Friday, July 11, 2008

Ilitch-owned MotorCity Casino revenues down 10 percent


MGM Grand gambling revenue jumps in June

By Robert Ankeny

MGM Grand Detroit Casino L.L.C. reported gambling revenue of almost $48.7 million for June 2008, up more than 26.2 percent over the same month last year.

The increase kept total revenue for the three Detroit casinos within one percent of June 2007 revenue, as MotorCity Casino, operated by Detroit Entertainment L.L.C., and Greektown Casino L.L.C. reported declines of 10 percent and 18.5 percent respectively, the Michigan Gaming Control Board reported Friday.

MotorCity reported revenue of $38.1 million and Greektown $23.2 million for June 2008.

Casino revenue is the portion of money gambled that the casinos keep after paying winners but before paying taxes, utilities, wages and other expenses.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barstow's Official 2008 Lobbying Priorities

The Desert Dispatch reported these 2008 lobbying priorities as set by Mayor Lawrence Dale and his Barstow City Council:

State Lobbying Priorities
• Funding for the Lenwood Road grade separation project
• Assistance with the proposed destination resort or casino
• Provide continued funding to the Veterans Home of California in Barstow
• Support the widening of State Highway 58
• Support Barstow’s military bases and their role in the Department of Defense
• Review any legislation or administrative actions affecting water issues in the Mojave River Basin

Federal Lobbying Priorities
• Funding for the city’s sewer master plan
-- 2005 Earmark $1.2 million
• Provide continued funding to the Veterans Home of California in Barstow
• Support Barstow’s military bases and their role in the Department of Defense
• Review any legislation or administrative actions affecting water issues in the Mojave River Basin

Barstow looks for a new lobbyist


City looking for new state lobbyist

By Aaron Aupperlee, city editor

BARSTOW — The city will be looking for a new person to bring the concerns of Barstow to Sacramento.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to cancel an existing contract with Nick Medeiros for state lobbying services and to put that position out to bid.

Council member Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, who along with Mayor Lawrence Dale requested that the Council review the contract, said the decision to look for a new lobbyist was not made because the Council was unhappy with Medeiros. She felt that the contract, which was last updated in 1994, and the position needed to be examined.

The city paid Medeiros $2,500 a month to represent the interests of the city to members of the state legislature and other state government agencies. Medeiros has been the city’s state lobbyist since 1989.

Medeiros said he was not surprised that Council did not re-approve the contract. He said the Council has done this before. In 2004, the City Council voted 3-2 to look for a new lobbyist. Medeiros re-applied for the job and was awarded to the contract. Medeiros will be able to re-apply for the position this time as well.

Busy with the state’s budget crisis, Medeiros said he has not thought about whether to put in for the position again or not. “I really haven’t decided yet,” he said. “It’s up to the City Council.”

According to past reports, Medeiros lobbied hard to get a Veterans Home of California built in Barstow in 1997. Of late, Medeiros worked on the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon Indian casino project for Barstow at the state level. The two tribes wanted to build a casino in Barstow instead of their own reservations. The compacts giving Barstow an Indian casino did not pass the state legislature in 2007, effectively killing the project.

Hackbarth-McIntyre said that the project’s failure had nothing to do with Council’s decision Monday night. She attributed the legislative defeat to the other Southern California gaming tribes.

“I think we can chalk that up to the big tribes,” she said.

The city is starting to look for new projects to be brought the state legislature, Hackbarth-McIntyre said. She said the Council is developing a new list of projects, objectives and goals and hopes to be able to send out the list when the position goes out for bid.

You may want to review these related posts:

Nick Medeiros has been the registered Sacramento lobbyist for the City of Barstow. Medeiros registered as the lobbyist for Big Lagoon Rancheria in August 2005.

A Pacific Business News story dated 12.19.03 indicates that Marketing Resource Group (BarWest's PR firm) hired Medeiros and several others to promote a plan to legalize gambling in Hawaii. That plan was backed by the same behind BarWest -- Michael Malik and Marian Ilitch. They paid the treo of lobbyists $152,699 for their work in Hawaii.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pombo and Ding out at Pac/West Communications?

Eighteen months ago (Feb. '07), Pac/West Communications announced that former Rep. Richard Pombo had joined the firm as senior partner. Weeks earlier, Pombo's former chief-of-staff Steve Ding had joined Pac/West to open a Sacramento office for the firm.

Blogger Hank Shaw has been tracking the latest meddling by Pombo and Ding in the race to succeed Rep. John Doolittle (CA-4th). An FEC complaint alledges wrongdoing by Pombo and Ding in that race.

Pombo and Ding are behind an advocacy group, The Parternship for America, which the complaint says is coordinating political activity with Tom McClintock's campaign committee. Pombo's been national chair of Partnership for America since May 2007.

But here's the more interesting news ...

In his research, Shaw has discovered that Pac/West's Web site no longer makes any mention of either Pombor or Ding; suggesting the pair is out at Pac/West.

Shinnecock security guards going to extremes on Westwoods property


Trustees continue to investigate beach access issue
By Vera Chinese

Southampton Village resident Timothy Corwin is still awaiting an explanation as to why he was accosted—and allegedly threatened—by a security guard for the Shinnecock Indian Nation while walking along the beach last summer on the tribe’s Westwoods property, which overlooks Peconic Bay in Hampton Bays.

“They said they had the authority to drop me where I stood,” Mr. Corwin, who later reported the incident to the New York State Police and Southampton Town Trustees, said of the lone security guard. “I would take that as a physical threat, but I didn’t see any point in getting into fisticuffs with the guy.”

According to Mr. Corwin, he was walking on the beach below the high water mark—an area that is traditionally governed by the Southampton Town Trustees, in accordance with the Dongan Patent, and accessible to all town residents.

