Babbitt's Department of Ulterior

When wealthy casino tribes sought to derail a would-be competitor, campaign donations were the currency of the day

Nor were the relevant congressional delegates united in opposition to the casino. Three members of the House from Wisconsin were insistently neutral, saying this was a matter among Indians.

And the fight was not between Republican Indians and Democratic Indians, as O'Connor would have Ickes believe. Not that it is pertinent to the decision, but in fact all of the tribes in this issue are strongly Democrat.

And the Delaware North smear is a flat-out lie.
Throughout the lobbying process, O'Connor's operatives quietly circulated newspaper articles that recounted the alleged mob ties of the Buffalo firm's founder, a man who passed away in 1968.

Delaware North does not, and has never, owned the Hudson dog track under consideration.

The Hudson track owners have filed a libel lawsuit for having been linked to the Mafia.

Delaware North is considering similar action.
It is against the law for Interior policy to evolve out of partisan politics or campaign contributions, and yet these are precisely the issues O'Connor asked Ickes to focus upon. It is also illegal for the White House to insert itself into the decision-making process at Interior.

Yet Ickes aides repeatedly contacted Interior on his behalf.
Patrick O'Connor did not rest simply because he'd managed to get the attention of the President of the United States.

On April 28, he took tribal leaders opposed to the casino to Washington, D.C., to meet with Don Fowler, chairman of the DNC.

Tribal leader Lewis Taylor recalled in his deposition discussing the casino and offering to raise cash for the DNC.

"I told Mr. Fowler that, you know, that we've got a number of heavy-duty issues," said Taylor. "We needed help and our friends are the Democrats and, therefore, I think we should donate to assist in some of these causes."

Because the DNC raises millions of dollars for Democrats, Fowler has incredible clout and access, yet any effort to influence decisions would lead to a grand jury or a special prosecutor.

Fowler testified that he was merely letting his old friend O'Connor vent and had no ulterior motives.

Yet a recently released memorandum conveys some insight into DNC thinking.
Before Fowler met with O'Connor and the Minnesota tribes, an aide wrote him a note outlining what the delegation wished to discuss. The memo is covered in handwritten notes, including questions about fund raising among the Indians.

"What happens to our relationship with Wisconsin tribes? Do they donate to DNC? Minnesota Indians give to DNC. WI doesn't," read the margin scrawl.

Fowler contacted Ickes asking for assistance and reminding the White House aide that he was calling on behalf of DNC supporters.

Fowler testified that he also contacted someone, he can't remember who, at Interior.

Babbitt's chief of staff, Tom Collier, said in his deposition that although he could not recall talking to the head of the DNC, if Fowler contacted anyone, it would have been him.

O'Connor was far from done.
On May 9, O'Connor contacted a partner in his own firm, Thomas Schneider.
Schneider is a friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Their children grew up playing with each other; the families vacation together.

Schneider also co-chaired the National Finance Committee throughout Clinton's first run for the presidency.

O'Connor asked Schneider to intervene with Ickes.
"I'm pretty certain he said he'd spoken with Harold Ickes . . . ," Schneider recounted in deposition. "He related Ickes' response, which was sort of he'd look into it type of response, and Pat, who's been around Washington, understands that sometimes that can be a blow-off, and he asked if I could, knowing that I know a lot of people in the White House . . . if I'd be willing to raise the issue in order to try to get the White House to actually look into it . . . actually pay attention."

Schneider met with Ickes on May 14 at a Clinton fund raiser at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

"I understand that you've been in contact with Pat O'Connor about some Indian casinos in Wisconsin," Schneider remembers telling Ickes.

When Ickes acknowledged the contact, Schneider told the White House deputy chief of staff: "From my understanding of the issue, you ought to take it seriously."

Ickes replied that he was on top of the matter.
"I appreciate that," Schneider remembered responding, "but you really ought to."

That was not good enough for O'Connor. At the end of May, he met with Schneider in Washington, and, according to Schneider, O'Connor "threw down the gauntlet."

Schneider said O'Connor "absolutely" expected the White House to do something.

And Schneider was confident the White House would honor its commitment to him.

"I have a relationship," explained Schneider, "that usually, if they say they do, they do . . . Harold is not someone to pull a lot of punches and we had a relationship that if he said he was going to do something, he'd do it."

O'Connor would not be put off.
He expressed doubts about Ickes' resolve.
So Schneider picked up the phone and got the White House deputy chief of staff on the horn.

Schneider revisited the casino issue and told Ickes that O'Connor had some doubts about Ickes' follow-through.

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