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Gaming Allows Tribes to Flex Political Muscle

20 December 2004

ARIZONA – As reported by the Arizona Business Journal: "Flush with new cash from increased gaming in the state and aware they are a key voting block, Indian tribes are starting to flex their political muscles at the state Capitol, in Washington and at the ballot box.

"Arizona tribes are hiring more lobbyists and contributing large sums to favored candidates to protect their gaming interests and to bring more state and federal resources to the reservations.

"…Native American tribes in Arizona are increasingly viewed as key players in the state along with business groups, Hispanics and Mormons. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, for example, was one of the top sponsors of the October presidential debate in Tempe.

"…State registries show that tribes such as Salt River, Navajo Nation and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation have top lobbyists in their employ at the Arizona Legislature. The 20-year gaming pact approved by voters in 2002 expanded tribal casinos in the state and showed the political muscles of the tribes.

"…Tribal advocates and those familiar with gaming in Arizona do not expect a push either from the state or tribes to change the current Indian casino structure. Such efforts have occurred in California and other states when cash-strapped state lawmakers looked for a bigger slice of gaming revenue.

"…Tribal gaming revenue totaled $1.3 billion in the most recently completed fiscal year with $38 million going to the state government. Local governments receive smaller shares.

"The cash influx is allowing Native American communities to bolster their campaign giving.

"The four tribes in the Phoenix metro area gave $105,000 in federal campaign contributions during the 2004 --

"mostly to Democrats, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. The tribes also are using their clout to work on other issues including water and infrastructure issues at the state and federal levels.

"…Tribes both in Arizona and nationally have shown some strength in key elections. Native Americans tend to vote Democratic and have been a factor in past face-offs in Arizona, South Dakota and some other states. That includes Janet Napolitano's win in the 2002 governor's race…"

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