Mr. Corwin’s encounter was not an isolated incident. Last month, four people were injured in a brawl after authorities said two Shinnecock tribe members approached a group of young adults who were hanging out on the beach along the Westwoods property. State Police said the fight started after the two Shinnecocks told group members that they were trespassing on tribal property. One of the victims had to be airlifted to the hospital after being hit in the head with an unidentified object, and two other men suffered injuries after they were swatted with burning logs from a nearby bonfire. One of the Shinnecocks suffered a broken wrist during the melee, police said...

Undermining that argument is a ruling last year by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco. He determined that the Westwoods property, which is located north of Newtown Road, cannot be considered sovereign tribal land. In his October 2007 ruling, Judge Bianco said the land cannot be sovereign because the tribe had relinquished its ownership for a time in the 1600s. Therefore, the judge said, a gaming facility cannot be built on the property once the Shinnecocks receive federal recognition.

According to the 130-page ruling, the Westwoods property is not exempt from Southampton Town zoning laws and must comply with residential zoning. That would mean that Southampton Town residents are allowed to be on the beach, below the high water mark, as is true throughout the town. If this is the case, then the Shinnecocks would not be within their rights to block people from walking below the high water mark... (
Complete Story)

Did Wal-Mart & Detroit casino financiers influence Young's support for Barstow earmark?

The Desert Dispatch has reported an update on the plans to build a one-million square foot Wal-Mart Distribution Center is Barstow, CA. As disclosed in the Desert Dispatch, Wal-Mart's regional warehouse for both dry and frozen goods will be built along Lenwood Road north of Jasper Road and southeast of the High Desert Estates housing area in Barstow.

A review of a map provided in the Desert Dispatch illustrates the Wal-Mart project's proximity to the site of a railway bridge/grade separation project that's being funded with a $1.2 million earmark that Rep. Don Young included in the 2005 highway spending bill -- at the time, Young was chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That construction project, "Lenwood Road Grade Separation," includes lowering the existing grade of Lenwood Road where it intersects with the BNSF Railway and building bridge across Lenwood Road to accomodate railroads.

Clearly such a project is necessary to accomodate all of the large truck traffic that will be coming and going from the Wal-Mart's planned distribution hub.

The "Lenwood Road Grade Separation" is one of Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale's two pet projects . The other is a casino resort project proposed for Barstow by Detroit-based Barwest LLC. Michael Malik and Marian Ilitch formed Barwest LLC in 2003 to promote their various casino proposals in Barstow. They would build and manage any Barstow casino resort.

Dale, a retired BNSF employee, has taken extreme measures to guarantee Malik/Ilitch exclusive rights to any future casino development in Barstow. His passion for Barwest suggest Malik & Ilitch have offered other incentives for Mayor Dale to back them exclusive -- like using their influence with Young to get $1.2 million for Dale's other pet project.

Malik and Ilitch family members are linked to Rep. Young and have influenced Young to back other projects like their proposal for an Indian casino in Port Huron, Michigan. Young attempted to advance that project for Malik/Ilitch using earmarks inserted in SAFETEA-LU 2005.

In 2005, BarWest paid nearly $6,000 to fly Young in a private jet. Malik (MJM Enterprises) has employed several of Young's "A-Team" of lobbyists (Rick Alcalde/Potomac Partners D.C. and Billy Evans, Kessler & Associates) and paid their firms nearly $1.5 million.

Malik and members of the Ilitch family were among Young’s top donors during the 2005/06 election cycle. They have personally contributed more than $23,000 to Young (and his Midnight Sun PAC) and helped raise thousands more in additional funds from their associates. They've contributed more than $95,000 to the two GOP committees responsible for re-electing GOP Members of Congress and at least $50,000 to the Republican National Committee.

Taxpayers for Common Sense previously reported that Young's 2005 bill (SAFETEA-LU 2005; so named in honor of Young's wife Lu) included a $34 million earmark for the widening and extension of a road in Bentonville, Arkansas, that is the main access point to the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. According to TPM Muckraker, Young collected $14,000 from Wal-Mart's PAC and executives around the time the 2005 bill passed.

On his own merit, Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale wouldn't have the juice to line up the $1.2 million Lenwood Road Grade Separation earmark. So the question is how much influence did Wal-Mart and/or Michael Malik assert with Alaska's Rep. Don Young?

And further, did BNSF Railroad rely soley on the volunteer lobbying effort's of a retiree, Mayor Lawrence Dale; or did BNSF lobbyists also weigh in? BNSF lobbyist Jack Ferguson -- another of Young's "A-Team" lobbyists -- joined a small group, that included Malik and Acalde, which contributed a total of $17,000 to Young on 3.31.08.
You may also want to review these related posts:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Young used a generic highway earmark as vehicle to slip through approval of Michigan Indian casino

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) was chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee through 2006.

Under Young's leadership, a $100,000 earmark for a Port Huron transportation study was inserted into a bill (H.R. 3550) that would eventually become the 2005 federal highway spending bill. The earmark was actually intended to quietly slip through congressional approval of a Port Huron Indian casino backed by Michael Malik, members of Detroit's Ilitch family, so-called "A-Team" lobbyists close to Young (Richard Alcalde, Billy Evans, Williams & Jensen) and the Bay Mills Indian Community.

Here's an excerpt from the bill that was reported out favorably by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chaired by Young:

To authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes:

SEC. 1209. (e) Port Huron, Michigan –

(1) Traffic study- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary $100,000 for a traffic study to be conducted in Port Huron, Michigan, in connection with economic development that may result from the implementation of the agreement of the State of Michigan resolving a title dispute concerning certain property, executed on August 23, 2002, and filed with the Michigan department of State on September 20, 2002.

(2) Ratification of agreement- The agreement is hereby ratified.

