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Gaming-environment connection




Thu, May. 13, 2004

Wis. Supreme Court rules governor exceeded authority in gaming compact

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle exceeded his authority in signing a gaming compact with an American Indian tribe that had no expiration date and allowed Las Vegas-style games such as craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

But Doyle insisted the 4-3 decision has no bearing on the Forest County Potawatomi's ability to offer those games because Indian gaming is a matter of federal law, not state law, and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs already approved the deal. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Still, the decision sets the stage for what could be a protracted legal battle over the compacts signed by 10 tribes to run casinos in the state. It also puts into doubt the more than $200 million the tribes had agreed to give the state in the current two-year budget in exchange for the new gaming options Doyle had approved. Nine of the other tribes signed compacts similar to the Forest County Potawatomi deal. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

"There will be Indian gaming in Wisconsin and there's nothing the state can do about that because that's what's controlled by federal law," Doyle said. "The issue here is whether the state's going to get any money out of that Indian gaming." craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Doyle insisted the matter would ultimately be decided in federal court and anticipated the tribe would file a challenge. He was unsure whether the state would participate in that lawsuit or file its own appeal. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision was the latest chapter in a bitter battle between Doyle, a Democrat, and Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Assembly Speaker John Gard, who along with Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer sued Doyle, scoffed at Doyle's remarks and said he would approach district attorneys about shutting down what the Supreme Court ruled were illegal games. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Doyle said the district attorneys had no such authority. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Gard, R-Peshtigo, responded: "That's according to the governor, who is bitter about losing." craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Republican lawmakers who sued seeking to overturn the new Potawatomi compact accused Doyle of illegally substituting his own discretion for state policy by signing the compact. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court ruled Doyle exceeded his authority by agreeing to compacts that permanently remove Indian gaming from review by legislators because the deals had no expiration date. The court ruled the new games allowed under the compacts such as craps, roulette, variations of blackjack, electronic keno and poker violate the Wisconsin Constitution. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court also ruled Doyle exceeded his authority in waiving the state's sovereign immunity as part of the deals. That provision allowed the state and tribes to go to court to resolve disputes over the compacts. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford said in a statement the "real losers are the taxpayers who face a $207 million deficit and tens of thousands of families whose jobs are at stake." craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Before the decision came down, the Potawatomi announced Wednesday it wanted to start planning a $240 million addition to its Milwaukee casino or a whole new casino - but only if challenges to the compacts were unsuccessful in court. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The existing Potawatomi Bingo Casino opened in late 2000 and was built at a cost of more than $120 million. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The dissenting Supreme Court judges noted the ruling threatens the 35,000 jobs associated with Indian casinos and the 20,000 more the tribes have said they had planned to create under the new compacts. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Doyle said he was unsure if the Forest County Potawatomi would still be bound by the compact to make payments to the state. He said that would have to be negotiated with the tribe, as well as a new length for the compact. craps and roulette, a split Supreme Court ruled Thursday.



Gaming-environment connection

An alliance supporting Native American sovereignty called for Wisconsin citizens to flood the Governor's Office with calls, to oppose his linkage of tribal environmental regulations and treaty rights to the renewal of Indian casino compacts.

The Midwest Treaty Network, an alliance of grassroots Indian and non-Indian groups, was founded in 1989 to support Chippewa treaty rights and the Witness for Nonviolence program. It has since played a key role in building statewide coalitions of Native Americans, environmentalists, and sportfishing groups against sulfide mining plans--such as Exxon's proposed Crandon mine affecting the Mole Lake, Potawatomi, and Menominee Reservations near the Wolf River.

"Governor Thompson is trying to play the race card like he did a decade ago over treaty rights," said Red Cliff Chippewa tribal member Walter Bresette of the Midwest Treaty Network and Lake Superior Greens, "But I'm ready to place my bets on the good people of Wisconsin; I don't think they are ready to buy into his gamble. Many sportsmen now work with the tribes to protect the fish from mining, and tens of thousands of non-Indians benefit from tribal gaming. Our state is a different place than it was ten years ago."

Debra McNutt of the Midwest Treaty Network asked,"Why is it that Indian people are bashed for accepting welfare, and then bashed for developing their economies to get off welfare? Gaming has reduced welfare caseloads and unemployment, but now our 'welfare reform' Governor wants to pull the plug." McNutt added, "This is also an issue of local rights. If a sovereign nation's economy can he held hostage as a way to weaken its recognized rights and environmental regulations, then what other Wisconsin communities are safe? A recent poll showed that most Wisconsinites support any community keeping tough laws to protect the environment."

Rick Whaley, spokesperson for the Milwaukee Greens, said, "By targeting the tribes' federal clean air and water standards, the Governor is clearly trying to pave the way for the Crandon mine. He seems to want to trade tens of thousands of gaming-related jobs, and part of our $6 billion tourism industry, for the 400 high-tech miner jobs promised by Exxon. Non-Indian voices need to be heard now to stop this self- defeating scam."

