Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Foxwoods To Lay Off 700 Employees

Feather News


Foxwoods announced today that it will lay off 700 employees, citing the economy and its negative effects on revenues.

The layoffs will affect Foxwoods and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods within the next few weeks.

Yale Lacrosse Team Vs. Iroquois Nationals On October 4

Feather News


The following press release was passed on by Aaron Athey:

Bulldogs Hosting Iroquois Nationals on Oct. 4th at Reese Stadium, 7 p.m.

The Yale men's lacrosse team opens its 2008-09 schedule on Oct. 4 by hosting the Iroquois Nationals in a 7 p.m. exhibition game at Reese Stadium. The price of admission is $5.

This will be the second straight fall that the Iroquois and Bulldogs have played. Last October in Madison, Conn., attacker Tyler Casertano '08 tallied four goals in a 12-6 Yale victory at the Surf Club's Strong Field.

The Iroquois Confederacy is credited with inventing the modern game of lacrosse, playing it long before Europeans came to North America. The modern international long-stick game was created by the Iroquois. Iroquois tribes are the indigenous people of areas in what is now New York State and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Also known as the Six Nations, the Confederacy consists of the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca and Tuscarora tribes. The alliance created the first United Nations in North America and maintains the oldest continuously operating government on the continent. In 1987, Congress recognized the contributions of the Iroquois people to the democratic principles of the U.S. Constitution.

DIRECTIONS TO REESE STADIUM
From Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways: Take Exit 57 (Route 34 East) directly to the Yale Fields, or take Exit 59 (Whalley Avenue) and follow Yale Bowl Signs to the Yale Fields.
From I-95: Take Eastbound Exit 44 or Westbound Exit 45 to Route 10 and follow Yale Bowl signs. Or, take Exit 47 (Downtown) and follow Route 34 to the Yale Fields.
From Downtown New Haven: Go north on Chapel Street, then turn left on Derby Avenue (Route34) to the fields. From I-91: Take Exit 1 (Downtown) and follow Route 34 to the Yale Fields.
http://yalebulldogs.cstv.com/sports/m-lacros/spec-rel/091608aaa.html

Unions Seek To Do Away With Secret Ballots In Elections

Feather News


Below is a letter by Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole about unions' efforts to replace secret ballots in union elections with monitored voting that is not secret. Legislation that would do away with secret balloting in union elections has been stymied under the Bush administration.

Tribal governments under fire
By Tom Cole

I wear a number of hats in my professional life: I am the congressman from the 4th District in Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the only enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe in the U.S. Congress. I spend a lot of time with tribal leaders and tribal people, and I am often asked the following question:

“What is the greatest current threat to tribal governmental sovereignty?”

There is no question in my mind what the answer is, and I respond by saying, “In this Congress and the next, tribes face the greatest threat to their sovereign governments that the U.S. Congress has attempted in decades: the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.”

As Americans, we cherish our right to vote in private when it comes to elections. So, too, it seems to me with the individual right to vote in a union election in private – without some goon looking over our shoulder to make sure we vote “the right way.” This is a part of our democracy and ingrained in our collective sense of being Americans. It is also a fundamental component of our basic labor laws for more than 60 years, a personal freedom exercised by millions of American workers.

Yet that personal freedom is exactly what the Democratic Party leaders and their union boss cohorts want to take from American workers. This ill-conceived proposal represents payback for years of unquestioning loyalty by large union bosses – a proposal that strips union members of their right to have secret-ballot elections to choose their leaders.

For Indian tribal governments, there is no “free choice” at all. Instead, it carries with it a very real threat that goes to the core of their sovereignty. For the first time, this legislation will trample the inherent sovereign rights of tribal governments to govern their internal affairs. In this Congress and the next, tribes face the greatest threat to their sovereign governments that the U.S. Congress has attempted in decades: the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.

The bill will allow and encourage union bosses to use the National Labor Relations Board and federal courts to require Indian tribal governments to make public internal – even confidential – tribal documents. The NLRB, already hostile to the sovereignty of Indian tribes, would be allowed to interview and subpoena tribal employees and, incredibly, could prohibit the tribe from speaking with its own members if they happen to also be employees of that tribe! That doesn’t sound like “free choice” to me.

This threat is very real. As the centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s legislative agenda, this bill was the first major bill pushed by the Democratic Party leaders. Sen.Barack Obama has declared, “We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, we may have to wait for the next president to sign it, but we will get this thing done.” (Chicago Tribune, March 4, 2007). Sen. Joseph Biden, his running mate, stated that the Employee Free Choice Act is a new “social compact.”

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said just a couple of days ago that the union would work hard for the election of Democrat Barack Obama for president and push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. And he is not joking. Unions from around the country, their wallets overflowing with union member dues, have announced that they will spend well over $450 million trying to elect Sen. Obama.

The UAW is no stranger to efforts by Indian tribes to retain their liberty in the face of union mobilization. You see, the UAW is among the unions that are now challenging the sovereignty of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation by forcing it to unionize its casino operations. Indeed, the UAW is now in federal court trying to override the tribe’s own labor laws.

Essentially, what these union bosses are proposing to do is use the hard-earned dollars of tribal employees to undermine the sovereignty of the very tribal governments that employ them.

This threat to tribal sovereignty makes this election of vital importance to Indian tribes across the United States. To me the question is simple: Will the next president eagerly sign a law that strikes at the very heart of tribal sovereignty and ignores tribal aspirations to govern themselves? Or will the next president honor the solemn commitments made by the United States to tribal nations – commitments enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and 200 years of treaties and laws?

Only one candidate has shown the mettle to reject this legislation as part of the successful Senate blockade of that law last year. That same candidate has defended and successfully worked to strengthen tribal sovereignty for more than 26 years.

At the end of the day, I know that this tribal member is voting for that candidate – Sen. John McCain.

Rep. Tom Cole represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District and is a member of the Chickasaw Nation

Gaming Takes Spotlight In U.S. Presidential Contest

Feather News


The September 28 New York Times article chronicling Senator John McCain's gaming interests will become the focus of ads by the Democratic Party. Politico reports, "The DNC (Democratic National Committee) is buying ads on religious Web sites to highlight the McCain gambling ties reported on Sunday’s New York Times front."

Don't expect Barack Obama's poker games to make it into those ads. A July 6 USA Today article noted, "On Wednesday nights during Illinois General Assembly sessions, a group of lobbyists and lawmakers used to gather at the headquarters of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association for a weekly poker game. Barack Obama, who represented part of Chicago as state senator from 1997-2004, was a regular."

The New York Times article on McCain was re-published on Sunday on the Feather News. Sen. McCain, who co-authored the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and spearheaded the investigation against lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is said to enjoy playing craps and poker in the article.

WNBA Basketball Finals To Begin Wednesday

Feather News


Detroit won the Eastern Conference finals series last night, beating New York by a score of 77-73 and landing Detroit in the championship round against San Antonio. The first game in the best-of-five league championship series will be Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. The games will be televised on ESPN2. The schedule for the championship series can be found on the right-hand side of this site.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Photos: Tribal Member Aaron Athey Performs At United Nations Day Of Peace





Video: Today's Margaritaville Restaurant Opening

Photos: Today's Margaritaville Restaurant Opening At Mohegan Sun





Atlantic City: Trump Taj Mahal Hotel Tower Opens Thursday

Feather News


A $255 million, 782-room hotel tower will officially open Thursday at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

According to an AP story, "The tower could determine whether Trump Entertainment, which The Donald chairs but no longer runs, will survive. The company is $1.67 billion in debt; it's selling one of its other two Atlantic City casinos, and it has cut its total work force to 8,000 from 13,000 five years ago."

Atlantic City casinos have suffered from the new slot parlors in Pennsylvania and New York as well as the economic situation in general. In October, a complete smoking ban at Atlantic City casinos may further hurt the casinos' bottom line.

According to Donald Trump, "There's tremendous competition in Atlantic City, and the smoking ban is going to be a disaster," Trump said. "That's why we're excited about the (hotel) tower. We think it's going to do extremely well."

The Taj Mahal Casino Resort's new hotel tower third is the third major hotel project that has been completed in Atlantic City this year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tribe's Pocono Downs Slot Revenue Up 20% Since Doubling Number Of Slot Machines

Feather News


In the ten weeks since the Tribe's $203 million Pocono Downs expansion opened July 17, slot machine revenue at the Pennsylvania slot parlor has increased by almost 20 percent.

The number of slot machines at the Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor doubled upon opening its expansion in July, reporting 2,478 slot machines last week.

Some Pennsylvania slot parlors say that a new law that took effect on September 11, which limits smoking areas to 25% of the gaming floor, have resulted in customers going to other casinos.

The state's gaming board could give permission to slot parlors to increase the size of their smoking areas to half of the floor space if the slot parlors show that the slot machines in the smoking section are generating more revenue than those in the non-smoking area.

The smoking limits were implemented at Pocono Downs when it opened its expansion on July 17, according to spokesman Jim Wise.

The casinos in Atlantic City also limit smoking to 25% of the gaming floor but a complete smoking ban will take effect October 15. Casino officials there believe that customers will continue to go to Pennsylvania slot parlors when the ban takes effect.