(3) Treatment of certain lands- The alternative lands described in the agreement shall be treated as meeting the requirements of section 20(b)(1)(B)(i) of Public Law 100-497 (25 U.S.C. 2719(b)(1)(B)(i)).

(4) Trust- The Secretary of the Interior shall take the alternative lands into trust for the benefit of the non-State party within 60 days of the non-State party's acquisition of the land described in section 4 of the agreement.

(5) Extinguishment of claim- Upon implementation, the claim to the lands of the non-State party described in section 1 of the agreement is hereby extinguished.

Note: the language is carefully crafted so that there was no reference to IGRA, the Bay Mills Indian Community, Charlotte Beach Land Claims, casino development or other key words that would be a tip-off to those who might be tracking or interested in the approval of an off-reservation casino in Port Huron.

You may also want to review these posts:

Did earmarks guarantee exclusive casino development rights for Young's pal?

Why would BarWest LLC, a Detroit-based gaming entity with plans to build casinos in Barstow, CA, front nearly $6,000 in travel costs to fly Rep. Don Young (AK-1) in a private jet?

Did gambling man Michael Malik guarantee himself exclusive rights to casino development in Barstow by using his influence with Rep. Don Young to help Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale secure funding for his pet railroad projects?

BarWest LLC was formed 2.03.03 by Michigan casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr. and his billionaire partner Mrs. Marian Ilitch. She owns Detroit’s MotorCity Casino, the Detroit Red Wings and Little Caesars Pizza. They are behind plans to build Indian casinos in Barstow; Port Huron, MI; and Long Island, NY.

Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale was first elected in 2000. Dale was a life-long employee of BNSF Railroad. Even as a retiree, Dale works tirelessly "lobbying" on BNSF's behalf. Dale’s had two priorities during his nearly eight years in office: (1) create a rail transportation and distribution hub in Barstow and (2) secure local, state and federal approval of BarWest's plans to develop casinos and a resort in Barstow.

Dale has dedicated significant resources attracting local, state and federal funding to pay for the construction of a railroad bridge crossing over Lenwood Road in Barstow -- his efforts were even lauded in a BNSF employee newsletter. The project would help further his vision for a regional rail and distribution hub.

And Dale’s taken extreme measures to shutdown other developers and ensure that he can guarantee BarWest exclusive rights to any casino development in Barstow. It’s clear by Dale’s actions that he is getting some additional incentive to stick exclusively with BarWest (Malik/Ilitch).

Malik and members of the Ilitch family were among Young’s top donors during the 2005/06 election cycle. They have personally contributed more than $23,000 to Young (and his Midnight Sun PAC) and helped raise thousands more in additional funds from their associates. They've contributed more than $95,000 to the Republican Congressional Committees and at least $50,000 to the Republican National Committee.

In January 2005, Barwest paid $6,000 to fly Young around in a private jet; and then again in 2005, Malik paid another $4,000 to fly Young around in the private jet again.

And in June 2005, Michigan bar and restaurant owners raised $10,000 for Young's campaign fund. Did Malik fly Young to Michigan for the fundraiser?

Michael Malik (MJM Enterprises) retains Richard Alcalde (Potomac Partners D.C.) as his lobbyist. Alcalde has been identified as one of Young’s “A-Team” lobbyists.

Alcalde is embroiled in an investigation into circumstances surrounding a $10 million 2005 earmark for a Florida road project that was shepherded by Young. Reportedly Alcalde leveraged his relationship with Young and mutual interests shared by several clients to secure the $10 million earmark.

Since 2005, Malik and a partner (Shinnecock Indian Nation) have paid Alcalde $960,000

Young was chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee through 2006. In order to bypass traditional congressional casino approvals, Young attempted to bury a minor $100,000 earmark for a Port Huron transportation study into the 2005 federal highway spending bill; and then slipped subtext into that earmark intended to grant Malik approvals he needed for his Port Huron casino scheme. That language was removed in the final spending bill.

However, the final version of the 2005 federal highway spending bill did include a $1.2 million earmark for construction of Mayor Dale’s Lenwood Road grade separation project. And the spending bill also included a $992,000 earmark for preparation of a study on a proposed Los Angeles to Las Vegas high speed rail project (MagLev) that would go right through Barstow.

In addition to representing Malik's interests, Alcalde is also the lobbyist for American Magline Group, an entity that is behind the MagLev high speed rail project. Since 2001, American Magline Group has paid Alcalde’s firms $950,000.

The Barstow rail station is halfway between L.A. and Las Vegas. A city publication explains that in 2002, Dale signed a cooperative agreement with Magline pledging financial support and cooperation for the MagLev project; and Dale's resume notes he is the public member of various MagLev agencies.

Originally planned to make minimal stops between L.A. and Las Vegas, Dale secured commitments to ensure Barstow is a destination along the high speed train route. Dale's counting on the high speed train bringing people from the Los Angeles area to the BarWest Casino Resort that he and Malik have planned for Barstow.

Consider that the players were able to leverage their resources and relationships to secure at least $2 million in federal funding; and create other long term win:win outcomes for Alcalde, Dale, Malik, Young, BarWest, BNSF and American Magline Group.

Monday, July 07, 2008

McClintock's campaign manager has ties to scandals involving Reps. Doolittle and Young

The son of Tom McClintock's campaign manager is employed by the lobbyist who's at the center of the scandal involving Rep. Don Young and a controversial $10 million Coconut Road, FL, earmark.

This spring, McClintock relocated 350 miles to Northern California so he could run in the race to replace Rep. John T. Doolittle in the state's 4th CD. Doolittle is under investigation in the wake of the Abramoff scandal and decided not to seek re-election.

