Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Congressional Battle Over Arizona West Valley Casino Reaches New Level With "Ethics Concern", Delays Fast-Track Vote

The Congressional battle in the multi-front war over the Tohono O'odham casino in Glendale blew up on the front pages of one of the leading D.C. news sites this morning. Politico's headline: "Ethics concern scuttles vote on tribal bill".

It seems the sudden fast-tracking of the "Keep the Promise Act" - promoted by GOP allies of the Gila River and Salt River nations to prevent the casino from opening - coincided with a fundraiser aimed at the Native American community for the National Republican Congressional Committee ("NRCC").

House GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy scheduled the measure, sponsored by Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD8), for a vote this week under a suspension of the rules.  Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) - who has long been the chief opponent of the long-running bill, since he represents much of the Tohono O'odham Nation - sent a letter (below) requesting removing it from the fast-track consideration and setting it for a full debate and vote.  He did not raise any ethical concern.

The House has passed this bill multiple times in the past, but it has not made it through the Senate.  This year is different from the past, as the ground has shifted under Congress' feet.  The casino has won new support from Glendale and has had further victories in courts.

But, most relevantly, the Congressional Budget Office came out with a report earlier this year that said if the bill became law, it would undoubtedly end up in court as an alleged "regulatory taking", and could result in the government spending $1B to compensate the Tohono O'odham for lost gaming revenues, etc.  The CBO report is below.

Arizona's Politics has previously reported on the vast amounts of money that the various Nations have been paying Congressional lobbyists.  When the most recent lobbying reports came in, showing an increase in the already-huge expenditures by the proponents of the bill, it became apparent a new push was in the works.

The Politico article notes that the bill was pulled because "members are still working out issues within the delegation and across the table."  An unnamed spokeswoman for Franks agrees that the Arizona delegation is working on it.

Arizona's Politics has questions out to several members of the delegation, and will update as warranted.

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

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