There are no smoking limitations at the two Indian casinos in Connecticut.

The Tribe In The Media: NY Times Article On Sen. McCain's Background With Gaming Industry

Feather News


This installment of The Tribe In The Media is a New York Times article on Senator John McCain's involvement gambling. McCain was one of the co-authors of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry
By Jo Becker and Don Van Natta, Jr
New York Times
September 28, 2008

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

Mr. McCain supported tax breaks for casinos over the years, including one that helped Foxwoods in Connecticut. He has also gambled there.A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

As a two-time chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain has done more than any other member of Congress to shape the laws governing America’s casinos, helping to transform the once-sleepy Indian gambling business into a $26-billion-a-year behemoth with 423 casinos across the country. He has won praise as a champion of economic development and self-governance on reservations.

“One of the founding fathers of Indian gaming” is what Steven Light, a University of North Dakota professor and a leading Indian gambling expert, called Mr. McCain.

As factions of the ferociously competitive gambling industry have vied for an edge, they have found it advantageous to cultivate a relationship with Mr. McCain or hire someone who has one, according to an examination based on more than 70 interviews and thousands of pages of documents.

Mr. McCain portrays himself as a Washington maverick unswayed by special interests, referring recently to lobbyists as “birds of prey.” Yet in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors.

When rules being considered by Congress threatened a California tribe’s planned casino in 2005, Mr. McCain helped spare the tribe. Its lobbyist, who had no prior experience in the gambling industry, had a nearly 20-year friendship with Mr. McCain.

In Connecticut that year, when a tribe was looking to open the state’s third casino, staff members on the Indian Affairs Committee provided guidance to lobbyists representing those fighting the casino, e-mail messages and interviews show. The proposed casino, which would have cut into the Pequots’ market share, was opposed by Mr. McCain’s colleagues in Connecticut.

Mr. McCain declined to be interviewed. In written answers to questions, his campaign staff said he was “justifiably proud” of his record on regulating Indian gambling. “Senator McCain has taken positions on policy issues because he believed they are in the public interest,” the campaign said.

Mr. McCain’s spokesman, Tucker Bounds, would not discuss the senator’s night of gambling at Foxwoods, saying: “Your paper has repeatedly attempted to insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists — and it reveals that your publication is desperately willing to gamble away what little credibility it still has.”

Over his career, Mr. McCain has taken on special interests, like big tobacco, and angered the capital’s powerbrokers by promoting campaign finance reform and pushing to limit gifts that lobbyists can shower on lawmakers. On occasion, he has crossed the gambling industry on issues like regulating slot machines.

Perhaps no episode burnished Mr. McCain’s image as a reformer more than his stewardship three years ago of the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican Indian gambling lobbyist who became a national symbol of the pay-to-play culture in Washington. The senator’s leadership during the scandal set the stage for the most sweeping overhaul of lobbying laws since Watergate.

“I’ve fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes,” the senator said in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination this month.

But interviews and records show that lobbyists and political operatives in Mr. McCain’s inner circle played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation. The senator’s longtime chief political strategist, for example, was paid $100,000 over four months as a consultant to one tribe caught up in the inquiry, records show.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the senator acted solely to protect American Indians, even though the inquiry posed “grave risk to his political interests.”

As public opposition to tribal casinos has grown in recent years, Mr. McCain has distanced himself from Indian gambling, Congressional and American Indian officials said.

But he has rarely wavered in his loyalty to Las Vegas, where he counts casino executives among his close friends and most prolific fund-raisers. “Beyond just his support for gaming, Nevada supports John McCain because he’s one of us, a Westerner at heart,” said Sig Rogich, a Nevada Republican kingmaker who raised nearly $2 million for Mr. McCain at an event at his home in June.

Only six members of Congress have received more money from the gambling industry than Mr. McCain, and five hail from the casino hubs of Nevada and New Jersey, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics dating back to 1989. In the presidential race, Senator Barack Obama has also received money from the industry; Mr. McCain has raised almost twice as much.

In May 2007, as Mr. McCain’s presidential bid was floundering, he spent a weekend at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas strip. A fund-raiser hosted by J. Terrence Lanni, the casino’s top executive and a longtime friend of the senator, raised $400,000 for his campaign. Afterward, Mr. McCain attended a boxing match and hit the craps tables.

For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We were always concerned about appearances,” one former official said. “If you go around saying that appearances matter, then they matter.”

The former official said he would tell Mr. McCain: “Do we really have to go to a casino? I don’t think it’s a good idea. The base doesn’t like it. It doesn’t look good. And good things don’t happen in casinos at midnight.”

“You worry too much,” Mr. McCain would respond, the official said.

A Record of Support

In one of their last conversations, Representative Morris K. Udall, Arizona’s powerful Democrat, whose devotion to American Indian causes was legendary, implored his friend Mr. McCain to carry on his legacy.

“Don’t forget the Indians,” Mr. Udall, who died in 1998, told Mr. McCain in a directive that the senator has recounted to others.

More than a decade earlier, Mr. Udall had persuaded Mr. McCain to join the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Mr. McCain, whose home state has the third-highest Indian population, eloquently decried the “grinding poverty” that gripped many reservations.

The two men helped write the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 after the Supreme Court found that states had virtually no right to control wagering on reservations. The legislation provided a framework for the oversight and growth of Indian casinos: In 1988, Indian gambling represented less than 1 percent of the nation’s gambling revenues; today it captures more than one third.

On the Senate floor after the bill’s passage, Mr. McCain said he personally opposed Indian gambling, but when impoverished communities “are faced with only one option for economic development, and that is to set up gambling on their reservations, then I cannot disapprove.”

In 1994, Mr. McCain pushed an amendment that enabled dozens of additional tribes to win federal recognition and open casinos. And in 1998, Mr. McCain fought a Senate effort to rein in the boom.

He also voted twice in the last decade to give casinos tax breaks estimated to cost the government more than $326 million over a dozen years.

The first tax break benefited the industry in Las Vegas, one of a number of ways Mr. McCain has helped nontribal casinos. Mr. Lanni, the MGM Mirage chief executive, said that an unsuccessful bid by the senator to ban wagering on college sports in Nevada was the only time he could recall Mr. McCain opposing Las Vegas. “I can’t think of any other issue,” Mr. Lanni said.

The second tax break helped tribal casinos like Foxwoods and was pushed by Scott Reed, the Pequots’ lobbyist.

Mr. McCain had gotten to know Mr. Reed during Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, which Mr. Reed managed. Four years later, when Mr. McCain ran for president, Mr. Reed recommended he hire his close friend and protégé, Rick Davis, to manage that campaign.

During his 2000 primary race against George W. Bush, Mr. McCain promoted his record of helping Indian Country, telling reporters on a campaign swing that he had provided critical support to “the Pequot, now the proud owners of the largest casino in the world.”

But Mr. McCain’s record on Indian gambling was fast becoming a difficult issue for him in the primary. Bush supporters like Gov. John Engler of Michigan lambasted Mr. McCain for his “close ties to Indian gambling.”

A decade after Mr. McCain co-authored the Indian gambling act, the political tides had turned. Tribal casinos, which were growing at a blazing pace, had become increasingly unpopular around the country for reasons as varied as morality and traffic.

Then came the biggest lobbying scandal to shake Washington.

Behind an Inquiry

At a September 2004 hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain described Jack Abramoff as one of the most brazen in a long line of crooks to cheat American Indians. “It began with the sale of Manhattan, and has continued ever since,” he said. “What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit.”

Over the next two years, Mr. McCain helped uncover a breathtaking lobbying scandal — Mr. Abramoff and a partner bilked six tribes of $66 million — that showcased the senator’s willingness to risk the wrath of his own party to expose wrongdoing. But interviews and documents show that Mr. McCain and a circle of allies — lobbyists, lawyers and senior strategists — also seized on the case for its opportunities.

For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.

The Abramoff saga started in early 2003 when members of two tribes began questioning Mr. Abramoff’s astronomical fees. Over the next year, they leaked information to local newspapers, but it took the hiring of lobbyists who were competitors of Mr. Abramoff to get the attention of Mr. McCain’s committee.

Bernie Sprague, who led the effort by one of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewas in Michigan, hired a Democratic lobbyist who recommended that the tribe retain Scott Reed, the Republican lobbyist, to push for an investigation.

Mr. Reed had boasted to other lobbyists of his access to Mr. McCain, three close associates said. Mr. Reed “pretty much had open access to John from 2000 to at least the end of 2006,” one aide said.

Lobbyist disclosure forms show that Mr. Reed went to work for the Saginaw Chippewa on Feb. 15, 2004, charging the tribe $56,000 over a year. Mr. Abramoff had tried to steal the Pequots and another tribal client from Mr. Reed, and taking down Mr. Abramoff would eliminate a competitor.

Mr. Reed became the chief conduit to Mr. McCain’s committee for billing documents and other information Mr. Sprague was digging up on Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Sprague said, who said Mr. Reed “did a great to service to me.”