McClintock's campaign manager is GOP political operative John Feliz. Feliz has ties to Doolittle, Richard Pombo and others who've been the targets of recent corruption probes. In fact, Feliz helped Doolittle in his first run for public office and the pair were subsequently fined for violating California election laws.

John Feliz's son, Daniel "Dan" Feliz is a rookie D.C. lobbyist employed by Potomac Partners D.C. That firm was started by Richard "Rick" Alcalde.

It was recently revealed that Alcalde is one of Rep. Don Young's "A-Team" of lobbyists who reportedly has unfettered access to Young staffers.

As it turns out, Alcalde and the younger Feliz represent Daniel Aronoff's Landon Companies.

Aronoff is the Michigan developer who raised thousands for Young, flew him around in a private jet and stood to benefit from Young's redirecting of the $10 million Coconut Road earmark.

The U.S. Senate in rare action has directed that the Justice Department open an investigation into the matter placing Alcalde (and Dan Feliz) at the heart of the investigation.

Tangled web of corruption in race to replace Rep. Doolittle; includes ties to Detroit gambling interests

Rep. John T. Doolittle is under federal criminal investigation in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Doolittle in his ninth term representing California's 4th Congressional District but announced in January that he would retire.

Tom McClintock is the darling of California conservatives. He ran for Governor against Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. McClintock, who hails from Ventura County decided last Spring to pack up and move 350 miles away, in order to run for Doolittle's seat in the 4th CD. He succeeded in winning the GOP nomination.

John Feliz
McClintock's campaign manager is John Feliz, a GOP political operative who got his start helping Doolittle in his first campaign for public office. Feliz and Doolittle were fined on several counts for violating California election law in that campaign.

John Feliz has ties to former Rep. Richard Pombo. And Feliz's son, James Feliz, then a college student at University of the Pacific was involved in recruiting college students to work in Pombo's failed '06 re-election bid.

JohnsonClark Associates
Also tied to these politicos is a Sacramento-based political consulting firm JohnsonClark Associates. The firms president Wayne Johnson is the president of the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC).

Pombo's campaign paid JohnsonClark more than $2.68 million during his '06 re-election campaign. Doolittle's campaign paid JohnsonClark $96,355 during the same campaign.

David Bauer, CFO at JohnsonClark, is treasurer for "McClintock for Congress." Pombo's campaign paid Bauer more than $53,000 during the '06 cycle for accounting services. Doolittle paid Bauer more than $18,000 for accounting services in the '06 cycle.

Partnership for America
According to a report 5.05.08 in The Hill:
A California-based group and other local officials filed a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint Monday [5.05.08] regarding the alleged ties between an ex-aide to Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and state Sen. Tom McClintock (R)...

At issue is the role of Steve Ding — an ex-McClintock consultant and former chief of staff for Pombo — and The Partnership for America, a 501(c)4 advocacy group headed by Pombo.

McClatchy recently reported that Pombo’s group is organizing a $660,000 independent campaign in the 4th congressional district...

Ding was soliciting donors for the Partnership for America during an April 22 National Indian Gaming Association meeting...
Dan Feliz & Rick Alcalde
Another Feliz son, Daniel "Dan" Feliz is now registered as a D.C. lobbyist employed at Potomac Partners D.C. by Richard "Rick" Alcalde. Dan Feliz is a rookie lobbyist who has no relevant Capitol Hill experience other than being an intern. He graduated from the Navy Academy at Annapolis and attend Harvard.

Alcalde and Dan Feliz are contributors to Doolittle. Dan Feliz registered as a D.C. lobbyist on 5.01.06. Then on 9.30.06 Feliz made a $500 contribution to Doolittle's campaign but treasuer David Bauer falsely reported the younger Feliz as "retired" rather than as a "lobbyist." Certainly they all know the rookie lobbyist is not "retired." Why were they attempting to conceal that information?

Alcalde is one of Rep. Don Young's "A-Team" lobbyists who finds himself at the center of the $10 million Coconut Road, FL, earmark scandal involving Young (R-AK). Alcalde and Dan Feliz represent Daniel Aronoff (Landon Companies), the Michigan developer who reportedly raised funds for Young, flew him around in a private yet and stood to benefit greatly from the earmark.

Michael Malik & Marian Ilitch
Alcalde and Dan Feliz also represent Detroit casino syndicator Michael Malik (MJM Enterprises) and one of Malik's partners, the Shinnecock Indian Nation. Malik's business partner is Mrs. Marian Ilitch -- she owns Detroit's MotorCity Casino and co-owns the Detroit Red Wings and Little Ceasars Pizza.

Malik and Ilitch family members have contributed and raised more than $100,000 for Pombo and Young. They've also fronted travel and entertainment costs for the pair totaling more than $41,000. There are no direct contributions to Doolittle. But they've given nearly $97,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee; and at least $50,000 to the Republican National Committee.

And Detroit-based Malik has previously contributed $5,600 to Tom McClintock's California campaign.

Among other casino ventures throughout the U.S., Malik & Ilitch formed BarWest LLC and have pursued several failed attempts to bring Indian gaming to Barstow, CA.

Malik & BarWest were fined in California for failing to report a $26,000 contribution they made in 2004 to Pombo's San Joaquin County GOP Victory Committee. They are currently under investigation in California for failing to report a string of 2006 political contributions and for irregularities in lobbying reports and payments.

Although never publicly acknowledged, documents obtained by TVT suggest John Feliz has been involved behind the scenes with Malik & Ilitch on their plans for casino development in California.

And JohnsonClark's CFO David Bauer has provided bookkeeping and political reporting services to Malik/Ilitch affiliates.

A-Team lobbyist's firm was quietly paid $665k to lobby Young on behalf of Michigan casino scheme

Here's what a biography included on the "About Us" page of a Web site identifed as the Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C., has to say about Billy Lee Evans, the former Georgia Congressman turned lobbyist at Kessler & Associates who's recently been identified as one of Rep. Don Young's "A-Team" lobbyists.

