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Anti-Gambling Group Cut Tribal Ties

25 April 2003

WASHINGTON -- As reported by the Washington Tribnet: "A group of political heavyweights that includes five former governors has won headlines and - some say - legislative allies in its fight to keep the state from expanding gambling by preaching common-sense arguments about social costs.

"Calling itself Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, the group has tried to distance itself from the other leading force against expanding gambling: Washington's Indian tribes, which are seeking to preserve their $500 million-a-year gambling enterprise.

"But pro-gambling forces are challenging CAGE's claim of moral superiority in light of evidence the group was actually formed by request of the tribes.

"...Washington tribes are fighting a campaign by a coalition of nontribal entertainment businesses seeking to persuade the Legislature to expand lottery offerings and the availability of electronic slot machines.

"CAGE, led by King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and former Govs. Booth Gardner and Mike Lowry, also is fighting the effort.

"Rick Cocker, a longtime friend of Maleng and Gardner, said there was never an effort to hide the fact that the original push to organize the group that became CAGE came from the Washington Indian Gaming Association, a client of his Seattle public relations firm, Cocker Fennessy.

"...But it was a `smokescreen,' said Lincoln Ferris, the lead lobbyist for the pro-expansion Entertainment Industry Coalition, representing minicasinos, restaurants and other nontribal businesses. `This is not some grandiose moral effort to oppose all gambling, but a front group to protect (the tribes') monopoly.'

"...Cocker Fennessy registered a Web site for the group late last year, started organizing and staffing its meetings and sending out letters opposing gambling expansion, under the assumption that the Indian gaming association would foot the bill.

"...On Feb. 5, CAGE registered as a political action committee with the PDC.

"Cocker said it was a natural evolution. But he added it was a `mistake' for CAGE to retroactively claim in its filings with the PDC that it had accrued the original expenses for organizing the group. That should have been reported by the Indian gaming association, he said..."

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