“He had contacts I did not,” Mr. Sprague said. “Initially, I think that the senator’s office was doing Reed a favor by listening to me.”

A few weeks after hiring Mr. Reed, Mr. Sprague received a letter from the senator. “We have met with Scott Reed, who was very helpful on the issue,” Mr. McCain wrote.

Information about Mr. Abramoff was also flowing to Mr. McCain’s committee from another tribe, the Coushatta of Louisiana. The source was a consultant named Roy Fletcher, who had been Mr. McCain’s deputy campaign manager in 2000, running his war room in South Carolina.

It was in that primary race that two of Mr. Abramoff’s closest associates, Grover Norquist, who runs the nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform, and Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition, ran a blistering campaign questioning Mr. McCain’s conservative credentials. The senator and his advisers blamed that attack for Mr. McCain’s loss to Mr. Bush in South Carolina, creating tensions that would resurface in the Abramoff matter.

“I was interested in busting” Mr. Abramoff, said Mr. Fletcher, who was eventually hired to represent the tribe. “That was my job. But I was also filled with righteous indignation, I got to tell you.”

Mr. Fletcher said he began passing information to John Weaver, Mr. McCain’s chief political strategist, and other staff members in late 2003 or January 2004. Mr. Weaver confirmed the timing.

Mr. McCain announced his investigation on Feb. 26, 2004, citing an article on Mr. Abramoff in The Washington Post. He did not mention the action by lobbyists and tribes in the preceding weeks. His campaign said no one in his “innermost circle” brought information to Mr. McCain that prompted the investigation.

The senator declared he would not investigate members of Congress, whom Mr. Abramoff had lavished with tribal donations and golf outings to Scotland. But in the course of the investigation, the committee exposed Mr. Abramoff’s dealings with the two men who had helped defeat Mr. McCain in the 2000 primary.

The investigation showed that Mr. Norquist’s foundation was used by Mr. Abramoff to launder lobbying fees from tribes. Ralph Reed was found to have accepted $4 million to run bogus antigambling campaigns. And the investigation also highlighted Mr. Abramoff’s efforts to curry favor with the House majority leader at the time, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, a longtime political foe who had opposed many of Mr. McCain’s legislative priorities.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the senator did not “single out” Ralph Reed or Mr. Norquist, neither of whom were ever charged, and that both men fell within the “scope of the investigation.” The inquiry, which led to guilty pleas by over a dozen individuals, was motivated by a desire to help aggrieved tribes, the campaign said.

Inside the investigation, the sense of schadenfreude was palpable, according to several people close to the senator. “It was like hitting pay dirt,” said one associate of Mr. McCain’s who had consulted with the senator’s office on the investigation. “And face it — McCain and Weaver were maniacal about Ralph Reed and Norquist. They were sticking little pins in dolls because those guys had cost him South Carolina.”

Down on the Coushattas reservation, bills related to the investigation kept coming. After firing Mr. Abramoff, the tribe hired Kent Hance, a lawyer and former Texas congressman who said he had been friends with Mr. McCain since the 1980s.

David Sickey, the tribe’s vice chairman, said he was “dumbfounded” over the bills submitted by Mr. Hance’s firm, Hance Scarborough, which had been hired by Mr. Sickey’s predecessors.

“The very thing we were fighting seemed to be happening all over again — these absurd amounts of money being paid,” Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance’s firm billed the tribe nearly $1.3 million over 11 months in legal and political consulting fees, records show. But Mr. Sickey said that the billing statements offered only vague explanations for services and that he could not point to any tangible results. Two consultants, for instance, were paid to fight the expansion of gambling in Texas — even though it was unlikely given that the governor there opposed any such prospect, Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance and Jay B. Stewart, the firm’s managing partner, defended their team’s work, saying they successfully steered the tribe through a difficult period. “We did an outstanding job for them,” Mr. Hance said. “When we told them our bill was going to be $100,000 a month, they thought we were cheap. Mr. Abramoff had charged them $1 million a month.”

The firm’s fees covered the services of Mr. Fletcher, who served as the tribe’s spokesman. Records also show that Mr. Hance had Mr. Weaver — who was serving as Mr. McCain’s chief strategist — put on the tribe’s payroll from February to May 2005.

It is not precisely clear what role Mr. Weaver played for his $100,000 fee.

Mr. Stewart said Mr. Weaver was hired because “he had a lot of experience with the Senate, especially the new chairman, John McCain.” The Hance firm told the tribe in a letter that Mr. Weaver was hired to provide “representation for the tribe before the U.S. Senate.”

But Mr. Weaver never registered to lobby on the issue, and he has another explanation for his work.

“The Hance law firm retained me to assist them and their client in developing an aggressive crisis management and communications strategy,” Mr. Weaver said. “At no point was I asked by Kent Hance or anyone associated with him to set up meetings with anyone in or outside of government to discuss this, and if asked I would have summarily declined to do so.”

In June 2005, the tribe informed Mr. Hance that his services were no longer needed.

Change in Tone

After the Abramoff scandal, Mr. McCain stopped taking campaign donations from tribes. Some American Indians were offended, especially since Mr. McCain continued to accept money from the tribes’ lobbyists.

Resentment in Indian Country mounted as Mr. McCain, who was preparing for another White House run, singled out the growth in tribal gambling as one of three national issues that were “out of control.” (The others were federal spending and illegal immigration.)

Franklin Ducheneaux, an aide to Morris Udall who helped draft the 1988 Indian gambling law, said that position ran contrary to Mr. McCain’s record. “What did he think? That Congress intended for the tribes to be only somewhat successful?” Mr. Ducheneaux said.

Mr. McCain began taking a broad look at whether the laws were sufficient to oversee the growing industry. His campaign said that the growth had put “considerable stress” on regulators and Mr. McCain held hearings on whether the federal government needed more oversight power.

An opportunity to restrain the industry came in the spring of 2005, when a small tribe in Connecticut set off a political battle. The group, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, had won federal recognition in 2004 after producing voluminous documentation tracing its roots.

The tribe wanted to build Connecticut’s third casino, which would compete with Foxwoods and another, the Mohegan Sun. Facing public opposition on the proposed casino, members of the Connecticut political establishment — many of whom had received large Pequot and Mohegan campaign donations — swung into action.

Connecticut officials claimed that a genealogical review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was flawed, and that the Schaghticoke was not a tribe.

The tribe’s opponents, led by the Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, turned to Mr. McCain’s committee. It was a full-circle moment for the senator, who had helped the Pequots gain tribal recognition in the 1980s despite concerns about their legitimacy.

Now, Mr. McCain was doing a favor for allies in the Connecticut delegation, including Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a close friend, according to two former Congressional aides. “It was one of those collegial deals,” said one of the aides, who worked for Mr. McCain.

Barbour Griffith & Rogers wanted Mr. McCain to hold a hearing that would show that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was “broken,” said Bradley A. Blakeman, who was a lobbyist for the firm at the time.

“It was our hope that the hearing would shed light on the fact that the bureau had not followed their rules and had improperly granted recognition to the Schaghticoke,” Mr. Blakeman said. “And that the bureau would revisit the issue and follow their rules.”

Mr. McCain’s staff helped that effort by offering strategic advice.

His staff told a lobbyist for the firm that the Indian Affairs Committee “would love to receive a letter” from the Connecticut governor requesting a hearing, according to an e-mail exchange, and offered “guidance on what the most effective tone and approach” would be in the letter.

On May 11, 2005, Mr. McCain held a hearing billed as a general “oversight hearing on federal recognition of Indian tribes.” But nearly all the witnesses were Schaghticoke opponents who portrayed the tribe as imposters.

Mr. McCain set the tone: “The role that gaming and its nontribal backers have played in the recognition process has increased perceptions that it is unfair, if not corrupt.”

Chief Richard F. Velky of the Schaghticokes found himself facing off against the governor and most of the state’s congressional delegation. “The deck was stacked against us,” Mr. Velky said. “They were given lots of time. I was given five minutes.”

He had always believed Mr. McCain “to be an honest and fair man,” Mr. Velky said, “but this didn’t make me feel that good.”

Mr. Velky said he felt worse when the e-mail messages between the tribe’s opponents and Mr. McCain’s staff surfaced in a federal lawsuit. “Is there a letter telling me how to address the senator to give me the best shot?” Mr. Velky asked. “No, there is not.”

After the hearing, Pablo E. Carrillo, who was Mr. McCain’s chief Abramoff investigator at the time, wrote to a Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbyist, Brant Imperatore. “Your client’s side definitely got a good hearing record,” Mr. Carillo wrote, adding “you probably have a good sense” on where Mr. McCain “is headed on this.”

“Well done!” he added.

Cynthia Shaw, a Republican counsel to the committee from 2005 to 2007, said Mr. McCain made decisions based on merit, not special interests. “Everybody got a meeting who asked for one,” Ms. Shaw said, “whether you were represented by counsel or by a lobbyist — or regardless of which lobbyist.”

Mr. McCain’s campaign defended the senator’s handling of the Schaghticoke case, saying no staff member acted improperly. The campaign said the session was part of normal committee business and the notion that Mr. McCain was intending to help Congressional colleagues defeat the tribe was “absolutely false.”