The Honorable Billy Lee Evans – Chairman Congressional Advisory Board
Member of Congress (Retired)

... Since leaving Congress, Evans has maintained his association with a majority of the Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle and now enjoys having some of his closest friends chairing major committees. Because of his concern for the best interest of the Member, Evans is trusted and respected by the Members and is always able to secure a fair consideration of his clients’ point of view... (Full Bio)
Interesting way to frame a lobbyist's influence. But consider this ...

Before the Democrats resumed control of the Congress in 2006, Billy Evan's pal Rep. Don Young (R-AK) had been chair and then vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. But more importantly, Young was chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

From 2002-2005, Evan's firm, Kessler & Associates was quietly paid $665,000 to lobby Young and others to support various measures -- namely several bills and sneaky transportation earmarks -- intended to approve an off-reservation Indian casino in Port Huron, Michigan; often bypassing the normal channels. Michael Malik and Marian Ilitch, Detroit-based casino syndicators, backed the effort in partnership with the Bay Mills Indian Community.

Further Details: Lobbyist paid $665,000, secretly representing Ilitch syndication interests

UPDATED: Lobbyist paid $665,000, secretly representing Ilitch syndication interests

Several influential D.C. lobbyists, one whom the Washington Post reported was a part of former House Speaker Tom DeLay's "kitchen cabinet" and another a former Member of Congress, are part of a firm that was paid $665,000 by a third party trying secretly to advance off-reservation Indian casino proposals backed by Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik (Team Ilitch).

Documents on file with the Secretary of the Senate indicate in 2003 and 2004, Richard S. "Rick" Kessler's firm Kessler & Associates (also dba Century Business Services and Kessler & Associates Business Services) was retained to represent Wheat Government Relations, a lobbying firm.

Among lobbyists at K&A is former Rep. Billy Lee Evans (D-GA). Evans has been identified recently as one of Rep. Don Young's "A-Team" lobbyists.

Wheat Government Relations' clients include various Team Ilitch casino syndication interests (Barwest, Bay Mills Indian Community, Blue Water Resorts, Gateway Casino Resorts, Shinnecock Indian Nation). It appears now that Wheat was funneling payments it received from various Team Ilich casino partners to Kessler & Associates (K&A) to handle most --if not all -- of the lobbying work required of Wheat's gaming and Indian affairs clients.

Former Rep. Alan Wheat (D-MO) is the principal of Wheat Goverment Relations (

Based on several analysis available from the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2003-04 Wheat Government Relations (as client) paid K&A, a sister lobbying firm, $515,000 for representation on gaming and Indian matters; yet, Wheat Government Relations (as lobbying firm) was paid only $400,000 by its collective gaming and Indian matters clients during that 2003-04 period.

That suggests Wheat paid K&A $115,000 more than it got paid by it's collective gaming and Indian affairs clients. So who made up the difference?

Neither Rick Kessler’s list of lobbying clients (Richard S. Kessler) nor his firm’s client list (Kessler & Associates, aka Century Business Services, Inc., Kessler & Associates Business Services; CBIZ Kessler Government Affairs, LLC) reveal any obvious representation of Native American's or gaming companies – they simply lists “Wheat Government Relations,” the lobbying firm. So we dug a little deeper.

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) reviewed issues lobbied by Kessler’s firm in 2003 and 2004 (and cumulatively 1998-2004) and ranked them by number of companies and organizations the firm represented: at the bottom of the K&A list are “Indian & Native American Affairs” at #28 and “Gaming, Gambling & Casinos” at #30 – Kessler officially had one such client that needed representation on those matters, Wheat Government Relations.

On the other hand, a similar review by CPI of issues represented by Wheat Government Relations ranks ”Indian & Native American Affairs” #1 and “Gaming, Gambling & Casinos” #3 out of 12 issue areas represented – Wheat representing it had 19 Indian clients and 14 gaming clients from 1998-2004. By funneling money through Wheat, K&A avoided being included in lists or analysis that revealed firms doing significant work lobbying on behalf of Native American or gambling interests.

In truth, “Indian & Native American Affairs” and “Gaming, Gambling & Casinos” were extremely significant parts of Kessler & Associates’ success. The Center for Responsive Politics tracks annual lobbying fees by firm. An analysis of K&A annual fees indicates Wheat Government Relations was K&A’s #2 client in 2003 with fees of $295,000 (10% of the firm’s ’03 total fee revenue) and also #2 in 2004 with fees of $220,000 (13% of the firm’s total fee revenue). But K&A's affiliation with ”Indian & Native American Affairs” and “Gaming, Gambling & Casinos” stayed under the radar.

From 2002-2005, Kessler & Associates (Richard S. “Rick” Kessler, Billy Lee Evans, Franklin G Polk and Scott A. Spear) lobbied on behalf of Team Ilitch’s interests in Washington, D.C. virtually “under the radar” because Team Ilitch affiliates and partners had officially hired Wheat Government Relations not K&A. But as is revealed here, Wheat, in turn, passed through $665,000 in fees to Kessler & Associates over the four year period.

From 2003-2006 Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) followed Rep. Don Young as chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. For a period, Young served as the Committee's vice chair.

During the period from 2003-2005, it has been reported that Rep. Don Young, then chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee attempted multiple times to slip various earmarks into what would become the 2005 National Highway Spending Bill -- earmarks that would have effectively given Team Ilitch the go-ahead to build an off-reservation casino in Port Huron, Michigan, in partnership with the Bay Mills Indian Community.

In fact, The Hill reports one such attempt was uncovered and then actively opposed by Sen. John McCain and former Rep. Richard Pombo. Funds were earmarked for a transportation study in Port Huron. Hidden in the language of the earmark was a requirement ordering the Secretary of Interior to take actions that would have given Team Ilitch the approvals needed to build the off-reservation casino; and bypass all of the normal processes and approvals for such a project.

Rick Kessler (Richard S. Kessler) & Billy Evans, Kessler & Associates (K&A), contributed $3,000 to RICH PAC (Rep. Richard Pombo’s leadership PAC) during 2004/05. Team Ilitch and affiliates contributed a total of $40,000 to RICH Political Action Committee in ‘04/’06.

Kessler & Evans contributed $10,000 to Young and Young's Midnight Sun leadership PAC during the '04 & '06 election cycles. Malik and members of the Ilitch family have contributed more than $20,000 to Young and his Midnight Sun PAC. In addition, since 2003, they've given nearly $97,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee; and at least $50,000 to the Republican National Committee.

Kessler's role as head of the Rippon Society has come under scrutiny and investigation in recent years. Among other things, Rippon, who's leadership is made up of some of the most influential D.C. lobbyists (including Kessler's associate Billy Evans), is said to provide extravagant travel and trips to Members of Congress using educational loopholes that often include corporate lobbyists as fellow travelers.

Since 2002, various affiliates of Team Ilitch (Marian Ilitch and Michael J. Malik), paid D.C. lobbyists more than $4 million trying to influence proposals the Detroit casino syndicators are baking for Indian casinos in Michigan, New York and California -- chiefly a casino proposed in Port Huron, Michigan.

Another Team Ilitch affiliate, MJM Enterprises, has also hired two other lobbying firms with ties to Rep. Don Young: Potomac Partners D.C., a firm founded by Richard "Rick" Alcalde, another of Young's "A-Team" lobbyists; and Williams & Jensen, a firm with ties to past scandals involving former Speaker Tom DeLay and former Sen. Rick Santorum, that has provided services to and advised Young's Midnight Sun leadership PAC over the years.

links to: Documentation available via the Senate Office of Public Records

Official Website: Kessler & Associates (aka CBIZ Kessler Government Affairs LLC)

Previously updated 6.21.07

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rep. Young repeats the same pattern of earmarks with Aronoff, Congel, Malik & Troha

As chairman of the House transportation committee, Alaska Rep. Don Young flew at least three times to upstate New York aboard a sleek jet owned by Robert Congel (Pyramid Companies), an ambitious shopping mall developer seeking federal highway dollars. Congel family members have contributed $68,700 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

With Young’s help, Congel got millions of dollars to boost his dream of building the largest mall in North America. Young, the veteran Republican Congressman, got something, too: more than $33,000 in political donations from Congel, his family and his associates.

Congel's Pyramid Companies has been represented by lobbyists at Williams & Jensen and Blank Rome LLP. Williams & Jensen provides counsel to Young's Midnight Sun leadership PAC. Lobbyists at Blank Rome LLP (Duncan Smith, Young's former aide; CJ Zane, Young's former chief of staff) are among Young's "A-Team" of lobbyists.

For Young, the Congel story was hardly unusual. Time after time, Young approved millions of dollars for highway projects for people who in turn fattened his campaign coffers.

Daniel Aronoff
In another such example, Young, then the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, inserted a $10 million earmark to widen I-75 in Florida's Collier and Lee Counties into the 2005 Transportation Funding Bill. The project was supported by local officials. That was the version passed by Congress.

But because of Young's unique position, he was able to make a crucial change: the bill later signed by the President had different language, directing the $10 million specifically to an I-75 interchange at Coconut Road.

That project had been opposed by local officials, but aggressively backed by Michigan real estate mogul Daniel Aronoff (Landon Companies), who'd flown Young to Florida and thrown a $40,000 fundraiser for Young that year. It's recently been revealed that Aronoff's lobbyists, Rick Alcalde (Richard Alcalde) and Dan Feliz (Daniel Feliz), are part of Young's "A-Team" of lobbyists with unfettered access to Young's staff. Aronoff family members have contributed $43,400 to the NRCC.

Both the Senate and House have officially called for investigations into the Coconut Road earmark matter.

Michael Malik
And then there's Michael J. Malik, Sr., (MJM Enterprises & Blue Water Resorts), a Detroit casino syndicator whose partners include Mrs. Marian Ilitch -- she owns Detroit's MotorCity Casino, the Detroit Red Wings and Little Caesars Pizza. Malik has been working to develop an off-reservation casino in Port Huron, Michigan, in partnership with the Bay Mills Indian Community for nearly a decade. They are also pushing off-reservation casinos in California and New York.

Several times between 2003 & 2005, Young tried to slip language into the 2005 Transportation Spending Bill that would have quietly paved the way for Malik's Port Huron casino. Jeff Parker a Bay Mills tribal leader has admitted publicly that they'd hope to use the Transportation Bill as a stealth way to get approvals.

In fact, according to a report in The Hill, Sen. John McCain and former Rep. Richard Pombo were furious when Young inserted an earmark for a transportation study in Port Huron into the 2005 Transportation Bill because the earmark included additional language buried in the earmark that would have required the Secretary of Interior to take actions paving the way for Malik's casino; bypassing the normal processes and committees with jurisdiction over such matters.

Like Aronoff and Congel, Malik & Ilitch fronted costs for Young to travel in their private jet at least twice during 2005. Like Aronoff and Congel, they got their family members and associates to raise money for Young. They helped raise $58,000 for Young on 5.23.05, making that Young's best day of fundraising in the 2006 campaign cycle. Malik and members of the Ilitch family have contributed $97,000 to the NRCC and National Republican Senatorial Committee.

