Manages Parisian Family Office. Began Wall Street, 82. Founded investment firm, Native American Advisors. Member, White Earth Chippewa Tribe. Was NYSE/FINRA arb. Conservative. Raised on Native reservations. Pureblood, clot-shot free. In a world elevated on a tech-driven dopamine binge, he trades from Ghost Ranch on the Yellowstone River in MT, his TN farm, Pamelot or CASA TULE', his winter camp in Los Cabos, Mexico. Always been, and will always be, an optimist.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Way beyond Cabazon................

Reprinted from the January 11, 2006 Wall Street Journal

By Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Jack abramoff was sui generis- a personality out of control, flamboyantly corrupt, engaged in bizarre antics that your average Zegna-clad Washington lobbyist would never have dreamed of. And yet of the soggy papers that we journalists have a hard time punching our way out of is the notion that any scandal, when it reaches a certain prominence, must be representative. Enron wasn't the exception but the norm of corporate behavior. Jack Abramoff is just the protruding left toe under a bed sheet of K Street corruption.

In fact, the downfall of the man known in every press account as a "Republican lobbyist" was not remotely the upshot of workaday lobbying on behalf of corporations over this or that tax or regulatory issue. The media is wowed by the numbers of such cases but the millions the government giveth or taketh away are less impressive on corporate income statements, and are usually competed away in the marketplace for a company's goods or services.

How different when Washington can conjure vast wealth for specific individuals or small groups by granting unique priviliges to exploit the public without competition, as in the peculiar case of Indian casinos.

Mystifying, then, is why all hands insist on treating Indians as Mr. Abramoff's "victims." Lousiana's Coushatta Tribe was under no compulstion to pay him $32 million; it did so to foil another tribe's gambling project and secure its own inflated margins.

"You're the problem, buddy, in what happened to American Indians," Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell lectured an Abramoff associate two years ago. Huh? Mr. Custer's, er, Mr. Abramoff's sole interesting feature, aside from his self destructiveness and his possibly larcenous attempt to get into the gambling business himself, was his chutzpah in asking for such a big piece of change to do the tribe's dirty work.

Political anthropologists will have to excavate why Mr. Abramoff is a mega-scandal when peeps were barely raised about previous outrages in which the chief actors were public officials who presumably owed a higher standard of conduct. Say, several political appointees in the Bureau of Indian Affairs who, in the waning days of the Clinton administration, tossed aside expert advice and recognized, "tribes" just before spinning themselves out the revolving door and into jobs as lawyers for Indian gambling interests.

One of them, Michael Anderson, after he'd officially left his post, continued to sign and backdate documents to help one tribe. Mr. Anderson, an "enrolled member" of the Muskogee Nation, and a deputy, Loretta Tuell, a Nez Perce member, are now partners at the firm of Monteau and Peebles, connected lineally to the very foundation myth of Indian gaming.

No, we're not referring to the prehistoric "hoop and pole game" touted on one tribe's Web site. The beginning traces to the ancestral year of 1983, when an unemployed Connecticut welder, who may or may not have been one-sixteenth Pequot, wangled recognition for his defunct tribe. With backing from a Malaysian billionaire, and over the impotent objections of most of Connecticut, he launched the Foxwoods casino.

Foxwood's operators felt vulnerable and in need of allies, so another resurrected tribe, the Mohegans, teamed up with another billionaire, South African Sol Kerzner. Swiftly approving their Mohegan Sun casino was Harold Monteau, the Clinton-appointed head of the National Indian Gaming Commission, who ignored opposition from agency staff and from both of his fellow commissioners.

Need we add that Mr. Monteau, a Chippewa-Cree, was eventually shooed from office by congressional critics (mostly Democrats)? His law firm, with the Mohegans as a major client, now serves as a landing place for other fixers on the wing.

Mr. Abramoff was sui generis; all right. He wasn't an Indian and obviously lacked the discretion to keep his sleaze between even such compendious lines, allowing him to enjoy the fruits thereof undisturbed by prosecutors.

If there's a lesson for anyone but lobbyist trainees here, it's not a very original one. Where opportunities for enormous, instant wealth are sloshing around at the discretion of bureaucrats and legislators, invariably is bad policy to be found.

Take the minority and small business "set-asides" that produce indictments and jail sentences with such regularity that it's hardly noticed anymore. Or take the FCC auctions for wireless spectrum: A Journal front-pager recently detailed how favoritism for "disadvantaged" entrepreneurs allowed an aerobics instructor and others to pocket large fees as fronts for secret investors.

Typically of high-profile scandals, the Abramoff affair is a spectacular bit of flotsam left behind by a tide that has already begun to recede. Dozens of "defunct" tribes still seek recognition, and dozens more have their eyes on reclaiming traditional lands that just happen to be near major population centers and freeway interchanges. But the backlash was already underway. It comes from gaming tribes that don't want the good thing spoiled, from state governments that covet gambling proceeds for themselves, from a Congress fed up with "reservation shopping" by casino promoters.

We're still a long way from any senator (John McCain leaps to mind) being willing to say "enough" to the enduring nonsense of Indian "sovereignty" --but even that may come.

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