It added that the senator’s commitment to Indian sovereignty “remains as strong as ever.”

Within months of the May 2005 hearing, the Bureau of Indian Affairs took the rare step of rescinding the Schaghticokes’ recognition. A federal court recently rejected the tribe’s claim that the reversal was politically motivated.

Making an Exception

That spring of 2005, as the Schaghticokes went down to defeat in the East, another tribe in the West squared off against Mr. McCain with its bid to construct a gambling emporium in California. The stakes were similar, but the outcome would be far different.

The tribe’s plan to build a casino on a former Navy base just outside San Francisco represented a trend rippling across the country: American Indians seeking to build casinos near population centers, far from their reservations.

The practice, known as “off-reservation shopping,” stemmed from the 1988 Indian gambling law, which included exceptions allowing some casinos to be built outside tribal lands. When Mr. McCain began his second stint as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee three years ago, Las Vegas pressed him to revisit the exceptions he had helped create, according to Sig Rogich, the Republican fund-raiser from Nevada.

“We told him this off-reservation shopping had to stop,” Mr. Rogich said. “It was no secret that the gaming industry, as well as many potentially affected communities in other states, voiced opposition to the practice.”

In the spring of 2005, Mr. McCain announced he was planning a sweeping overhaul of Indian gambling laws, including limiting off-reservation casinos. His campaign said Las Vegas had nothing to do with it. In a 2005 interview with The Oregonian, Mr. McCain said that if Congress did not act, “soon every Indian tribe is going to have a casino in downtown, metropolitan areas.”

Prospects for the proposed California project did not look promising. Then the tribe, the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, hired a lobbyist based in Phoenix named Wes Gullett.

Mr. Gullett, who had never represented tribes before Congress, had known Mr. McCain since the early 1980s. Mr. Gullett met his wife while they were working in Mr. McCain’s Washington office. He subsequently managed Mr. McCain’s 1992 Senate campaign and served as a top aide to his 2000 presidential campaign. Their friendship went beyond politics. When Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, brought two infants in need of medical treatment back to Arizona from Bangladesh, the Gulletts adopted one baby and the McCains the other. The two men also liked to take weekend trips to Las Vegas.

Another of Mr. McCain’s close friends, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, was a major investor in the Guidivilles’ proposed casino. Mr. Cohen, who did not return calls, was best man at Mr. McCain’s 1980 wedding.

Scott Crowell, lawyer for the Guidivilles, said Mr. Gullett was hired to ensure that Mr. McCain’s overhaul of the Indian gambling laws did not harm the tribe.

Mr. Gullett said he never talked to Mr. McCain about the legislation. “If you are hired directly to lobby John McCain, you are not going to be effective,” he said. Mr. Gullett said he only helped prepare the testimony of the tribe’s administrator, Walter Gray, who was invited to plead his case before Mr. McCain’s committee in July 2005. Mr. Gullett said he advised Mr. Gray in a series of conference calls.

On disclosure forms filed with the Senate, however, Mr. Gullett stated that he was not hired until November, long after Mr. Gray’s testimony. Mr. Gullett said the late filing might have been “a mistake, but it was inadvertent.” Steve Hart, a former lawyer for the Guidivilles, backed up Mr. Gullett’s contention that he had guided Mr. Gray on his July testimony.

When asked whether Mr. Gullett had helped him, Mr. Gray responded, “I’ve never met the man and couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

On Nov. 18, 2005, when Mr. McCain introduced his promised legislation overhauling the Indian gambling law, he left largely intact a provision that the Guidivilles needed for their casino. Mr. McCain’s campaign declined to answer whether the senator spoke with Mr. Gullett or Mr. Cohen about the project. In the end, Mr. McCain’s bill died, largely because Indian gambling interests fought back. But the Department of Interior picked up where Mr. McCain left off, effectively doing through regulations what he had hoped to accomplish legislatively. Carl Artman, who served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary of Indian Affairs until May, said Mr. McCain pushed him to rewrite the off-reservation rules. “It became one of my top priorities because Senator McCain made it clear it was one of his top priorities,” he said.

The new guidelines were issued on Jan. 4. As a result, the casino applications of 11 tribes were rejected. The Guidivilles were not among them.

The Tribe In The Media: More On Mohegan Halting Hotel Construction

Feather News


This installment in The Tribe In The Media series is an article from the Las Vegas Review Journal which describes simply why the Mohegan Tribe had to halt its hotel construction. Keep in mind that bank and bond covenants are agreements made between the lender and borrower. Mohegan's bank and bond covenants include limits on the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's (MTGA) debt levels. If MTGA continued to move ahead with its Project Horizon, it probably would have violated its bank covenants.

It's plain that pain's a regular refrain
Las Vegas Review Journal
September 28, 2003

It's plain that pain's a regular refrain The delay of a $734 million expansion at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut says as much about the economic state of the gaming industry as the Aug. 1 announcement by Boyd Gaming Corp. that it was halting construction of the $4.8 billion Echelon.

Financially, all is not well.

Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Zarnett thought the Mohegan Tribe made a wise move in pushing back construction of a 922-room hotel tower and House of Blues theater by at least a year. He had a similar reaction when Boyd put the brakes on Echelon.

"This suspension is likely to last longer due to deteriorating industry fundamentals along with the need to potentially redo bank and bond covenants," Zarnett told investors.

He also said historical high leverage levels permitted by banks are a thing of the past.

The casino industry is facing an increasingly difficult economic environment that is pressuring cash flows and balance sheets.

The Mohegan Sun and the massive Foxwoods resort are the only two casinos in Connecticut. The tribal properties have seen gaming revenues decline 5.5 percent this year due to competition from Rhode Island and New York casinos. Also, the weakening economic climate in New York City has impacted the casinos' key feeder market.

Mohegan Sun has been trying to keep up with Foxwoods, which opened a $700 million hotel expansion in conjunction with MGM Mirage last spring. However, Zarnett said the Mohegan tribe could have breached its covenants with bond holders had construction continued.

The collapsing credit markets have delayed or killed many casino projects. On the Strip, Crown Las Vegas is dead and a $5 billion development on the New Frontier site is on life support. In Atlantic City, Pinnacle Entertainment slowed a $2 billion Boardwalk project.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tax-Exempt Bond Market Hits Worst Rates In 6 Years

Feather News
Updated


The Mohegan Tribe said they were still intent on borrowing money for a new government building and community center despite facing tax-exempt interest rates that are the highest in more than six years.

According to a Bloomberg Financial News report, "Variable interest rates on tax-exempt debt soared to a record, higher than long-term, fixed-rate yields, boosting concern that investors who borrow to finance bond holdings are being forced to sell amid weak demand. Issuers have postponed more than $7 billion in planned borrowing, after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. sought bankruptcy protection Sept. 15, sparking a shakeup that's reshaped Wall Street and led the U.S. government to propose a $700 billion rescue. State and local governments also face costs as high as 9 percent on variable-rate demand notes amid outflows from money- market mutual funds that continued yesterday."

"Interest costs on debt sold by issuers such as New York City, with rates set daily or weekly, climbed as much as fivefold in the past two weeks to 9 percent or more."

The Tribe has stated in the past that they hope to borrow money for the building for 30 years in such a way that they can delay the first interest payment for five years. Last week, the Tribe was to borrow $51 million but said they were delaying the borrowing.

The Tribe has said the building would cost $89 million but, according to one high official, the building could cost $100 million. After including interest expense on the borrowing, the building could eventually cost as much as $300 million (the equivalent of close to $300,000 per tribal adult).

Last year alone, the Tribal government paid just over $7 million in interest expense and it is likely that figure will double upon borrowing the total amount for the government building.

The Tribes In The News: Mohegan's Former Casino Management Company Partners Face Slot Parlor Difficulties In R.I.

Feather News


This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Cape Code Times article from yesterday outlining the latest financial difficulties of the Twin River racetrack-slot parlor in Rhode Island.

Tribe's casino backers struggle with debt
Cape Cod Times
By Stephanie Vosk
September 24, 2008

The main financial backers for the proposed Mashpee Wampanoag casino, already in difficult financial straits, received more bad news in recent days.

Moody's Investor Service yesterday downgraded the credit rating of their "racino," Twin River, in Rhode Island, citing a "high probability" that the owners will seek bankruptcy protection, the Associated Press reported.

Tribe coverage Moody's action follows Standard & Poor's credit rating downgrade a few days earlier. S&P made the change after Twin River owners missed a Sept. 2 interest payment on $145 million in loans to its second-lien lenders, according to the AP.

The greyhound track and slot parlor is owned and operated by UTGR, a subsidiary of BLB Investors, Inc., which includes principles Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman, who have backed the Wampanoag tribe since at least 2006.

The developers have reached a secret deal with the tribe to finance a $1 billion Indian casino in Middleboro. The tribe is currently waiting for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to review its application to put land there into trust.

If the company does declare bankruptcy, it may affect the investors' ability to borrow money in the future, but it shouldn't alter the deal with the Wampanoag, said Clyde Barrow, a leading researcher of gambling economics at UMass Dartmouth.

