Babbitt's Department of Ulterior

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

On behalf of Breault, the Friends of Hudson did two mailings. In order to buff these mailings to their highest luster, the Friends of Hudson used a firm to organize a telephone polling operation. In the idyllic environs of Hudson, this was big-city slick.

The telephone polling was done by an outfit called Direct Expression.
Registered in Minnesota, Direct Expression is a firm specializing in American Indian gaming promotion, according to state records. It worked on behalf of the Prairie Island Sioux, one of the wealthy Minnesota tribes opposed to the Hudson casino.

Direct Expression is owned and operated by Mark and David Tilsen, sons of Ken Tilsen.

Once in office, Mayor Breault organized a council resolution to oppose the casino portraying it as detrimental to the town of Hudson.

The motion said that crowds at the casino would swamp city services, forcing Hudson to, for example, build a brand-new waste-treatment plant.

Oddly enough, no one from Hudson's city staff had supplied any of the information in the motion.

Asked if there was a shred of evidence to support these ominous predictions, Mayor Breault admitted in deposition, "Doesn't look that way."

Trapped, the mayor admitted that the motion was written, not by the Hudson city attorney, but by the Friends of Hudson.

And where did the Friends of Hudson get the projections for the number of gamblers that would flock into the casino and overwhelm the infrastructure?

From the wealthy tribes opposed to the Hudson casino.
Hudson city attorney William Radosevich was out of town when this remarkable resolution surfaced. Upon his return, Radosevich quickly drafted a letter warning the council that this reckless behavior would land everyone in court and the ensuing judgment might well bankrupt the town.

He reminded the mayor and council that the town had entered into a contract with the casino to provide services in return for yearly revenues of $1.15 million. Not only could they be taken to court for breach of contract, but if the Interior Department used the bogus motion as any sort of justification for denying the application, the town of Hudson would be liable for damages in excess of . . . readers may insert a really huge number here.

And so the motion died.
Only to be resurrected again by the Friends of Hudson, who, according to court records, forwarded the phony motion to officials at the Department of the Interior.

On July 14, Interior administrator Michael Anderson denied the casino application, confusing the two motions by the mayor and council of Hudson and citing the overwhelming local opposition.

The tribes who lost their casino sued the town of Hudson.
A Wisconsin state prosecutor is also investigating the campaign finances of Mayor Breault.

In their rush to deny the application, the Interior Department ignored the residents of Hudson who, in the only plebiscite on the issue, voted in 1994 to welcome the casino.

Raise Your Right Hand
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is the standard attorneys demand of us in trial. But lawyers in this case--and all of the key players are lawyers--appear to struggle heroically with veracity once they are under oath.

Even worse, their memory appears ruined by government service.
In a New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story written by Michael Lewis, White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes cautioned that government investigators "are no longer trying to get at the truth. They are just trying to get you on perjury."

This comment, which appeared the same month that Senate staffers interrogated Interior officials about the Hudson deal, might explain a new form of testimony: "To the best of my memory . . . I can't recall . . . my recollection is . . ."

If documents or eyewitnesses surface later that contradict your sworn statement, you simply say, "Ah, yes, now I remember. But my best recollection, when you first inquired, was that I had no memory."

If an interrogator, or a citizen, has the impudence to look askance at your apparent dementia, you have only to remind him that he could not possibly grasp how important you once were, how busy your days . . .

The consequence of this willful forgetfulness is the same as shredding evidence. And no question is ever clearly resolved.

John Duffy, Babbitt's onetime counselor on gaming issues, was not only part of the secretary's inner circle, but by all accounts, except his own, he ran point on the Hudson casino issue.

You need a Pentium chip to compute the number of times he told Justice Department investigators that he did not recall what he did at the Department of the Interior. Despite Duffy's appearing as numb as a cod and only half as articulate, Babbitt's old firm, Steptoe and Johnson, hired him.

From Duffy's deposition:
"Q: 'Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the affidavit purport to describe a meeting that Mr. Eckstein had with you and others on May 17, 1995. You said earlier that you didn't recall a meeting on that date. Does looking at this help your recollection in that regard?'"

"A: 'It does, but only slightly. . . . So, I mean, I have only a fractured and incomplete recollection. I really just don't have a clear recollection of a meeting in which these various parties were in attendance.'"

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