. Rangel refers to by name in his 2007 memoir, left the New York Congressman’s office last year to join Wheat Government Relations and begin a career as a lobbyist.

The Wheat firm represents the Bay Mills Indian Community and other Ilitch/Malik related entities including Blue Water Resorts, Gateway Casino Resorts, and the Shinnecock Indian Nation. Minguez was quickly added to those clients' lobbying rosters. In all, entities connected to Ilitch/Malik paid the Wheat firm $640,000 in 2007-2008.

The Detroit Free Press previously reported on $30,000 in campaign contributions directed to Rep. Charles Rangel (D–NY 15th) by Malik and Ilitch.

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