Under that agreement, they're not really the investors, just the brokers, he said.

"They don't have to borrow anything," he said. "All they have to do is find somebody to put up the money."

Tribal council spokesman Scott Ferson did not return calls seeking comment.

It also won't affect operations at Twin River, but the investors may be forced to sell the license for much less than they paid for it, Barrow said.

Their overall investment totalled nearly $700 million and is more than double what casino investor Richard Fields recently paid Donald Trump to buy an Atlantic City casino.

Kerzner, Wolman and their partners overpaid for the former dog track in Lincoln, R.I., and then put too much into the Twin River renovation project, Barrow said.

"I think they bought on the speculation that they were going to be able to turn this into a full-blown casino and compete with Foxwoods to a much greater degree than they've been able to do, and of course that has not happened," Barrow said.

Under a deal with Rhode Island officials, the investors only take in about 30 percent of gross gaming revenues from the video lottery terminals, Barrow said.

The problem is not the payment setup, or the fact that Twin River is under performing — slot revenues there are going up each year while they are dropping at many other casinos, Barrow said.

"They're carrying too heavy of a debt load," he said. "Basically they're carrying casino debt on a dog track."

In June, Twin River officials approached Rhode Island officials with a request to slash the state's take in half in exchange for an up-front payment of $560 million. A deal hasn't yet been reached.

"The Moody's report was not unexpected," Twin River spokeswoman Patty Doyle told the AP. "It certainly doesn't change our intention to continue the dialogue with lenders, vendors and the state."

Reminder: Tribal Government Office Closed Tomorrow For CT Indian Day

Video: Earth Hotel Construction Site At 9 A.M. Today

Closing Date For Auditor Position Is Today

Feather News


The Tribal government announced that it will hire an auditor. Applications for the job opening are set to close today, although no announcements of the job have made to tribal members. The qualifications for the job include a BS degree in accounting, business administration, computer science or related degree.

WNBA Basketball Playoffs Continue Without Tribe's Team

Feather News


The two conference finals in the WNBA are set to begin tonight. As with the first round of the playoffs, the teams will play a best-of-three game series and the winners will play each other for the league title.

The first game of the Western Conference finals is tonight at 10:30 p.m. between the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Los Angeles Sparks.

The first game of the Eastern Conference finals is tomorrow between the New York Liberty (the team that beat the Connecticut Sun in the first round of the playoffs) and the Detroit Shock.

The winners of the each of those conference finals series will play for the WNBA league title.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

MTGA To Make Investor Financing Presentation Tomorrow

Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority will speak at the Deutsche Bank Sixteenth Annual Leveraged Finance Conference tomorrow, September 24. Presentations similar to this are usually made when MTGA is looking for financing.

Connecticut Indian Gaming Conference Set For October 10

Feather News


A conference entitled "Indian Gaming in Connecticut" will be held October 21 at the CBA Law Center in New Britain, Ct.

According to details released about the conference, "Two of the largest employers in Connecticut — Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun — have unique operating, regulatory, and
jurisdictional requirements that affect their employees and vendors. This program focuses on the agreements and regulations governing Indian gaming in Connecticut, and
provides historical and current perspectives on tribal sovereignty, Indian gaming, gaming regulation, and other unique issues that arise in this context. Attendees receive an overview of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, the tribal-state compacts, gaming procedures, related agreements for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe, and licensing and registration requirements for gaming employees and vendors."

The faculty and speakers are co-chairs Betsy Conway (Legal Counsel, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation), Andrew L. Houlding (Rome McGuigan PC, Hartford), Helga M. Woods (Attorney, Mohegan Tribe), Marilyn J. Ward Ford (Professor, Quinnipiac University School of Law), Jackson T. King, Jr., (General Counsel, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation), George F. Wandrak (Assistant Director of Gaming Regulation, Mohegan Tribe), Paul A. Young ( Executive Director of the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue)

The program schedule is as follows:
9:00 Introduction to “Tribal Sovereignty”
9:45 Indian Gaming Overview
10:30 Break
10:45 Regulation of Connecticut Indian Casinos
11:45 State Role in Tribal Gaming Operations
12:45 Questions and Answers

Who Should Attend
According the the Connecticut bar website, "Attorneys who represent employees and vendors providing services to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, as well as business representatives providing such services, will benefit from this program. Members of the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan bars are encouraged to attend."

This seminar is appropriate for both newly-admitted and experienced attorneys. The price for members is $145.00 and $225.00 for non-members.

Rome McGuigan Law Firm To Represent Election Committee In Court

Feather News
Updated


Andrew Houlding, an attorney with the law firm of Rome McGuigan, will represent the Election Committee in the case of Kenneth Davison v. Mohegan Tribe Election Committee according to paperwork dated yesterday, September 22.

The selection of the attorney to represent the Election Committee was not made by the Election Committee. It is believed that the Tribal Council chose the attorney from Rome McGuigan to represent the Election Committee. The Election Committee is neutral and is required to follow the Election Code as established by the Tribal Council.

At issue in the case is whether the Tribe's election code violates the Tribe's Constitution as Davison asserts. The election code, or election law, requires tribal members to choose one candidate for each elective position in an election while the Tribe's Constitution states that tribal members "shall be entitled to cast one vote for each elective position" in an election.

The election law, as it relates to the August 31 election for the Council of Elders, required tribal members to vote for four candidates because there were four positions up for grabs in that election. If a voter selected less than four candidates, as Davison did, his/her ballot was deemed "spoiled" and not counted.

Davison voted for three candidates and asserts that his ballot should be counted. "I can't imagine that the intent of the Constitution is to require tribal members to vote for candidates that they dont want to vote for but the election code (ordinance) mandates just that in its current form," according to his complaint with the Election Committee.

The Election Committee ruled that it lacks the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the election code and that they must follow the law as it is written. According to the election code, a tribal member can appeal an Election Committee decision to the Tribal Court and Davison did that last week.

"As the law is written now, tribal members are allowed to submit a ballot but they are not allowed to vote, as most people understand the term "vote." If a tribal member submitted a ballot in the August 31 election without selecting exactly half of the candidates listed on that ballot, then his or her ballot would not count."

The Election Committee has 30 days from last week to submit an answer to the complaint Davison filed in Tribal Court.

Photo: Mohegan Sun's Winter Entrance During Earth Hotel Construction

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegans Stop Construction Of Hotel

Feather News


This installment of The Tribe In The Media series is an article in The Day newspaper's website that reports the Mohegan Sun's stopping of construction on its 39-story hotel.

Mohegans, Citing Economic Slowdown, Delay Casino Expansion
By Heather Allen
The Day
September 22, 2008

The Mohegans will delay their ongoing expansion project in light of economic challenges that have been plaguing the two tribally owned casinos in Connecticut, as well as other gaming markets throughout the country.

The Earth Expansion at Mohegan Sun will be put on the back burner for at least a year, the tribe's gaming authority said in a release today.

The Mohegans unveiled a piece of the $925 million Project Horizon expansion at the end of August with the opening of the Casino of the Wind.

The project was scheduled to wrap up in the fall of 2010 with the opening of the 39-story Earth Tower hotel, 1,500-seat House of Blues music hall, a 22,000-square-foot spa and new retail and dining space. The total projected cost for the Earth Expansion was to be $734 million.

President and CEO Mitchell Etess was not immediately available for comment Monday evening.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Eliminated From Playoffs; N.Y. Beats Sun 66-62

Feather News


The Connecticut Sun was eliminated tonight from the playoffs after losing to New York by a score of 66-62. New York's win tonight propelled them into the next round of the playoffs, winning two of the three game series against the Connecticut Sun.

The Connecticut Sun was trailing by the end of the first quarter until they tied the game at 53-53 with just over 5 minutes remaining.

Attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena was reported to be 6,011.

Investors Remain Nervous: DJIA Falls 372 Points; Oil Jumps $16; USD Falls

Feather News
Updated


Investors remained nervous today, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 372 points. Casino stocks fell more than the overall market as investors remain concerned about capital and liquidity issues in that sector and also awaited further details about the government's plan to purchase $700 billion in banks' mortgage debt.

A barrel of oil at one point fell by more than $25 but ended the day down $16, a one-day record jump. Previously, the one-day record increase for oil was $10.75 set last June.

The U.S. dollar also fell today, recording its largest one-day decline (2.3%) against the euro since the European currency was introduced in 1999. The decline of the dollar is largely tied to the nation's forecasted deficit, worsened by an anticipated government bailout plan. The dollar is now worth 1.4866 euros.

The Tribe In The Media: Update On Wisconsin Indian Casino

Feather News


This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from today's Kenosha News about the Menominee Tribe's continuing efforts to secure approval for another casino in Wisconsin. In February, Leo Chupaska of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported that the Mohegan Tribe and its business arm, MTGA, had invested about $9 million into the project.

Casino plan still moving forward
Joe Potente
Kenosha News
Sept. 22, 2008

Plans for a Kenosha casino remain very much alive, a project backer said late last week.

Eric Olson, project director, said the Menominee Nation proposal recently underwent an unmet needs study, which will be discussed in a Sept. 29 meeting with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington.

