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Babbitt's Department of Ulterior

Page 7 of 12

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.'"

"Q: 'Do you have any reason to think as you look at paragraphs 3 and 4 that Mr. Eckstein's description of the meeting is erroneous in some way?'"

"A: 'Well, again, I am not trying to be difficult, but I don't have a clear recollection of the meeting, so I can't really say whether he is accurately reflecting it or not.'"

"Q: 'Do you have any reason to think that a meeting didn't occur on that day?'"

"A: 'No. I have no way of confirming or denying that this meeting occurred. I simply don't remember . . .'"

Elsewhere in the same deposition:
"Q: 'So, you don't remember any meetings or phone conversations you might have had with Mr. O'Connor about the matter?'"

"A: 'I don't recall having a conversation with him about this matter. No. I have not heard any information that would lead me to believe that I did have such a conversation with him.'"

"Q: 'Back in time when the decision was being made, by that I mean before July 14 of 1995, did you ever have a conversation or communication with Mr. Collier about Mr. O'Connor's representation in the Hudson Casino matter?'"

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey