Saturday, June 14, 2008

Former Pombo aide reveals he has been lobbying for Detroit casino syndicator

Four months after the fact, Thomas "Tom" Brierton, a one-time senior aide to the House Resources Committee under then-chairman Rep. Richard Pombo, has registered as a lobbyist representing entities controlled by Detroit casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr.

Brierton now reports he has been actively lobbying members of the House of Representaives since 2.01.08 in support of H.R. 2176; but he delayed filing lobbying disclosures until 6.13.08 -- more than four months after the fact.

Disclosures that Brierton has been retained by MJM Enterprises and Blue Water Resorts, were filed approximately 36 hours after TVT reported rumors that Brierton had been agressively lobbying House members to support Malik's casino plans.

One must wonder when Brierton would have made required disclosures had we not exposed his efforts at this time.

What other undisclosed resources are being leveraged by Malik to pass H.R. 2176? Who else is delaying disclosures? Richard Pombo has been spotted in attendance at hearings on H.R. 2176. Some insiders suggest Pombo too may be lobbying to pass the bill.

If passed in the House, and subsequently in the Senate, H.R. 2176 paves the way for Malik to develop and manage an off-reservation casino in Port Huron, Michigan, in partnership with the Bay Mills Indian Community.

Along with the support from members of Detroit's Ilitch family, Malik has been attempting to site an off-reservation casino with the Bay Mills tribe at various locations in southeast Michigan for more than a decade.

Malik, Mike and Marian Ilitch, and members of the Ilitch family, were among former Rep. Richard Pombo's top ten donors during the period Brierton worked as a senior aide to Pombo. They also fronted travel expenses for Pombo and House Natural Resources Committee ranking member, Rep. Don Young.

After Pombo failed to win re-election in 2006, he used campaign funds to pay Brierton $13,000. Brierton subsequently left employment in the House of Representatives.

American RadioWorks reports that from 2003-2005, while Brierton was with the office of Rep. Richard Pombo, he took seven trips financed by special interest groups and totalling $8,581.53. Among those paying Brierton's travel expenses at the time: SODAK Gaming, Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Government.

In between stints in Congress, Brierton was registered as a lobbyist for two firms: Janus-Merritt Strategies and Williams, Mullin et. al. Brierton's clients included the Interactive Gaming Council, National Indian Gaming Assoc., and Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

Brierton's current lobbying firm is Franklin Creek Consulting. In 2007 his firm registered to lobby on behalf of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians and California Cities for Self Reliance.

In finally filing lobbying registration forms on 6.13.08, Brierton failed to disclose his previous tenure in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, where he served as deputy director for the Subcommittee on the Census in the late 1990s.

Focus on the Family suggests boycott of Ilitch Holdings brands

As published by Focus On The Family at
Pizza! Pizza! Casino! Casino!

Before you order another pizza from Little Caesar's, consider the following: Marian Ilitch and her husband, Michael Ilitch — Michigan residents — are the founders and owners of Little Caesar's Pizza chain. They also own the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers (see Ilitch Holdings). Nothing wrong here, as eating pizza and attending sports events are great family activities.

Unfortunately, the Ilitch's are also partners in putting up the money for a casino bid by New York's Shinnecock tribe, and Marian Ilitch recently won state approval to become sole owner of Motorcity Casino in Detroit. Something is wrong here. Gambling exploits children and adults, ultimately destroying families.

The Ilitch's are sending a mixed message: they are supporting family-friendly activities while investing in an industry that exploits people and ruins families.

Maybe Michigan citizens should send them a clear message: "We don't fund gambling ventures through family-oriented activities."

Contact Little Caesar's and encourage Marian and Michael Ilitch not to support anti-family industries like gambling.

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.

Is former Rep. Richard Pombo working to advance the interests of Detroit casino syndicators?

Although he has yet to file official disclosure documents, Capitol Hill insiders are reporting that former Rep. Richard Pombo has been retained to represent interests of Michael J. Malik, Sr. and Mrs. Marian Ilitch.

Pombo who failed to win re-election to his 8th term in Congress back in November 2006, was prohibited from lobbying for at least 12 months.

Pombo has been employed as Senior Partner at PAC/West Communications, "a full service political public relations firm with offices from California to Washington, D.C., since 2006."

Detroit casino syndicators Michael Malik and the Ilitch Family were among Pombo's top political donors. They hosted a controversial fundraiser for Pombo at Major League Baseball's 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit. The fundraiser was scheduled two days before the Pombo-chaired House Resources Committee was scheduled to hear matters involving Malik/Ilitch Native American Partners. They flew him around in their private jets. They raised thousands more from friends, associates and vendors to their various business enterprises. A casino entity they formed to develop casinos in California was fined in 2006 for failing to report a $26,000+ contribution to Pombo's local GOP Victory Committee.

