Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tribe's contribution to Rep. Don Young's re-election committee not easily discoverable

The Bay Mills Indian Community contributed two checks totaling $5,000 to the re-election committee of Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on 4.01.08, April Fool's Day. But discovering that fact is no easy task.

The Bay Mills tribe was able to exploit a loophole in federal campaign finance laws which generally prohibit contributions from organizations, restricting donations to individuals. Most political data bases are built to track the first and last names of individual donors not the name of an organization. This makes discovering contributions from organizations like Indian tribes more difficult. Searching contributor lists using "Bay Mills Indian Community" is not likely to yield any references.

However, these two contributions were discovered after reviewing "Schedule A (Itemized Receipts)" of Young's quarterly disclosure report filed 7.15.08. That report covered his campaign committee's activity for the period 4.01.08 to 6.30.2008.

It's worthy noting that one day before the tribe made its two contributions, on 3.31.08, Young received several thousand dollars in checks from a deal maker who has pushed a scheme to develop a third Bay Mills casino and his D.C. lobbyists.

Five years ago Young co-authored H.R. 831 (108th Congress); and since then, he has worked to advance plans backed by casino syndicators who seek to exploit opportunities with the Bay Mills tribe in order to build a casino in Port Huron, Michigan.

In his most recent effort, Young helped to successfully shepherd H.R. 2176 through the House Natural Resources Committee last February. The bill, intended to pave the way for the proposed casino development, was approved by the Committee and reported out favorably on 2.13.08.

As noted above, on on March 31st & April 1st -- a little more than six week's after his success in the Natural Resources Committee -- the tribe, its casino syndicator and lobbyists representing their interests gave at least $11,000 to Young's committee.

Then on 6.25.08, Young led, with passion, debate on the floor of the House of Representatives in favor of H.R. 2176. However, his colleagues weren't buying it and overwhelming rejected the bill in a vote with an outcome of 121 yeas to 298 nays.

By posting the tribe's contributions on April 1st, Young was able to:
  • Avoid disclosing the contributions until after the 6.25.08 vote on the House Floor;
  • Report them separately from contributions made by their financial backers and lobbyists which were reported in the 1st Quarter '08 disclosures.

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