Governor Scott Walker’s plan to require unanimous approval of the Menominee Indian Tribe’s proposed Kenosha casino by all of Wisconsin’s 11 tribes likely means the project is doomed – an outcome that benefits a couple of huge GOP campaign supporters.
Two of the tribes – the Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Ho-Chunk Nation – who oppose the project have contributed a total of $193,400 in the last two years to two GOP outside electioneering groups that have spent an estimated $16.7 million to help Walker and numerous Republican state senators and legislative candidates win elections in recent years.
The Forest County Potawatomi which operates a lucrative casino in Milwaukee and has opposed the Menominee project for years has contributed $150,900 to the Republican Governors Association since July 2011, including $50,000 on February 25, 2013, a Democracy Campaign review of U.S. Internal Revenue Service records found.
Not only is the Potowatomi a big supporter of a major GOP group, but the association has spent more than any other outside electioneering group to support Walker. It doled out an estimated $5 million to elect Walker in 2010 and another $9.4 million in the 2012 recall election to keep Walker in office.
Another outside electioneering group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which helped numerous Republican legislative candidates received $42,500 from the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk Nation which wants to build a casino in Beloit and is also opposes the Menominee’s Kenosha project.
The Republican State Leadership Committee spent an estimated $2.3 million mostly on Senate races in the 2010 general and 2011 and 2012 recalls. Most notably the group spent about $472,000 in the 2010 general elections to help take out former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and turn control of the Senate over to the GOP.
The likelihood that all of Wisconsin’s 11 tribes would approve the project was probably a tough hurdle from the get-go, but now seems almost impossible given the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk are among those tribes.
That the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk are major GOP campaign contributors puts Walker’s criteria for approving the deal in a different light. The governor says he didn’t want to play King Solomon and use his unilateral authority under federal law to “pick or choose between two well-respected entities” referring to the Menominee and Potawatomi tribes.
But the governor has created a casino approval process that is a likely no-win scenario for the Menominee, benefits wealthy supporters and makes it look like Walker tried to be exceedingly fair.