Originally posted 2/12/08

Monday, June 09, 2008

BIA to review Barwest/Los Coyotes off-reservation casino plan again

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is giving an off-reservation casino in California a second review after it was rejected by former assistant secretary Carl Artman. This latest off-reservation scheme is another attempt by Detroit-based casino syndicators to establish gambling in Barstow, CA.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on 6.06.08, the BIA said it will prepare another Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the off-reservation casino sought by the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and CupeƱo Indians and its partners at Detroit-based Barwest LLC (Marian Ilitch and Michael J. Malik, Sr.). Ilitch and Malik were behind the push to establish gambling in Detroit, MI; and Ilitch is the owner of Detroit's MotorCity Casino. For more than a decade, Malik has been trying to push plans through Congress for another off-reservation casino in Port Huron, MI.

According to the Notice, the Los Coyotes tribe seeks to acquire 45 acres in Barstow, more than 100 miles from its reservation. The 45-acre parcel, and at least another 50 acres or more, are currently controlled by Barwest's Michael Malik.

Through Barwest, Malik and Marian Ilitch would transfer title over the property to be held in trust for the San Diego-based Los Coyotes tribe. In exchange, the casino syndicators get the exclusive rights to develop and manage the future casino and resort. Malik and Ilitch could take as much as 30% of the tribe's annual casino earnings back to Detroit.

Artman rejected the Barwest/Los Coyotes project in January because he said the gaming site was too far from the reservation. However, the Los Coyotes tribe, encouraged by its financial backers, renewed the proposal.

The Big Lagoon Rancheria was part of Barwest's previous proposal for a dual-casinos resort project in Barstow but the Rancheria is no longer seeking an off-reservation casino. That previous dual-casinos plan would have split the 45-acre parcel between the two tribes.

Now, Barwest seeks to transfer its entire 45-acre Barstow parcel for the exclusive use of the Los Coyotes tribe. A Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) between the Los Coyotes tribe and the City of Barstow allows for a Los Coyotes casino resort project not to exceed 20 acres. This latest scheme is more than twice that size.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected plans for a Los Coyotes stand-alone casino on 20-acres in Barstow. And in 2006 & 2007, the California Legislature failed to approve plans for the proposed dual-casinos resort.

The 6.06.08 Federal Register Notice gives the public until July 7th to comment on "what should be covered" in the new EIS.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ilitch-owned Barwest finally reveals relationship with CA lobbying firm

According to details posted at CalAccess, the California Secretary of State's lobbying and political campaign disclosures Web site; as of 5.12.08, Detroit-based Barwest LLC has finally revealed it is a California "lobbyist employer." Previously Barwest failed to report as a "lobbyist employer" even though it was making back-door payments to several Sacramento-based lobbying firms representing its casino gaming interests.

Barwest LLC, a company formed by Mrs. Marian Ilitch and casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr., reports employing the Sacramento lobbying firm Governmental Advocates, Inc., to represent the company's California gaming interests.

Ilitch and Malik have previously proposed several failed casino schemes for Barstow, CA. In 2004, their original plans for a stand-alone casino failed to win approval from Governor Schwarzenegger; and then, another plan for a larger resort project with two side-by-side casinos failed to win support in the legislature during both 2006 & 2007.

Barwest's on-again/off-again gaming partner, the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians, terminated its lobbying arrangement with Governmental Advocates in April. Last Fall, Los Coyotes' former chairwoman Katherine Siva Saubel terminated the tribe's partnership agreement with Barwest. In doing so, the widely respected Native American elder referred to Barwest's Mike Malik as "the devil."

It's understood that California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has an ongoing investigation into irregularities in the reporting of campaign contributions and lobbying expenses paid by Michael Malik, Barwest (Malik/Ilitch) and the Los Coyotes Band of Indians.

Among other things, irregularities in California campaign disclosure documents suggest Governmental Advocates, Inc., may have inappropriately been involved funneling funds from Barwest's Michael J. Malik, Sr., to several state legislators.

And, although Governmental Advocates received several hundred thousand dollars in back-door lobbying payments from Barwest in the past; neither the lobbying firm, Barwest or Malik have ever disclosed any formal lobbying engagement until last month.

San Francisco attorney Michael Yaki -- who claimed previously to represent the Los Coyotes Band of Indians, despite being paid for his services by Barwest LLC -- is now noted as the casino syndicator's legal counsel and lobbying agent according to the 5.12.08 lobbying disclosures.