"The tribes are the largest employers in at least seven counties, with 20,000 people directly employed and many secondary benefits in neighboring towns," said Bresette, "What other industry with that number of employees has even been intentionally threatened by state policy? State citizens need to become engaged, to contact the Governor and tell him to back off on Native sovereignty." He added, "Native people--like other people--have diverse opinions about gaming, but we all agree it should be our sovereign decision, not the State's. Thompson is using the issue to establish more control over the reservations, and abrogate basic rights that we recently risked our lives to protect. We are glad to discuss real concerns over gaming, but not with a gun to our heads."

Sierra Powers of WATER/Anishinaabe Niijii said: "The Thompson Administration for years has attempted to coerce the tribes to give up their treaty rights, or to prevent them from enacting federal air and water quality standards for their lands. The threat to close casinos is just one more attempt to weaken environmental standards in favor of polluters like Exxon."

Please immediately contact Governor Thompson at the State Capitol, Madison WI 53702, call (608) 266-1212, or e-mail:

To contact the Midwest Treaty Network , call (715) 833-8552, e-mail:, call the Hotline at toll-free (800) 445-8615

Wisconsin Gaming Directory


From: Al Gedicks
210 Avon Street # 4
La Crosse, WI 54603
(608) 784-4399

Governor Thompson's
Renewed Assault on Tribal Sovereignty


During Tommy Thompson's gubernatorial campaign in 1986 he told members of Protect American's Rights and Resources (PARR), an anti-Indian group in Minocqua: "I believe spearing is wrong, regardless of what treaties, negotiations or federal courts may say." After Thompson was elected governor, he had his chief political advisor, James Klauser, a former Exxon lobbyist, try to negotiate the buyout of Chippewa treaty rights. The Chippewa rejected the idea of selling their treaty rights and defended those rights at the boat landings for more than a decade. Now Governor Thompson has threatened to shut down tribal casinos when the gaming compacts come up for renewal in 1998 unless the state's 11 tribes agree to place non-gaming issues on the bargaining table. Among the non-gaming issues are those same federally guaranteed hunting and fishing rights as well as tribal air and water regulations.Chippewa tribal leaders have rejected this demand and accused the governor of negotiating in bad faith. Aside from the questionable legality of holding the renewal of the gaming compacts hostage to concessions on federally guaranteed treaty rights, the governor's demand that the tribes weaken their environmental protection measures places tribal peoples at even greater risk from environmental contamination.

The reason that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency amended the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts to give tribes the same standing as states to enforce enviromental standards was because tribal lands were overlooked in the original versions of these laws. A direct result of this oversight has been the buildup of mercury and other toxic chemicals in fish and game to levels posing "substantial health, ecological, and cultural risks to a Native American population that relies heavily on local fish and game for subsistence (U.S. EPA, 1992)." The position of the EPA is that the amendments to the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts are based upon the inherent authority of the tribes to protect the health and welfare of their members.

In the first treatment-as-a-state agreement, the EPA granted the Sokaogon Chippewa independent authority to regulate water quality on their reservation in 1995. The Sokaogon reservation, famous for its wild rice, is just a mile downstream from Exxon's proposed Wolf River sulfide mine. Tribal regulatory authority would affect all upstream industrial and municipal facilities, including Exxon's proposed mine and 350 acre toxic waste dump in the Swamp Creek watershed. Because Swamp Creek flows into the tribe's wild rice lake, the Sokaogon must approve any physical, chemical or biological upstream activity that might degrade their wild rice beds. A recent study commissioned by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission concluded that adverse effects on wild rice seedlings were noted at levels as low as 10 parts per million (ppm) for aluminum and 1ppm for copper, mercury and cadmium.

While the governor and his chief negotiators claim that they are only acting in the best interests of the citizens of the state, it is not clear how pressuring the tribes to weaken their environmental protection measures will benefit Wisconsin citizens. At public hearings on the Sokaogon Chippewa's application for water quality authority, local citizens, lake associations and environmental groups testified in support of the tribe's application. Many of those who testified expressed concern that Wisconsin's environmental laws have been weakened as a result of mining company pressures and that tribal water regulations were the last line of defense to protect Wisconsin's ground and surface waters from the harmful effects of acid mine drainage and heavy metals pollution.

However, the Wisconsin Mining Association, a spinoff of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), warned that tribal water quality authority "could be the most controversial and contentious development affecting the state in decades." Both the governor and his appointed Secretary of the DNR urged EPA to deny tribal regulatory authority. Within a week of EPA approval of Sokaogon Chippewa water quality authority, Wisconsin Attorney General James Doyle sued the EPA in federal court, demanding that the federal government reverse its decision to let Indian tribes to make their own water pollution laws. Exxon has also filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of the State of Wisconsin's lawsuit against EPA. The company's "brief" is three times longer than the state's brief.

