The House Natural Resources Committee will vote Wednesday on the House version of presidential wannabe, Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Indian casino bill.
The vote comes at a time when the Mashpee Wampanoag – the tribe the bill is intended to gift with a casino – is in complete disarray. The Cape Cod Times reports:
Political unrest within the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is near a tipping point.
A movement within the tribe to unseat its two top political officials has set in motion a recall process within the tribal government that could result in their removal from power, according to sources with knowledge of the effort.
Among the points of political contention are allegations of financial mismanagement by Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell and a ballooning debt tied to the tribe’s pursuit of the casino:
Two petitions were filed with the tribe’s election committee on Wednesday to recall Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell and Vice Chairwoman Jessie Little Doe’ Baird, citing, among other things, the more than $500 million in debt owed to the tribe’s financial backer, Genting Malaysia …
… The tribe has paid Cromwell more than $1 million since he took office in 2009, the petition says. Since then, the tribe has incurred more than $500 million in debt with ‘very little to show for it; no casino, no jobs’ and a mortgaged property in Taunton, where the tribe’s $1 billion casino-resort would be located.
While the tribe really needs Sen. Warren to pull through, no one is more desperate for Warren’s bill to succeed than Genting Malaysia. If the casino doesn’t come through, the tribe doesn’t have to pay Genting back the half-billion it borrowed.
According to sources, Genting is leaning hard on their chief lobbyist Richard Pombo. Pombo, a former California Congressman, has a long and troubled history with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Everybody got something.
The Mashpee Wampanoags, famed for greeting the Pilgrims at Plymouth, will be named a nationally recognized tribe — a designation they sought for 30 years so that they could benefit from federal aid programs.
Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist embroiled in a Washington corruption scandal, and his firm championed the Indians’ cause and pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in tribal money.
And Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy), chairman of the influential House Resources Committee, landed a lucrative source of political donations: the small group of Native Americans whose ancestral lands are about as far from his Northern California district as one can get in the United States.
It should be noted that while Pombo took more money from Jack Abramoff than any other Member of Congress, he was never charged with a crime, let alone convicted of anything. And his biggest political sin was really just having all the wrong enemies in the environmental activist community, which viewed him as Public Enemy Number One.
In the end, the House Natural Resources Committee will need to decide if it wants to enrich a Malaysian consortium and its lobbyists and revive Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s flagging presidential prospects.