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Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 3/23/2003

No exemption for Indians

For reasons not yet clear, the Federal Elections Commission has exempted Indian gaming interests in the United States from limits imposed on other donors under the latest campaign finance reform legislation.

This is an unfair circumstance that Congress should waste no time in redressing.

Competitors correctly complain about the inequity of the current situation. The gaming tribes, which spent $7 million in federal elections last year, are free of the individual donor limit of $95,000 to parties, political action committees, and candidates. In addition, they can donate directly from tribal treasuries, which corporations may not do.

This gives them a competitive edge and has no doubt contributed to the vast expansion of Indian gaming sites that compete with similar businesses and corporations that must work within the prescribed limits.

Tribal advocates are calling critics jealous or suggesting that they have in mind slowing or halting the economic and political progress that the tribes have gained since the Indian gambling enterprise began more than a decade ago. That is absurd. Federal election laws must apply to everyone.

An Associated Press analysis of tribal donations found that $8 of every $10 came from 30 tribes, all with casino interests.

Their giving has leaned to Democrats - helping to unseat GOP Sen. Slade Gorton in Washington state and helping Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota remain in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans are also piqued that three tribes gave $700,000 to the Democratic Party to help Democrat Jim Doyle win the Wisconsin governorship.

But this issue supersedes partisan politics. It's about whether there ought to be exceptions to the clean campaign laws. The answer is a loud NO.

It's the nature of people and politics to test limits, and already there are at least two tribes fighting California election officials' demand that they file campaign finance reports. For the sake of fair play, California should win.

It is true that Indian tribes were too long without economic and political clout, but that has been changing and it continues to evolve.

That is fair and equitable. But there can be no affirmative action claims in campaign finance reform. We are trying to curb “pay to play” practices in politics. And Americans must insist that all parties play by the same rules in both campaign contributions and their reporting.



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