Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Big Indian Bucks in Wisconsin Politics

Back in October, 2005, the Lakeland Times reported that the Forest County Potawatomi Community was budgeting $7.2 million to influence the 2006 election cycle.

Now comes columnist Bruce Murphy, who reports:
. . . legislative insiders say lobbyists for the Potawatomi are now whispering that the true figure could be more like $14 million. That’s an unprecedented level of spending that would blow away the state teachers’ union, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and any other interest group.
In an attempt to confirm this amount of spending, we reached Ken Walsh (the person who handles public relations for the tribe).

Walsh said “I don’t know where Mr. Murphy picked that up” and insisted that “$14,000,000 is high.”

Walsh declined to disclose the actual Potawatomi budget, saying “I’m not going to get into whether it’s fourteen million or ten or seven.”

He mentioned Potawatomi issue ads on the Crandon Mine issue, and ads touting the economic advantages to Wisconsin of Potawatomi gaming. He seemed to us to be implying that $14,000,000 may be the total budget for political and PR activities (although he did not say so directly).

Walsh insisted that the Potawatomi “give to candidates with both ‘D’ and ‘R’ after their names.” This, of course, is the normal pattern of giving among business groups.

But cut and slice it as you want, it’s still a lot of money.

One of the things that galled us during the debate at Marquette about the use of the “Warriors” nickname was the assumption, from the politically correct crowd, that Indians are an oppressed victim group, deserving of all the deference that oppressed victim groups get in politically correct quarters.

In reality, some Indian tribes are rich, rolling in cash. (Those who aren’t lucky enough to have big-time gambling enterprises aren’t nearly so well off.) To treat them as victims, or give them any privileges we would not also give to (say) Wal-Mart makes no sense.


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