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The Desert Sun
Oct 06, 2004 - 01:00 AM

by Jake Henshaw, Sacramento Bureau

Governor to GOP: Stop taking tribe donations

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would appreciate a little more loyalty from fellow Republicans, his spokesman said Tuesday.

The governor in particular, would like GOP lawmakers to stop taking campaign contributions from Indian tribes and then supporting Proposition 70, which he is opposing.

And Schwarzenegger told them as much at a closed-door GOP legislative retreat held last weekend at the Renaissance Esmaralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells.

"This goes back to this being the governor's No. 1 priority," said Rob Stutzman, the governor's communications director, confirming the retreat, which was attended by about half of the Legislature's GOP members.

"These are members of his party. He would appreciate (it) if they would support him in his number one priority.

"Loyalty is big with this governor," Stutzman said. "I think that's clear."

The governor's position focuses attention again on his practice of accepting donations from some groups, such as car dealers and drug makers, with interests in legislation.

"For the governor to say not to take money from (Indians) because they are special interests and the money from anyone else is OK is contradictory," said Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta.

But Battin, who has received more than $1 million from tribes, said both he and the governor can take donations from various groups without it inappropriately influencing their views.

"It's just fodder and he is the governor and the governator and what he says gets great play in the press," Battin said.

Battin added that he has long supported Indian gambling, which is a major industry and employer in his district.

"I have been real consistent on this," Battin said. "I've been working with tribes a whole lot longer than he (Schwarzenegger) has been interested in politics."

The governor first swore off campaign contributions from Indians and unions in his recall election campaign last year, saying it would be inappropriate to take their money because he would be negotiating with them on gambling agreements and state employee labor contracts.

He has continued this practice and taken the lead in the campaign to defeat both Proposition 70 and Proposition 68.

Proposition 70 would allow interested tribes - including the local Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which owns two local casinos - to increase the number of slot machines at their casinos and add new games like roulette and craps.

Proposition 68 could allow non-Indians to run Las Vegas-style casinos, which might result in stiff competition for the six tribes that run casinos in and near the Coachella Valley.

Schwarzenegger has negotiated 10 gambling agreements, known as compacts, with tribes and has argued that the two gambling propositions would undermine these deals and his effort to negotiate with more tribes.

In his meeting with GOP legislators, Battin said the governor discussed the gambling propositions as part of a talk on several propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot.

"His position is not a surprise to me at all," Battin said. "He is doing a commercial" for defeat of Proposition 70.

But he acknowledged there are differences of opinion among Republican state elected officials, noting that several lawmakers support Proposition 70 as he does.

Proposition 70, strongly supported by the Agua Caliente and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians among others, would require tribal casinos to pay the standard California corporate tax to the state.

The governor has negotiated compacts that ask tribes for as much as 25 percent of revenues - a much higher rate.

"The governor and several members of the Republican legislative delegation have a difference of opinion," Battin said. "Everybody gets to make up their own mind."

The governor emphasized the difference, in his remarks quoted Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times.

"The legislators should not take money from the Indians, from the Indian gaming tribes, and then endorse Proposition 70. They should not," the governor was quoted as saying.

Schwarzenegger has been the target of criticism for his fund-raising approach, especially by ArnoldWatch.org, a project of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group.

The group's Web site said the governor accepted $1 million from the auto industry and vetoed a bill providing a car buyers' bill of rights. The same Web site also tagged the governor for taking $337,000 from drug manufacturers and vetoing bills intended to cut prescription drug costs.

"This guy is a cash register," said Jamie Court of ArnoldWatch.org. "He's got a Hollywood sense of morality."

Stutzman said the governor has seen instances of donors' influence on some legislators, but he wouldn't provide any examples.




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