Indian Gambling Benefits from Campaign Finance Bill

By Stuart Shepard, Focus on the Family
March 7, 2002

Campaign finance reform is being sold as an attempt to reduce the impact of special interest groups. But in its current version, one particular group of Americans is given a powerful loophole.

Under the campaign finance reform bill that Congress is currently considering, Native American tribes would be exempt from certain limits on campaign contributions.

Guy Clark, with the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, said the reason for this loophole really boils down to the gambling money Native American tribes wield.

“Their political clout, probably at least 80 to 90 percent, is from casinos,” Clark said. “When you talk about their contribution in the political process, although they may have several issues that come up, the number one issue is going to be casinos.”

The campaign finance bill would still limit the amount that could be given to an individual candidate, but does not cap how much Native American groups could spend in total.

“Indian tribes who maintain casinos certainly have the ability to amass large sums of money, which gives them a very large pot to make contributions from,” said election law expert Ken Gross.

He points out that political action committees and other groups have to raise the money through donations.

“Here, the big distinction is, (Indian tribes) don’t have to do that,” Gross added. “They’ve got the ready pot of money and they’ll be able to give it without limit in aggregate amounts.”

Gross said the bill would limit the ability of tribes and other groups to make soft money contributions, but noted that would simply greatly enhance the exception.

Indian gambling groups reportedly gave nearly $3 million in the last federal election, with millions more going to state candidates. Gambling opponents say as a rule that money goes to candidates that most strongly favor gambling — ensuring that their positions don’t change.

You can receive family news stories by e-mail. Sign up now for this complimentary service.