Six California Indian tribes have poured in more than $40 million in compaign contributions to the committees fighting over four amended gaming compacts that would add 17,000 slot machines to casinos owned by four California tribes: the Agua Caliente, Morongo, Pechanga and Sycuan.
Since Nov. 21, two anti-compact tribes—the United Auburn Indian Community and the Pala Band of Mission Indians—have given more than $7 million to try to repeal the four gaming deals approved by Legislature last year. However, this is dwarfed by more than $36 million in giving by some of the tribes with deals going before voters on Feb. 5.
Last week, the Morongo Band gave $10 million to the pro-compact committee, the Coalition to Protect California’s Budget and Economy. This followed a $5.5 million donation the committee on Dec. 5.
The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians made donations in the same amounts: $10 million on Dec. 21 and $5.5 million on Nov. 30. Overall, the Morongo and Pechanga bands have given $21.5 million each to the pro-compact campaign.
Agua Caliente gave more than $5.3 million on November 21, bringing their total to $10.5 million. The fourth compact tribe, the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, had reported $500,000 to the yes side.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agree to the four compacts last summer. Opposing tribes, horse racing tracks and labor unions created a committee, Californians Against the Unfair Deals, to oppose the compacts. They succeeded on getting them on the February ballot. There was also a fifth compact, deemed far less controversial—99 slot machines to 5,000 member Yurok tribe on the northern end of the state—which they did not oppose.
The Coalition to Protect California’s Budget has been using their $54 million to blanket the airwaves with commercials touting the over $9 billion they say the new deals will add to the state’s general fund by 2030. Californians Against the Unfair Deals, meanwhile, began a media campaign this week claiming the state will likely never see much of that money. They plan to back that up with a new financial analysis they’ll release to the media on Monday.
“The money is not really as tangible as the tribes claim,” said Shelly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Californians Against the Unfair Deals.
Sullivan said that her group has about $15 million. About half of this has come through an organization called Tribes for Fair Play, No on 94, 95, 96, & 97. Tribes for Fair Play, in turn, received $4.5 million from the United Auburn on New Year’s Eve. The Pala Band gave $2.5 million on December 10.
“We continue to raise money every day, and we’re going to spend as much as we can,” Sullivan said.
The four tribes with compacts at stake have sought to portray the opposition to the compacts as merely an attempt by other gaming tribes and gambling interests such as horse tracks to fend off competition. Two horse tracks, Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park, have each given $1.3 million to Californian Against Unfair Deals. Labor union UNITE HERE has donated $1 million.
The Coalition to Protect California's Budget will release their own competing financial analysis on Monday, according to spokesman Roger Salazar. It will be written by Dr. Alan Meister of the Analysis Group; Meister came up with the original $9 billion state revenue estimate. The Coalition also introduced a new TV ad this week, featuring Schwarzenegger and Superintendant of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.
"There are a number of ways to get the message out to Californians about the benefits of these agreements," Salazar said. "We plan to pursue as many as we can."