"They asked us for a comprehensive financial study on how the development's going to help the tribe and the reservation up north in Keshena," Olson said. "We provided that - we did a complete study."

The Menominee and its partner, the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe, have spent nearly five years pursuing the development, which would be located at Dairyland Greyhound Park.

Original estimates pegged it to be an $808 million development. Menominee officials and Olson have said the project's price tag is now likely around $1 billion.

The tribe continues to await the blessing of the federal government, which must rule whether the casino is in the best interest of the tribe and the Kenosha community. If the Bureau of Indian Affairs recommends approval of the project, it would then go to Gov. Jim Doyle for approval or denial.

If the governor approves it, it would then go back to Washington for a ruling on whether to hold the 223-acre Dairyland property in tribal trust, effectively making it reservation land.

Menominee officials hoped for a ruling during the summer. It has now been more than four years since the tribe submitted its initial application materials.

Olson, hired last year to be the liaison between the tribe and the Kenosha community, said the facility is still expected to create about 3,100 jobs, plus 1,400 construction jobs while it is being built.

"In light of where we are economically, I've always said that jobs are what's going to create an economic recovery," Olson said. "It's not cash infusions; it's jobs. This brings jobs into this area."

Olson said he feels good about where the project sits, in spite of the delays.

"(The Bureau of Indian Affairs) asked us for additional information," Olson said. "We supplied that in August, and now we've got people from the tribe going out there to discuss the application with the BIA.

"We think it's positive."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Presidential Campaign Donations

Feather News


Over this U.S. Presidential campaign, executives affiliated with the Tribe and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority supported Senator Chris Dodd more than any other candidate.

Chuck Bunnell, the Tribe's deputy chief of staff, gave $2,300 to Sen. Dodd in the last quarter of 2007. Mitchell Etess and Phil Cahill each gave Sen. Dodd $1,000 at the end of 2006.

The "Rudy" man at MTGA was Mike Ciaccio, who gave Rudy Giuliani $250. A Fred Thompson supporter, to the tune of $300, was found within the Mohegan gaming commission.

None of the tribal councilors are recorded as giving money to a presidential candidate.

The Mohegan Tribe is also not in the records as having given money to a presidential candidate in this election cycle. The Cowlitz Tribe gave $4,600 to Sen. Dodd.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe gave $2,300 to Sen. Dodd and, later, $2,300 to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Republican John McCain, former chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, doesn't accept money from Indian tribes.

The latest information available was up until June 2008. None of the information above includes donations made by spouses.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Beats N.Y. 73-70

Feather News
Updated


The Connecticut Sun beat New York yesterday by a score of 73-70 in the best-of-three playoff series. Both the Sun and New York each won one game so far in the series.

The third and last game is Monday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The team that wins Monday's game will advance to the next round of the playoffs, while the team that loses is eliminated from the playoffs. Monday night's game will be televised on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

Points by Sun players in yesterday's game: Jones 16, Whalen 15, Abrasimova 12, Holt 7, Whitmore 6, Gardin 5, Turner 5, Gruda 4, Phillips 3. Assist leaders: Whalen 4, Abrasimova 3.

The game on Saturday was in the Mohegan Sun Arena. It was about three-quarters full with 7,234 fans in attendance.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Flash: Urgent Tribal Membership Meeting On Monday Called By Tribal Council

Feather News
Updated

The Tribal Council announced at about 3:30 this afternoon that it will be holding an "important membership meeting" Monday evening at 6:00 p.m. in the Tribal Meeting Room.

No other details are yet available and it's unclear why the meeting has been called under such short notice.

Perhaps on Monday, the tribal government can clarify what the meeting is about or post an agenda so tribal members can judge for themselves whether it is important enough to change their plans for that night. If we find out more, we'll post it here on Monday.

Note: The meeting notice was not posted on the Tribe's website until Sunday even though it was backdated to Friday.

Photo: Chief's Deli At Casino Of The Wind


Chief's Deli To Be Added To Elder Meal Card Program

Feather News


Effective October 1, elders who are age 62 and over will be able to use their tribal meal cards at the new Chief's Deli, located in the Mohegan Sun's Casino of the Wind.

Currently, the meal cards can be used at Birches Bar and Grill, Fidelia's and the two casino buffets.

Flash: Mohegan Not Selected For Kansas Casino; Hard Rock at Kansas Speedway Chosen

Feather News
Updated


Today, the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board selected the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino at Kansas Speedway to build and manage a casino in Wyandotte County-Kansas City.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino at Kansas Speedway (The Cordish Company), estimated to cost $705.6 million to build, is scheduled to open in 2011.

Hard Rock beat out a proposal by Golden Gaming Inc. and Legends Sun, made up of RED Development LLC and Mohegan Sun.

According to reports, the Kansas Review Board voted for the Hard Rock proposal by a 4-3 margin. Golden Gaming got the other three votes while the Mohegan's group, Legends Sun, received no votes.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses Playoff Opener To N.Y.; Must Win Next Two Games To Advance

Feather News


The Connecticut Sun lost to New York tonight in the team's first playoff game this season by a score of 72-63 at Madison Square Garden.

The Connecticut Sun must win the next two games against New York to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

The next two games in the best-of-three series are on Saturday (7 p.m.)and Monday (7 p.m.). Both games will be at the Mohegan Sun Arena unless New York wins on Saturday, in which case New York will win the series and the third game will not be played.

Points tonight by Sun players: Whitmore 16, Jones 11, Abrosimova 8, Whalen 6, Turner 6, Phillips 6, Raymond 4, Gardin 2, Holt 2, Gruda 2. Whalen led the Sun team in assists with 6, no other Sun player had more than 1 assist. Jones and Whitmore led the Sun team in rebounds with 6 each.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stocks Tumble; Financial Markets In Turmoil

Feather News
Updated


At today's 4 p.m. closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded a loss of 449 points for the day while gold and other precious metals, considered safe-havens in risky times, rose sharply.

Gold December futures rose 9 percent to $850.50 an ounce, the largest percentage gain since 1999 and its largest one-day gain in dollar terms. Silver futures for December delivery rose 11 percent to $11.675 an ounce, the biggest gain since 1979.

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced it will give a two-year, $85 billion loan to American International Group (AIG) in exchange for a nearly 80 percent stake in the company. AIG, the world's largest insurance company lost billions in insuring against bond defaults. The news failed to reassure investors.

Stocks of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the two largest U.S. securities firms, "tumbled the most ever in trading after a government rescue of American International Group Inc. failed to ease the credit crisis," according to Bloomberg News.

According to the New York Times, the Mohegan tribal government announced plans to borrow $51 million this week which is expected to be used toward construction of a government building-community center. It is unclear whether the Tribe will cancel the $51 million bond offering due to the economic situation.

Declining casino revenues and worsening economic conditions has not resulted in the Tribe modifying any of its construction plans so far. For years, tribal members have proposed a low-cost community center where members can gather but the Tribal Council has never taken them seriously and appear to be going full steam ahead toward a government building-community center that will eventually cost $100 million (not including interest expense), according to one high government official.

Almost twelve years have gone by since the Mohegan Sun casino opened and the Tribe still does not have a gathering place, a community center, for tribal members.

The Tribal Council met in executive session today with Phil Cahill, the Tribe's chief operating officer, over finance issues. Due to the Tribe's practice of discussing substantive government finance issues behind closed doors and not during the open session part of Tribal Council meetings, tribal members never know the state of their government's financial affairs.

The Tribe In The News: Mohegan Makes Closing Argument On Its Bid For Kansas Casino

Feather News


This installment of The Tribe In The Media series, which shows tribal members how the Tribe is portrayed in the media and allows Feather News to reprint their articles without permission, are the last-minute statements by casino developers/managers as to why their casino proposals would be best for Kansas. Kansas' Lottery Review Board is expected to select the winning casino developers/managers by Friday.

More reports on remaining casino proposals released
By Sam Hartle
Kansas City Kansan
September 17, 2008

Kansas City, Kan. - A team of consultants plus officials from the three remaining Wyandotte County casino developers have submitted their final thoughts ahead of the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board meetings in Topeka on Thursday and Friday.

The final reports come on the heels of hundreds of pages of reports and information the consultants and applicants processed during meetings earlier this month.

In an executive summary prepared for the review board, Dr. William Eadington, a professor a the University of Nevada-Reno, presented the consultant’s final reports, which included revisions and answers to questions posed by the review board.

During a teleconference meeting last week, members of the review board once again questioned the impact the proposals would have on the existing base of amenities in the Village West area.

Civic Economics, a consulting firm retained by the review board to analyze such issues, writes that all the proposals will grow the overall market instead of just shifting money around.

The firm, however, does note the risk to current Village West businesses.

“On the basis of sales per square foot, Village West full-service restaurants are, in aggregate, underperforming,” the company’s report stated. “The current performance of Village West food and beverage outlets suggests that the regional market may be stressed by the addition of substantial new competition in the area.”

The report continues that the destination-style of the retail, dining and entertainment options proposed will limit the effects because of the larger geographic base of customers.

