Decimating their populations through massacres and disease and pushing the survivors onto reservations wasn’t enough. At least a number of well-connected political players felt that way about the remaining Native American tribes.
These American patriots decided to start a new, modern-day war on Native Americans. This time, though, they left the cannons, rifles and horses at home and plied their skills at bleeding the tribes’ bank accounts dry.
The central figure in the tribal bilking is lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who goes on trial in January for fraud and conspiracy charges related to the purchase of a gambling boat company. However, he’s expected to cop a plea before any trial on the tribal dealings, which are also gambling-related.
Abramoff played tribe against tribe and tribe against government in numerous casino-related schemes, and profited from all sides. His total bill for services rendered to various tribes is estimated at $80 million.
In one instance, Abramoff pressed legislators for the closure of a Tigua tribe casino. The El Paso-based Tiguas, unaware of Abramoff’s involvement in the casino closure, then agreed to become one of his clients, paying him to wield his lobbying finesse to get it reopened.
Michael Scanlon was Abramoff’s partner in crime. Scanlon has already plead guilty to defrauding tribes, presumably to turn on his former lobbying partner and receive a reduced sentence.
Meanwhile, Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and 2006 candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia, has also been implicated in the Tigua scandal. Like his Puritan forefathers, it seems Ralphie can’t keep from screwing over Indians in some fashion.
Reed was, due to his deep-held Christian beliefs, on the “closure” side of the Tigua deal. House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) was involved on the “reopening” side, though he claims he was bamboozled into it.
Reed, Scanlon and Abramoff are connected to indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who also had a stake in the tribal swindles. Scanlon used to be DeLay’s press secretary; Abramoff was the nice fellow who arranged DeLay’s golf jaunts to Scotland.
It’s a safe bet at least some of these guys, and others, will go to prison for fraud. My hope is that they’re sent to a prison built on top of an old Indian burial ground – that way they’ll not only be punished for their crimes, but haunted by them