And Malik hasn't backed off. In February, Young pushed to get a favorable vote on H.R. 2176, a bill supporting Malik's casino plans, in the House Natural Resources Committee. And he took the measure to the floor of the House in a heated debate on 6.25.08. The bill failed.

According to, Malik contributed $3,000 to Young's Midnight Sun PAC on 8.15.07. He's contributed $15,000 to the NRCC since February 2007. On 3.31.08, Malik and his lobbyists (Richard Alcalde and Dan Feliz) joined other members of Young's A-Team who contributed another $17,000 to Young's warchest. Alcalde is also Aronoff's lobbyist. Previously Malik's affiliates were represented by Williams & Jensen, a firm that has also represented Congel's Pyramid Companies.

Dennis Troha
Young had the same patterns of behavior with Wisconsin transportation and casino gambling mogul Dennis Troha (JHT Holdings). Troha, his family and associates were among Young's top three contributors in 2006.

Troha had benefited from changes in federal trucking regulations which were included as an amendment in a highway spending bill that became law in 2005.

JHT Holdings has been represented by Colin Chapman (Young's former chief of staff).

Like Malik and the Ilitch family, the Troha family and associates also contributed to Young's campaign on 5.23.05. Troha contributed $50,000 to the NRCC.

A federal probe of Troha's activities was initiated. Troha has since been indicted on charges he inappropriately funneled money to the campaign of Wisconsin's Governor through family members.

Congel, Aronoff and Malik have each contributed to Young's Midnight Sun leadership PAC at some point.

More on lobbyist's relationship with Rep. Young

According to reports from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

A-Team lobbyist Rick Alcalde (Richard Alcalde) was never a staffer to Rep. Don Young (R-AK). He lobbied for the 2005 earmark that shifted $10 million from a road-widening project in southwest Florida to a study of an interstate interchange (Coconut Road) that would benefit Daniel Aronoff, a Michigan developer who raised money for Young.

That earmark mushroomed into a national controversy in part because it was placed in the highway bill, by someone on Young's staff, after the House and Senate had voted on the bill but before it went to the president for his signature.

Young has said he supported the money because local residents and Florida Gulf Coast University requested money for the project. Alcalde has lobbied for both Florida Gulf Coast University and Aronoff's real estate firm, the Landon Companies. Lobbying disclosures show that in 2005, the Landon Companies paid Alcalde $80,000 specifically to lobby on Young's highway bill.

Now Alcalde finds himself at the heart of an official investigation into the Coconut Road earmark matter.

Mike Anderson, Young's chief of staff, said Young doesn't make decisions based on lobbying and his relationship with Alcalde is personal.

"If Rick Alcalde could talk to you on the phone he would tell you that when he was a youngster and so forth he was kind of a rabble-rouser and everything else. The Youngs looked out for him," Anderson said. "And that goes back to the relationship the Youngs have with Mr. Alcalde, with Hector, (Rick's) father and his mother. When Rick went through some tough times and so forth the Youngs were there to help him, to kind of give him some of that guidance he needed. ... Rick credits the Youngs with being a mentor."

Hector Alcalde, Rick's father, is a longtime, top-tier Washington, D.C., lobbyist.

Rick Alcalde represents Michael Malik's affiliates MJM Enterprises and Blue Water Resorts. He also represents Malik's partner the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Prior to starting the lobbying firm Potomac Partners D.C. in 2005, Alcalde represented the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Station Casinos as well as the Detroit International Bridge company. Malik has ties to all three of those entities.

Hey Mike Malik, what goes around ... comes around

Detroit casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr. is himself a student of Jack Abaramoff's having employed Abramoff-like tactics in an attempt to build his own Indian casinos in California, Michigan and New York.

During the first six months of 2008, MGM Mirage was locked in a bitter dispute with parties hoping to open two off-reservation Indian casinos in the greater-Detroit area.

Among other things, MGM Mirage financed a so-called "grassroots" letter writing campaign mounted by a group called "Gambling Watch." The group was created in mid-January by public-relations consultant, Lori Wortz of Lansing-based Sterling Corp.

There was no real attempt by MGM Mirage to hide their support for Gambling Watch. In a BusinessWeek article, Alan Feldman, senior vice presdident for public affairs at MGM Mirage said, "We've made no secret of where we are on this."

Detroit-based casino syndicator Michael Malik and his partners -- the people behind a plan to put a Bay Mills Indian Community casino in Port Huron -- belied MGM Mirage and the Gambling Watch effort as deceptive and low. They likened Gambling Watch's tactics to those employed by the jailed former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Isn't that ironic?

Despite crying foul and evoking Abramoff's name, Malik and his army of PR/political flacks and attorneys have used the same tactics in other states.
In 2001, they formed and financed Holomua Hawai'i, in an effort to legalize gambling in the Hawaiian islands. In 2002, The Honolulu Advertiser reported:
Holomua Hawai'i, named after the Hawaiian word for progress, is packaged as a grassroots effort, but it is in fact the creation of a Michigan public relations and political consulting firm hired by [Marian] Illitch and [Mike] Malik to promote the casino plan. The firm, Marketing Resource Group [owned by PR Flack Tom Shields], spent nearly $11,000 lobbying lawmakers between January and April last year, records show.
In 2006, Malik & Ilitch formed Barstow Citizens for Real Economic Development so that they could impact local elections in the remote Mojave Desert town. They spent $200,000 running their "grassroots" effort.

Sworn court depositions indicate that they recruited a leader of the Los Coyotes Band of Indians out of San Diego and a local Barstow businessman to serve as figure-heads of their so-alled "grassroots" organization. Campaign reports indicate they paid members of the tribe to come to Barstow as "grassroots volunteers." They also hired the local businessman's family members to work on their behalf.

Barstow campaign disclosures indicate Mike Malik and Marian Ilitch each contributed $25,000 to the campaign which was managed by their PR/political consultant Tom Shields. And Shield's firm, Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group has carried the "grassroots" committee's $150,000 campaign debt for more than two years.

The Malik/Ilitch team used their "grassroots" group trying to interfere and block the local election with a frivilous lawsuit and so a judge ordered them to pay the $110,000 legal bill incurred by another committee that had to defend against the Michigan casino syndicators.

Former controversial PAC treasurer Bonfiglio is Pfizer PAC secretary

Barbara Bonfiglio, the controversial attorney/lobbyist/PAC treasurer who'd previously been at the D.C. lobbying/law firm Williams & Jensen is now Senior Corporate Counsel at the drug-maker Pfizer, Inc.

In 2003, Bonfiglio signed casino syndicator Michael Malik (MJM Enterprises & Development) as a client of Williams & Jensen. Malik paid Bonfiglio $220,000 between 2003 & 2005. Malik had matters before committees chaired by Reps. Richard Pombo, Don Young and Jerry Lewis -- Bonfigilio served as treasurer/advisor to these members' leadership PACs.

TPM Muckracker reported that Bonfiglio abruptly left Williams & Jensen in March 2006 and resigned as treasurer/advisor to various PACs and fundraising committees for Sen. Rick Santorum and Reps. Tom DeLay, Richard Pombo, Jerry Lewis, Don Young and others. She was subpoenaed at least once, in 2004, in connection with the DeLay scandals.

The Pfizer PAC's 2005-2006 Published Report notes that Bonfiglio was Secretary of Pfizer PAC. During the 2006 election cycle, Pfizer PAC contributed $3,678,493 to federal committees.

Among the small army of lobbying firms employed by Pfizer, Inc., Bonfiglio's former law/lobbying firm Williams & Jensen. Serving as one of Pfizer's lobbyists at W&J is Susan Hirschmann (DeLay's former Chief of Staff). The ladies are apparently close personal friends.

Bonfiglio reported that Hirschmann was a lobbyist for Malik's MJM Enterprises & Development between 2003 & 2005.

Bonfiglio, Senior Corporate Counsel in the D.C. offices of Pfizer, was listed among the "Distinguished Faculty" who spoke at the American Conference Institute's 2008 Corporate Lobbying and Government Affairs Conference.

Bonfiglio contributed $26,722 to various federal committees and PACs since 2005.

Rep. Young's staff shaken by 2006 defeat of Rep. Pombo; enlist support from lobbyists


E-mail warned of opponents' plan of attack
CAMPAIGN: Staffer said "Outsiders" will go after Young with "innuendo."


Alaska Congressman Don Young's staff was shaken by the 2006 defeat of California Rep. Richard Pombo, one of Young's closest Republican colleagues in the House, who was painted by his opponents as being short on ethics.

Young's staff drew comparisons between the Pombo campaign and what Young now faces as he runs for a 19th term in the U.S. House. Pombo was a 14-year incumbent from a Republican-friendly district. He took over from Young as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee before the Republicans lost control of the House. Mike Anderson, Young's chief of staff, invoked Pombo when he approached a group of mostly lobbyists last year to help raise money for Young.

"Many of you observed or even worked former Congressman Richard Pombo's race," Anderson wrote in an e-mail to the group. "While each of you may have different opinions as to what may have contributed to the election results, at the strategic level, we will all agree it is a textbook case in how Outsiders can reach into a district with money, volunteers, and a well coordinated attack (to) defeat an incumbent not necessarily on his/her record, but on innuendo and perception."

The political arm of Defenders of Wildlife was largely credited with the campaign that helped oust Pombo. Conservation groups spent roughly $2 million on defeating Pombo, although they didn't focus on Pombo's environmental record. They portrayed Pombo as corrupt and beholden to corporate donors. They linked him to disgraced Republican lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff, whose tribal clients contributed heavily to Pombo's campaign.

Young is under investigation by the federal Department of Justice in connection with the Veco corruption scandal and other matters. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing though. (Complete Story)

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Ilitch has backed loosing sports teams and pizza, but casinos in Detroit? 10.09.06 ● Marian Ilitch #1 on "25 Most Powerful People" to Watch 2006” global gaming business o1.oo.o5 ● My Kingdom for a Casino Forbes 05.08.06 ● Big Lagoon’s casino dream awakens north coast journal 07.28.05 ● Shinnecocks launch legal claim to Hamptons land 06.16.05 ● Ilitch Plans to Expand Casino Empire 07.05.05 ● Ilitch outbids partners 04.14.05 ● Ilitch enmeshed in NY casino dispute 03.20.05 ● Marian Ilitch, high roller 03.20.05 ● MGM Mirage to Decide on Offer for Casino in Detroit 04.16.05 ● Secret deal for MotorCity alleged 02.15.05 ● Los Coyotes get new developer 02.08.05 Detroit casino figure to finance Barstow project 07.07.03 ● Indian Band trying to put casino in Barstow 06.04.03 Pizza matriarch takes on casino roles 10.23.02 ● Vanderbilt gets short straw in negotiations for a casino Lansing Journal 10.06.02 ● Indians aim to drive family from tribe in vicious dispute san diego union tribune 04.09.00 ●Malik owns 2000 Michigan Quarter Horse of the Year 01.01.00 ● Detroit Team to run Michigan’s newest Indian casino 05.23.99 Tiger ties tangle Marian Ilitch 04.29.99 ● Three investors must sell their Detroit casino interests 04.25.99 ● Partners’ cash revived election; They say money was crucial to Prop-E 04.25.99 Investors have troubled histories las vegas review journal 04.27.99 ● Investor served probation for domestic assault on 12 year old boy 04.25.99 Can a pair win a jackpot?: local men hope to... 03.17.97

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