Gila River Indian Community Federal Lobbying Tab Reaches Nearly $11 million

An artist rendering of the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed West Valley casino
An artist rendering of the Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed West Valley casino

The Gila River Indian Community has spent nearly $11 million in federal lobbying since 2009, the year its sister tribe, the Tohono O'odham Nation announced its plans to open a West Valley casino.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community joined GRIC in its battle to block the casino, and it has dropped nearly $2 million on federal lobbying.

That's almost $13 million dedicated to lobbying in Washington, D.C. to stop the Nation from opening its doors to the West Valley Resort, a casino which has already broken ground on a swath of land near 91st and Northern avenues.

See also: -Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a Casino in the West Valley -Federal Judge Affirms Arizona Gaming Compact Doesn't Ban New Casinos in Phx Area -Gila River Indian Community Boosting Support for District 4 Candidate Laura Pastor By comparison, the Nation has spent nearly $4.4 million during that same time period.

At present, the Gila River Indian Community has the only casino west of Phoenix. And the Nation's new casino would really put a dent in GRIC's gaming profits.

So, what has all that lobbying cash bought the Gila and Salt River tribes?

Well, the rampant spending has earned GRIC alone a spot at the top among gaming tribes spending money on federal lobbyist since 2012. In fact, the Gila River has two years in a row shelled out more on lobbyists than any other entity in the gaming industry.

Perhaps there are other issues that Gila and Salt River-funded lobbyists are working on, but there has been no other issue that has so dominated the political scene in Arizona's Native American communities.

Despite the influx of money spent on opposing the casino, the Nation has repeatedly prevailed and received a green light for its gaming project from federal agencies that oversee Indian affairs and from state and federal judges who've presided over lawsuits intended to derail the Nation's casino.

But the money has served to successfully persuade Arizona's federal lawmakers to get into the fight -- and not unexpectedly, on the side of the Gila and the Salt River.

Congressman Trent Franks introduced a very narrow bill that blocks any new casinos from opening in the Valley until after Arizona's gaming compacts expire in 2027. It's a measure that after three attempts finally passed the House of Representatives, and was supported by Congressman Daniel T. Kildee, a Michigan Democrat.

Kildee's uncle (former Congressman Dale Kildee) works for Akin Gump, an international powerhouse of attorneys, consultants, and lobbyists that are on the Gila River Indian Community's payroll.

Retiring Congressman Ed Pastor also signed on to the proposed law, and then GRIC paid for a bunch of fliers supporting Pastor's daughter, Laura, just a couple of week before her election for the Phoenix City Council in 2013.

Now, senators John McCain and Jeff Flake are on board with the special legislation, the opposition's last ditch effort to get around the federal agencies and courts that have sided with the Nation and its right to built the West Valley Resort.

A legislative hearing on S. 2670, Keep the Promise Act of 2014 -- the Senate's bill that mirrors Frank's bill in the House -- is taking place this afternoon.

Got a tip? Send it to: Monica Alonzo.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Monica Alonzo on Twitter at @MAD_Blogger.


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