Specifically, Civic says in the report that two particular proposals – Kansas Entertainment and Legends Sun – “present a much greater competitive threat, increasing the risk of further degrading performance at Village West.”

The company concludes that if the projects are developed appropriately, they could limit any affects on existing amenities in Village West, including the development of additional entertainment and nightlife attractions.

Richard Wells and William Cummings, the two consultants charged with projecting revenues for the casino developers, also submitted revised estimates.

The revisions, however, don’t seem to alter their original conclusions that the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino proposed by Kansas Entertainment would generate the most gaming revenue of the bunch.

Interestingly, the consultants’ revised estimates boosted the revenue projections for Pinnacle Entertainment’s casino operations, though those projections are now moot due to Pinnacle’s withdrawal on Monday.

Though a myriad of variables could be applied, the consultants still maintained that gaming revenues for the Golden Gaming and Legends Sun proposals would lag behind those generated at the Hard Rock.

Also included in the agenda report were responses from the three remaining applicants as well as Pinnacle, since the report was generated prior to the company’s withdrawal. The responses:

• Golden Gaming: In response to a board request for more information regarding, among other items, charitable contributions included in the company’s pre-development agreement with Edwardsville, the company committed to a minimum contribution of $1 million per year, with not less than 50 percent going to educational funding and other interests in Wyandotte County.

The company would also host a charity event where 50 percent of proceeds generated would go to charitable causes in the county. Finally, the company would host a charity golf tournament with proceeds donated to a charity of Tom Watson’s choice. Watson is charged with designing and building the golf course associated with Golden’s proposal.

The group also further delineated what infrastructure costs it anticipates to pay for as a result of the proposal.

Finally, Golden included a report from Art Hall, executive director of the University of Kansas School of Business Center for Applied Economics highlighting the development’s fiscal impact to the community.

• Kansas Entertainment: In its submission, the group continued to defend its mix of ancillary amenities, saying that the proposal “creates the critical mass of crucial non-gaming amenities necessary to attract significant incremental visitors to the region.” The group continues that the project “will create new demand that will benefit all existing businesses.”
Kansas Entertainment also responded to questions regarding the ability of the Hard Rock brand to generate additional revenues.

“Our experience and third-party research reports indicate that the addition of the Hard Rock brand to the project will provide approximately a 12-percent lift in project revenues compared to a non-branded facility.”

Finally, the group included written documentation of additional commitments made by Kansas Speedway during the review process. Those additional commitments include an effort to land a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race and the construction of an infield road course, among others.

• Legends Sun: In its response to the review board, the Legends Sun team sought to drive home two points: 1) The experience and expertise of Mohegan Sun in generating gaming revenues, and 2) The financial ability of Mohegan and partner RED Development to finance the project.

The group defended the number of slots at its proposed facility (at 2,000 slots, the Legends Sun project would have far fewer than Golden Gaming and Hard Rock), stating that, “Our project is the most expensive and has the largest gaming floor – designed to accommodate more machines if the market so dictates.”

A detailed analysis breaking down the financial contributors to the project was also included in Legends Sun’s follow up report.

Finally, the team included a report produced by Gaming Market Advisors, an independent, third-party consulting firm, that indicated Legends Sun’s gaming revenues projected by Wells and Cummings.

To read full reports from the review board’s consulting team, and to view responses by developers, visit www.ksracing.org.

Mohegan Sun's Free Play Promotions At Highest Level In August

Feather News
Updated


Patrons at Mohegan Sun used over $4 million in promotional free-play credits in August, marking the promotion's most expensive month yet since the casino began the promotion last November.

On Monday, Mohegan Sun announced that its August slot machine revenue declined by about 7 percent when compared to August 2007.

In 2007, the entire Labor Day weekend landed in September while this year, the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend were the last two days of August. The opening of the Casino of the Wind took place on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, which added hundreds of slot machines to the Mohegan Sun complex but none of these factors were enough to stem the decline in slot revenues.

According to the state of Connecticut's slot machine statistics schedule, about $4.2 million in free-play promotions were used in August at Mohegan Sun while $5.2 million was used at Foxwoods. The promotions are used to lure patrons to the casinos.

Foxwoods' slot machine revenue for the month of August increased by just over 1 percent when compared to August 2007. Foxwoods also added hundreds of slot machines since August 2007, when its MGM Grand at Foxwoods opened in mid-May.

Mohegan Sun reported $77.5 million in August slot machine revenues while Foxwoods reported $72.8 million. Out of these revenues, both casinos pay the state of Connecticut 25 percent.

Foxwoods began offering the promotion about a year earlier than Mohegan. Last December, Foxwoods hit the high mark in this type of promotion when $23 million in free-play promotions were redeemed.

Note: Readers can see the full slot statistics report by scrolling down on the righ-hand side of the blog to the section entitled "Other Sites." Under that section, click on the links called "CT Slot Stats - Mohegan" and "CT Slot Stats - Foxwoods."

Mohegan Election Law To Be Challenged In Tribal Court

Feather News


A complaint was filed earlier this week by tribal member Ken Davison in the Mohegan Tribal Court which challenges the requirement that tribal members must vote for all elective positions in tribal elections.

Last week, the Election Committee ruled that it lacks the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the Election Code and advised Davison that he has 7 working days to appeal the decision to the Tribal Court.

Davison voted for three candidates in the recent Council of Elders election and his ballot was deemed not valid because he did not vote for all four elective positions in that August 31 election. Davison wants the three votes on his ballot to be added to the candidate vote totals before the new members elected to the Council of Elders are seated in October.

At issue is the wording of the Mohegan Constitution, which states that tribal members "shall be entitled to cast one vote for each elective position" in an election while the Election Code says that tribal members must vote for each elective position.

According to Davison's complaint, "I cannot imagine that the Constitution's intent is to force tribal members to vote for candidates that a voter doesn't want to vote for but the Ellection Code (ordinance) mandates just that in its current form."

Just before filing his complaint with the Tribal Court on Monday, the Council of Elders acting as the Tribe's Supreme Court told Davison that they would not hear the case as it should first be heard in a lower court.

A date has not yet been set for the case to be heard in Tribal Court.

Casino Developer Withdraws Bid For Kansas Casino

Feather News


Pinnacle Entertainment, one of the four companies left vying for a Kansas casino in the same region as the group that includes the Mohegan Tribe, has withdrawn from the competition.

Pinnacle said their decision to withdraw was due to the "current turmoil in the financial markets." Pinnacle has also delayed its building of a casino on the former property of the Atlantic City Sands Casino Hotel on the boardwalk, which was demolished last year.

Pinnacle withdrew in time to have its $25 million state gambling “privilege fee” refunded.

Including Las Vegas Sands, two groups have now pulled out of the process to build and manage a casino in Wyandotte County. The Mashantucket Pequots withdrew their proposal to build a casino in another region of Kansas earlier this year. Casinos that are selected for the four regions in the state are expected to pay 27 percent of their revenues to the state while racetracks will be taxed at 60 percent, which prompted the owners of all three Kansas pari-mutuel racetracks to back out of deals, saying the state’s 60 percent levy on future gaming revenues was too high to make a profit.

Three groups are now left in the bidding for a casino in the Wyandotte County-Kansas City region of Kansas. A selection by the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facilities Review Board could be made by Friday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Atlantic City August Casino Revenue Up 7%, Las Vegas Strip Casino July Gaming Revenue Down 14.7%

Feather News


The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported a decline of 14.7 percent in July Las Vegas Strip gaming revenues while Atlantic City reported an increase of 7 percent in its August casino revenues.

Both Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos reported their figures last week but Atlantic City's figures are more recent - for the month of August. Las Vegas' numbers reflect their July activity.

Atlantic City's slot revenues were flat in August. Las Vegas' slot revenues fell 9% in July. Analysts predict lower revenues once a smoking ban takes effect at the Atlantic City casinos on October 15.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Flash: Mohegan Sun's August Slot Revenue Falls By About 7%

Feather News
Updated


It has been reported today that August slot revenues at Mohegan Sun, which includes 2 1/2 days of their new Casino of the Wind figures, fell by about 7 percent.

August 2008 included the Saturday and Sunday of the Labor Day weekend while last year, in 2007, the Labor Day weekend landed entirely in September. Labor Day weekend is traditionally a high-volume weekend but even that extra push, combined with a new casino opening at the end of August, didn't help the Mohegan Sun overcome its continuing slot revenue slide.

Foxwoods reported an increase of slightly over 1 percent in its August slot revenues.

Financial Giant Merrill Lynch To Be Sold To Bank Of America

Feather News
Updated


The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 504 points today, its worst day since September 17, 2001.

Over the weekend, financial giant Lehman Brothers announced it would file for bankruptcy after all potential buyers gave up. The filing reflects Lehman Brothers is closing its doors with debt that exceeds $600 billion. The U.S. Treasury refused to provide the potential buyers any takeover aid, as it did when Bear Stearns crumbled a half-year ago and when it seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier this month.

Bank of America, still trying to absorb the troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, will buy Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch had been hit by tight credit markets and falling market values tied to its billions of dollars of mortgage-backed assets.

