Congressman Ed Pastor Joins Congressman Trent Franks in Opposing Tohono O'odham Nation Proposal for West Valley Casino

Congressman Ed Pastor has joined Congressman Trent Franks's efforts to block the Tohono O'odham Nation from building a casino in the West Valley.

We called his office to ask why he supported HR 1410, the proposed law, tailor-made for the Gila River Indian Community, an Indian tribe with the West Valley's only casino.

A second casino -- especially one built into a resort with dining and shopping amenities, as the Nation plans -- no doubt would draw away gaming enthusiasts from GRIC's casino and deliver a blow to its gaming revenues.

Pastor didn't return our calls.

See also: Trent Franks, Arizona Congressman, Proposes Narrow Special-Interest Measure to Block Tohono O'odham Nation's Proposed West Valley Casino See also: Appellate Court Opinion Favors Creating West Valley Reservation for Tohono O'odham Nation See also: Glendale Officials Ordered to Pay Tohono O'odham Nation's Legal Fees Racked Up as City Continues to Oppose Tribe's Resort-Style Casino See also: Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a Casino in the West Valley

Pastor, who quietly signed on to Franks' bill on April 26, joins fellow representatives from Arizona: Paul Gosar, Ann Kirkpatrick, Matt Salmon, and David Schweikert. Congressman Daniel Kildee of Michigan also is co-sponsoring the bill.

Franks' proposal marks a second desperate attempt to frustrate the Nation's plans to build a casino on land it owns near 95th and Northern avenues. When Franks pitched a similar measure in 2011, Pastor was the only Arizona Democrat to vote in favor of it.

When the measure was up for a vote in June 2012, Franks painted a picture of runaway Las Vegas-style casinos spurred by the TO plans, and Congressman Raul Grijalva spoke in defense of the Nation.

"It's time to stop this," Grijalva said. "This land was purchased legally by the Tohono O'odham Nation, all in accordance with [federal law] to replace reservation land the U.S. government flooded and destroyed, to be used by the Nation at their discretion for economic development."

Grijalva also addressed one of the opponent's talking points -- that allowing the TO to build the casino will open the door to widespread "reservation shopping" by tribes, which will want to build casinos across the country.

"The innuendo of reservation shopping -- or the idea that its defeat will cause rampant reservation shopping -- is absurd and it needs to stop," he said. "I also want to address the idea that the compact guaranteed no new casinos in the Phoenix area. If this was the case, the only casinos that would exist in the Phoenix area are the ones that were in existence in 2003. But lo and behold, the very tribes supporting this legislation [Gila River Indian Community] have built two additional casinos since then. In fact, one of these tribes is about to break ground on a new $135 million Las Vegas-style casino and hotel right outside of southwest Phoenix."

Grijalva and Congressman Ron Barber voted against Franks' previous measure.

For his support of the Tohono O'odham Nation, Grijalva has earned one of the three spots on a Facebook page created by GRIC and its lobbyists to slam Arizona lawmakers supporting the construction of the casino.

Grijalva, Kyrsten Sinema, and Ron Barber are featured on the page that touts itself as a nonprofit group of coalition fighting "for neighborhoods and keeping the careful balance of tribal gaming in favor of Gila River Indian Community on traditional Indian reservation lands."

It seems no one's keeping tabs on the Facebook page, which has filled up overwhelmingly with comments supporting the TO interspersed with the occasional comment from an opponent.

But the runaway page is filled mostly with personal attacks or comments about the lawmakers appearance, politics on illegal immigration, and other completely unrelated threads.

Just like Trents' failed bill being resurrected again this year, this page is doing nothing to help opponents' losing cause.

Even the Arizona Republic editorial board, outspoken against the Nation's casino plans, opined in an April piece that it is not holding out hope for Franks' bill, which is "likely a losing effort."

But money is a powerful motivator, and GRIC likely will keep pushing -- spending millions more -- despite one legal judgment and federal decision after another going in the Nation's favor.

Indeed, even the Republic editorial acknowledges that the Nations plans are an "insult to the goodwill . . . to aspirations of the Phoenix-area tribes, which have invested countless millions in their gaming concerns."


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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo