News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Friday, September 16, 2005

ICT [2005/09/16]��Contributions to Kansas senator draw criticism

Posted: September 16, 2005
by: Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

WYANDOTTE, Okla. - Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback has come under fire by the leader of an Oklahoma tribe for allegedly taking money from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is accused of bilking tribes out of millions of dollars.

In a recent press release, Wyandotte Nation Chief Leaford Bearskin said he was ''outraged and so very disappointed to learn that Senator Brownback reportedly received large sums of dirty money from Jack Abramoff, a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who abused the political system for financial gain at the expense of the Native American community.''

Brownback, who earlier this year authored a bill to issue a formal government apology to American Indians for past depredations and harmful policies, is said to have received more than $40,000 from Abramoff.

''We have always wondered why Senator Brownback has tried every possible means to hurt the Wyandotte Nation. I guess Abramoff gave him 40,000 reasons to,'' Bearskin said in the prepared statement.

Phone messages left at Brownback's press office seeking comment were not returned.

Abramoff, who is well-connected to conservative Republicans in the White House and Congress, and his partner Michael Scanlon, a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, received more than $45 million from four newly wealthy tribes in the past few years for lobbying and public relations work.

Abramoff and a New York business partner, Adam Kidan, were indicted in August on federal wire fraud and conspiracy charges in Florida. The two are accused of conspiring to defraud two lenders out of some $60 million in a casino boat deal with a man who was later found shot to death near his Fort Lauderdale home.

Federal investigators are also probing Abramoff's relationships with a former Interior Department official and members of Congress who accepted large campaign donations from the lobbyist.

The Wyandottes have been trying to open a casino in downtown Kansas City for about 12 years, Bearskin said in a phone interview with Indian Country Today Sept. 9. The tribe owns a cemetery and about three-quarters of an acre of trust land next to it where they would like to develop a casino, Bearskin said.

''The Wyandotte Nation has had land in trust in downtown Kansas City, Kansas since 1855,'' Bearskin said.

''Senator Brownback has gone to great lengths to prevent the Wyandotte Nation from using that land as Congress intended. He even went so far as to include a restrictive rider on every Interior Appropriations bill since reportedly receiving this dirty money from Abramoff,'' Bearskin said.

Brownback's apology bill - ''A joint resolution to acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States'' - was the subject of a May hearing in front of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

''What this resolution does is recognize and honor the importance of Native Americans to this land and to our nation - the past and today - and offers an apology to the Native peoples for the poor and painful choices our government sometimes made to disregard its solemn word,'' Brownback said in testimony.

Referring to the proposed legislation, Bearskin said that Brownback ''should also include a personal apology to the Wyandotte Nation.''

In addition to Brownback's opposition, the Wyandottes' efforts have been opposed by the governor of Kansas and other officials, and also by nearby tribes trying to block potential competition from another casino. The tribes are the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Kickapoo of Kansas and the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Indians. The opponents have taken the fight to federal court, where it remains pending.

In a parallel situation, Abramoff and Scanlon tried to stop the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians from opening a casino in Grand Rapids, Mich. that would compete with a casino owned by one of his clients, the Saginaw Chippewa.

The Wyandottes opened a casino on their Kansas City property in 1994, but it was raided by police and shut down.

The 4,000-member tribe used to occupy territory in Kansas, but was forced to relocate in Oklahoma. The tribe has always maintained its trust land in Kansas, Bearskin said.

''We don't have a reservation in Oklahoma anymore. We originally had more than 20,000 acres in northeastern Oklahoma. During the Allotment Act they allocated each family a farm out of the reservation land we had. They gave it to each family and broke up our reservation,'' Bearskin said.

The tribe owns a convenience store and small casino located its remote Oklahoma community.

The tribe was terminated in the 1950s, but had its sovereignty restored later, Bearskin said.


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