Monday, February 4, 2008

McCain and Other U.S. Presidential Candidates Court Connecticut

By Ken Davison
Updated February 4, 2007

Three of the candidates for the presidency of the United States have had glancing contact with the Mohegan Tribe.

Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton visited the Mohegan reservation upon the public opening of the Sunburst casino expansion in 2001. Former President Clinton was the sitting president in 1994 when the Mohegans were federally-recognized.

U.S. Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has blasted the Bureau of Indian Affairs in public hearings for allowing the Mohegan's former casino manager, Trading Cove Associates, to extract "exorbitant" fees in their current contract with the Mohegan Tribe. McCain, a long-time advocate for American Indians, also served as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

McCain's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, tried to extort the tribe while he was the governor of Massachusetts, according to tribal councilor Mark Brown. Romney at one time proposed that the Indian tribes in Connecticut - Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan - pay the state of Massachusetts fees for as long as Massachusetts avoided legalizating casino gambling.

John McCain's wife, Cindi McCain, plays an active role in helping the people of Afghanistan overcome the tragedies of war. Cindi is on the board of trustees for the HALO Trust, which is an agency that removes landmines in that country through the help of about 2,500 Afghan employees. During the time I worked for that agency, I saw people returning to villages that, in some cases, had been abandoned since the war with the Soviets in the eighties because landmines had prevented their families from living there safely. The agency also clears explosive and other war debris from former battlefields, items which have been known to attract the curiousity of Afghan children with fatal consequences.

The photo above shows the Hindu Kush mountains, looking north from my bedroom at the time in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Soviet Union built the highest tunnel in the world in Hindu Kush mountains, an artery through which they later used to invade the country. The Afghan staff remember Cindi McCain for her modesty and not wanting any special treatment during her visit there.

Polls in Connecticut are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.