During a recent Wisconsin public radio call-in show, Administration Secretary Mark Bugher denied that the governor's demand for concessions on tribal environmental regulations had anything to do with promoting the controversial Exxon Wolf River mine proposal. He explained that the state simply did not want to discourage potential businesses that might want to invest in the state who might be "confused" by stricter environmental regulations on reservations. The only confusion is why the Governor thinks it's all right to continue to place already exposed tribal populations at further risk of environmentally-caused health problems by taking away their right to regulate air and water quality on reservation lands. As in the bitter controversy over Chippewa spearfishing treaty rights that divided northern Wisconsin communities during the past decade, Governor Thompson and powerful corporate interests are using scare tactics to suggest that Indian sovereignty over reservation resources is an economic threat to small business owners and ordinary citizens while they ignore the serious potential for long term damage to the resource and economic base of northern Wisconsin from large scale mining and waste disposal.

Al Gedicks is the author of The New Resource Wars: Native and Environmental Struggles Against Multinational Corporations.

Poll Shows Strong Public Support for Local, Tribal Environmental Protections


(Madison) Today Wisconsin's Environmental Decade announced the results of a public opinion poll indicating widespread support for strong environmental standards. The poll measured the public's reaction when local, state and tribal governments differ in air and water regulations. In each case the public, by a nearly 2:1 margin, supported using the highest environmental standard.

"This poll is a strong show of support for strengthening, not weakening laws that protect air and water, said Pamela Porter, Executive Director of Wisconsin's Environmental Decade. "We weren't surprised by the results showing the majority of people in Wisconsin support environmental safeguards; but we were surprised by the strength of that support."

The poll may help explain why Wisconsinites have recently objected to efforts that weaken environmental safeguards, whether a proposal by Exxon to mine along the Wolf River, the Department of Agriculture's proposal to weaken current pesticide laws or preempting local governments from enacting laws that limit the siting factory hog farms.

The research poll, conducted by Chamberlain Research Consultants, an independent research firm, was conducted in October 1997. The sample size was 600 and the margin of error was 3.97.

In addition, the poll tested the strength of public opinion for tribal government laws. The state is involved in several lawsuits concerning tribal environmental standards set within reservation boundaries.

"With the state in the midst of negotiations on gaming compacts, we are concerned that the Governor will gamble away our natural resources," said Porter. "However, when state and tribal environmental standards differ, the public supports that the highest environmental standard be used."


Green Party Urges Thompson, Doyle to Negotiate in Good Faith with Tribes


The Thompson administration is holding Indian gaming compacts hostage in a shameful attempt to coerce Wisconsin tribes to relinquish their rights, says a spokesperson for the Green Party of Wisconsin. The governor has threatened to shut down casinos around the state if tribes don't accede to his demands, which include abolishing tribes' rights to set their own air and water quality standards, limiting the extent to which Chippewa bands may exercise their court-affirmed hunting and fishing rights, and levying additional taxes on gaming revenues.

"We are calling on the Governor to negotiate in good faith with the tribes," said Greens spokesperson Jeff Peterson in a statement issued from his home near Luck. "First, he needs to meet face-to-face with his counterparts from the Indian nations. Then we suggest that he drop the divide-and-conquer routine, beginning with delinking the unrelated issues of Chippewa treaty rights and gaming."

Wisconsin citizens have come to terms with the exercise of off-reservation hunting and fishing rights, according to Peterson, who cited the findings of a joint federal, state and tribal study initiated by U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). The conclusions of that study, published in a 1991 report titled "Casting Light Upon the Waters," were clear: Chippewa spearing has not harmed the resource.

The Green Party is upset not only with the Republican governor, but also with Democratic Attorney General James Doyle for his opposition to the rights of Indian tribes to regulate air and water quality within the boundaries of their reservations. "Doyle's fear is not that tribal self-regulation will result in weaker environmental safeguards, but that the tribes will enact standards tougher than the DNR's," Peterson claimed. "This shouldn't be a threat to anyone except polluting industries like mining."

The Green Party, which won ballot status as a political party through the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader and vice-presidential campaign of Winona La Duke, is considering running a candidate for the office of Attorney General. "We might still have a Public Intervenor if James Doyle had objected more strenuously to the Governor's gutting of that office," Peterson said. A provision in the last state budget bill moved the Public Intervenor's office from the Justice Department to the Department of Natural Resources and took away much of its authority to challenge environmentally destructive projects like mining.

It is mining interests, say the Greens, who stand to gain if Governor Thompson succeeds in his challenges to tribal sovereignty. James Klauser, Thompson's former Secretary of Administration and still a close advisor, worked as a lobbyist for the Exxon Corporation before taking a position in state government. Thompson is widely believed to be supportive of plans by Exxon to develop a large copper and zinc mine near Crandon in Forest County.

"Indian treaties are one of our best lines of defense against widespread mining-related pollution in northern Wisconsin," said Peterson. "We won't sit quietly by while Governor Thompson unilaterally acts to abolish treaty rights."

Green Party contacts:
Jeff Peterson (715) 472-2728 (h) or (715) 825-2101 (w)
Frances Bartelt (414) 332-3576


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