Yaki was at the center of financial discrepancies reported in lobbying disclosure documents filed throughout 2006. In February 2007, Yaki was forced to amend the Los Coyotes tribe's entire 2006 lobbying disclosures. Yaki had significantly understated what were represented as the Los Coyotes tribe's payments to lobbyists.

In 2006, Barwest was fined by California's FPPC on two counts of failing in 2004 to disclose a $26,000 political campaign contribution.

Los Coyotes tribe terminates second Sacramento lobbying firm

According to details posted at CalAccess, the California Secretary of State's lobbying and political campaign disclosures Web site, the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians has (as of 4.30.08) terminated its engagement of the Sacramento lobbying firm Governmental Advocates, Inc.

The tribe also reports terminating San Francisco-based attorney Michael Yaki as its lobbying officer.

The tribe terminated its arrangement with another lobbying firm, Capitol Ventures, Roseville, last October (10.29.07). That's the firm former California legislator Keith Olberg formed specifically to represent the Los Coyote tribe's casino partner, Detroit-based Barwest.

Barwest was formed by Mrs. Marian Ilitch (owner of Detroit's MotorCity Casino and wife of Detroit Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch) and casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) apparently has an ongoing investigation into irregularities in the reporting of campaign contributions and lobbying expenses paid by Michael Malik, Barwest (Malik/Ilitch) and the Los Coyotes Band of Indians.

During the last several legislative sessions, the lobbying firms failed to help Barwest and the Los Coyotes tribe advance bills to approve plans for their off-reservation casino in Barstow, CA.

Patton Boggs registers as D.C. lobbyist for Barwest; same casino syndicators under investigation in CA

Patton Boggs LLP, the number one lobbying firm in Washington D.C., has officially registered as lobbyist for the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians and the tribe's partner Barwest, a casino company formed by Mrs. Marian Ilitch (wife of Detroit Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch) and Michael J. Malik, Sr.

While Heather Sibbison and other Patton Boggs lobbyists have appeared before various government agencies on behalf of Barwest in the past, the firm hasn't previously registered as lobbyists for the casino syndicator or its tribal partner. Sibbison and Patton Boggs have represented other casino gaming partners tied to Malik and Ilitch.

For the first quarter of 2008, Barwest paid Patton Boggs $50,000, likely for services rendered to push forward plans by Barwest (Malik/Ilitch) and the Los Coyotes tribe to develop an off-reservation casino in Barstow, CA. The Los Coyotes tribe paid nothing to Patton Boggs for representation during the first quarter of 2008.

These recent disclosures represent the first time that any Washington, D.C., lobbying firm has officially reported an engagement with the Los Coyotes tribe. In the past, other lobbying firms have disclosed their representation of Barwest and Michael Malik on matters related to a proposed Los Coyotes off-reservation casino; but never the tribe.

Dating back to 2005, Barwest engaged the services of Wheat Government Relations, a D.C. firm founded by former Congressman Alan Wheat. While Wheat Government Relations remains registered as lobbyist for Barwest; however, the Wheat firm has reported "no activity" on behalf of Barwest for more than two years.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) apparently has an ongoing investigation into irregularities in the reporting of campaign contributions and lobbying expenses paid by Mike Malik, Barwest (Malik/Ilitch) and the Los Coyotes Band of Indians.

In recent years, several California lobbying firms have registered as lobbyists for the Los Coyotes Band of Indians. Reports filed by the tribe and these lobbying firms indicate discrepancies in payments made and received. That's most likely because the tribe never actually made any direct payments to the lobbying firms.

Rather, the tribe's gaming partner, Barwest, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in back-door payments to the California lobbying firms but Barwest (Mike Malik & Marian Ilitch) failed to register as a "lobbyist employer" and failed to make appropriate disclosures that would be required under California law.

Further, there are irregularities in California campaign disclosure documents that suggest one lobbying firm, Governmental Advocates, Inc., may have inappropriately been involved in funneling funds to candidates from Michael J. Malik, Sr. Although that firm has received payments from Barwest, neither the firm, Barwest or Malik have ever reported any formal lobbying engagement.

Several California legislators who may have inappropriately received funds from Malik via the lobbying firm (Senator Roy Ashburn, Assemblywoman Patty Berg) were also sponsors of a 2007 bill in the California legislature that would have granted legislative approvals for Barwest and the Los Coyotes tribe to build their Barstow casino. The bill failed.

In 2006, Barwest was fined by the FPPC on two counts for failing to report a $26,000 contribution Barwest paid in 2004 to the County GOP Campaign Committee of former Rep. Richard Pombo. At the time, Pombo was chairman of the House Resources committee and had oversight for Indian Gaming matters.

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