"Just the psychological impact of this kind of failure is going to be significant," said Samuel Hayes, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School. "It will color people's feelings about their well-being and the integrity of the financial system."

The world's largest insurance company, the American International Group Inc., is also expected to announce a major restruis asking the Federal Reserve for emergency funding and plans to announce a major restructuring today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tribe Seeks To Borrow $51 Million This Week

Feather News
Updated


The Mohegan Tribe will attempt to borrow $51 million this week toward the construction of its government building, according to a September 14 report in the New York Times.

This amount is believed to be about half of what the total building will eventually cost the Tribe, according to one source who previously said that the total cost will be about $100 million.

Currently, the tribal government pays about $7 million in annual interest expense, or close to $7,000 each year per tribal adult.

The $51 million bond package is tax-exempt, meaning that those who buy the bonds will not pay taxes on the interest income that will be paid to them by the Mohegan Tribe.

The Tribe delayed the bond offering since the Spring in the hope that its interest rate would drop but that doesn't seem likely given the decline in casino earnings since then and the further tightening of credit markets.

The Mohegan tribal government is almost entirely reliant upon gaming revenues - and businesses associated with its casinos - to finance its government budget.

Today, the world's financial markets will begin absorbing the news that two of the world's financial giants - Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch - are averting collapse by filing for bankruptcy (in the case of Lehman Brothers) and by being sold to another bank (in the case of Merrill Lynch). What effect this will have on the credit markets, and the Mohegan Tribe's attempt to borrow money, is unclear but higher interest rates are a distinct possibility.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Beats Washington 87-81

Feather News


The Connecticut Sun beat Washington 87-81 yesterday at the Mohegan Sun arena.

The Sun's regular season is now over and will play New York on Thursday in the first playoff game of a best-of-three series.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses Thursday To San Antonio 78-74

Feather News


The Connecticut Sun lost to San Antonio on Thursday by a score of 78-74, the Sun's third straight loss before the team's last regular season game on Saturday against Washington. Saturday's game will be in the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Connecticut Sun clinched a playoff spot and will match up against New York in their best-of-three playoff series. The Sun's first playoff game will be next Thursday (Sept 18) at New York, followed by two home games against New York on Saturday (Sept 20) and, if necessary, the third game will be on Monday (Sept 22).

Photo: Casino Of The Wind Aerial View

Election Committee Responds To Two Complaints

Feather News
Updated with full names

The Election Committee responded to two formal complaints yesterday brought by two tribal members. Neither complaint faulted the Election Committee for anything but rather requested the Election Committee to look into and resolve election-related matters that were beyond their control.

Both Ken Davison and Throws His Hatchet (a.k.a. Tom Epps, a.k.a. Hatchet) believe that the section of the election ordinance that requires tribal members to vote for all elective positions in an election is inconsistent with the Mohegan Constitution. Both Davison and Hatchet state that the election law forces tribal members to vote for candidates that they don't want to vote for. The Election Committee said they did not hold hearings on that topic yesterday since the Election Committee cannot decide Constitutional matters. Both were told that they could follow the election code and have the opportunity to seek redress if they file their complaints in tribal court within seven days.

As you know, the tribal court is not an independent court and the judge's contract is renewed by the Tribal Council.

Davison selected three candidates on his ballot but the ballot was declared not valid because four candidates were not selected as required by the election ordinance. "I can't imagine that the Constitution's intent is to force tribal members to vote for candidates that a voter doesn't want to vote for but the election code (ordinance) mandates just that in its current form," according to Davison's complaint.

The Election Committee did, however, hold a hearing yesterday regarding Throws His Hatchet's complaint about the lack of access to the ballot box on the Friday afternoon (August 29) before the Sunday (August 31) Council of Elders election.

Three of the five tribal members that serve on the Election Committee swore in Throws His Hatchet around 4:30 yesterday while 18 tribal members watched the proceedings. Also present was Sandra Eichelberg, who taped the proceedings, and Wuskuso newsletter staff member Nancy Trimble. No members of the Tribal Council or Council of Elders were present at the hearing. Presumably, the Council of Elders did not attend because they have judicial responsibilities and Tribal Councilors did not attend because they could have been called as witnesses over the office closing.

Tribal government employees were sent home early on the afternoon of Friday, August 29th, because it was Labor Day weekend and the doors to the building were locked, according to Throws His Hatchet.

Tribal members were told specifically in a letter that accompanied their ballot mailing that the tribal government office, where the ballot box is located, would be open until 4:30 that Friday afternoon. Instead, the office was closed in the afternoon.

Throws His Hatchet did not call any witnesses and said he did not personally know of any tribal members that could not deliver their ballot. He did note one instance in which another tribal member told him of arriving at the building that Friday afternoon and finding someone to unlock the door so that the tribal member could put his ballot in the ballot box. Throws His Hatchet said that nobody knows how many tribal members were denied the right to vote on that Friday afternoon.

According to the letter that accompanied the ballot mailing, tribal members were told that they could put their ballots in the ballot box until 4:30 on Friday, August 29, or hand deliver their ballots on Sunday morning, August 31, just before the ballot counting began.

The three members of the Election Committee - Gene Baker, Jim Gray and Joann Irwin - said they would study the matter and respond to Throws His Hatchet.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Column: Feather News Editor Denies One Of Two 9/11 Government Requests

By Ken Davison
Feather News
Updated

September 11th has become an unforgettable day for me. As it has for most of us.

On September 11, 2001, I was on the banks of the Hudson River a half-mile from Manhattan and watched the World Trade Center burn with my own eyes (see picture below).

On September 11, 2005, I was told that a job was waiting for me in Kabul, Afghanistan if I chose to go, which I did.

On September 11, 2008, I waited most of the day to receive a response from the Mohegan Election Committee on my complaint over tribal laws that require us to vote for candidates that we don't want to vote for.

I began the day reading an e-mail that our government requested we fly the flag at half-mast. I went outside and lowered the flag. I thought about the events of that transforming day in September 2001, what happened and how I felt.

But I had other things on my mind too.

While I thought about the next steps to take over the anticipated response that I would receive later in the day from the Election Committee, I was receiving various irritating e-mails throughout the day from the Tribe's chief operating officer, Phil Cahill. I received an e-mail from Phil earlier saying that the Tribal Council was requesting that I meet with them in executive session at next Wednesday's Tribal Council meeting.

I did what I thought was reasonable. I responded by asking him what the meeting was about and told him that I could not meet with the Tribal Council behind closed doors, that it had to take place in open session.

Does that sound unreasonable?

Since my election complaint was going on, I certainly wouldn't be able to discuss that issue with them. I think they may be the defendants if I have to take the election issue to tribal court and the last thing I want to do is jeopardize this case for tribal members.

In short, I just cannot talk to them about pending or planned action over topics outlined in election complaints so I wanted to know what it was they wanted to talk to me about. And I certainly could not meet with them in closed-session about anything. Regardless of the election law case, I would still want to know what any given meeting is about.

Shortly before I went to the tribal office today to get my response from the Election Committee I finally got a short reply from Phil. "it will be an informal discussion (about) responsibilities."

I couldn't understand his message and was trying to focus on my election complaint at the moment but I was courteous enough to e-mail him. I asked, "what responsibilities, whose responsibilities?"

Why they couldn't tell me what the meeting was about was beyond me. I don't think I've ever gone to a meeting without knowing what the meeting was about. I doubt Phil has either.

Moments later, before I left for the government building, I e-mailed Phil again so that I would be crystal clear, "Phil, I have no problem talking with you informally in any setting. I think you know that. I cannot, however, talk to the tribal council in closed session under any circumstances. I repeat, they need to put the request in writing and give me a detailed description about the topic and their concerns before I will consider it. If that cannot be done, then don't waste your time (and) consider their request denied."

I thought that would result in them telling me what the meeting was about. Boy, was I wrong. While sitting at the computer and talking with a friend about what our lives were like on September 11, 2001, I saw Phil's name pop up on my computer. I opened his e-mail:

Phil wrote, "Ken - let me clarify - the Council would like to meet with you after the Council meeting next Wednesday - the meeting is not part of the formal 'Council meeting agenda' and it will be held in the Council conference room. It’s an informal discussion and does not require any preparation on your part and I promise to have all the torture equipment removed first. Honestly I find your “demands” disrespectful and rather silly. Since I’ve been here the Council has requested dozens of people to come in and discuss a matter - you are the only one who has made this type of request. A simple “yes” or “no” will be fine."

I ask not to be in a closed-door "executive session" and ask the the reason for the meeting and I'm then called "disrespectful?" "Silly?"

I felt irritated, I had a lot of other things on my mind today. My response to Phil was short. Phil is an okay guy and I know it can't be easy for him when his bosses make him explain patiently over and over again exactly why 2 plus 2 cannot equal 5 but I knew what my response would be once I got half-way through the e-mail where Phil called my request "disrespectful." I answered, "no."

If the Tribal Council truly feels an urgent need to meet, I suggest they start meeting with those "dozens of people" again.

Then I looked up at the television - the World Trade Center was burning again, this time it was chronicled in a TV documentary.