A federal judge in Montana on Thursday issued a court order temporarily blocking the first trophy hunts of Yellowstone-area grizzly bears in more than 40 years, siding with native American groups and environmentalists seeking to restore the animals' protected status.
The 14-day restraining order by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula, Montana, came two days before Wyoming and Idaho were scheduled to open licensed grizzly hunts allowing as many as 23 bears in the two states to be shot and killed for sport.
Groups opposing the hunts had sought a restraining order while waiting for the judge to rule on the larger question of whether the federal government should return Endangered Species Act safeguards to grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone region.
The New York Times. August 30, 2018
A judge has blocked the opening of the first grizzly bear hunts to be held in the Rocky Mountains in more than 40 years.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen's Thursday order comes as Idaho and Wyoming prepared to open the first grizzly bear hunting seasons in the Lower 48 states since 1974 on Saturday.
The ruling is a victory for wildlife advocates and Native American tribes that sued over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision in 2017 to lift protections for 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Washington Post. August 30, 2018
"Reintroduce the sacred grizzly bear to tribal homelands - not to trophy hunting," implores actor Zahn McClarnon as he closes the just-released "Not in Our Name" short film with an appeal for public support for tribal nations in their ongoing struggle to get the Trump Administration to "honor the historic grizzly treaty signed by over 200 tribes." Last seen in HBO's "Westworld" starring as Akecheta opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins, McClarnon has become one of Native America's most recognizable actors, with prominent roles in AMC's "The Son," "Longmire," "Fargo" and Spielberg's "Into the West."
Piikani Nation * Global Indigenous Council * Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council * Sierra Club
So where did the Joint Committee on Taxation's numbers come from? Several marijuana industry groups have done their own estimates of 280E's impact, but the numbers that seem closest to what the JCT put out were developed by a Washington D.C. economic research firm hired by Tom Rodgers, a Native-American advocate and lobbyist. About 15 years ago, Rodgers was the whistleblower in the infamous Jack Abramoff case, helping authorities to uncover criminal lobbying and bribery activities that ultimately led to convictions for 21 people, including a congressman and two former Bush White House officials. These days, Rodgers has expanded his oeuvre to include some work on behalf of the cannabis industry. In 2016, in conjunction with a chain of Colorado marijuana dispensaries called the Green Solution, Rodgers commissioned the research firm to develop an analysis of 280E in the hopes of ultimately getting the provision repealed.
By Amanda Chicago Lewis. Rolling Stone. February 1, 2018
Around noon, assailants forced Valdez from his red Toyota Corolla and shot him a dozen times, according to Zeta, the Tijuana-based newsweekly. Valdez was left face down in the street, his signature Panama hat near his head.
He had also just filed his final article, about a protest in CuliacÃ¡n against the deadly attacks teachers face by traveling and working in some of Sinaloa's most dangerous areas. At least six teachers have been killed in the state so far this year.
Valdez is the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico in 2017. Since 1992, 40 journalists have been killed in the country for their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists â€” 32 of them with impunity. The Mexican government's own National Human Rights Commission counts at least 125 journalists killed in the country since 2000 â€” a death toll that makes Mexico one of the world's most dangerous places for reporters.
May 17, 2017
Despite widespread awareness and public health campaigns, the opioid epidemic in this country has reached alarming levels. Due in large part to opioid overdoses, the overall life expectancy in the US fell for the first time since 1993.
The problem has affected every part of the country, with minority communities, like Native American Tribes seeing the worst of the crisis. Because of the widespread nature of the epidemic, governments and tribes are spending exorbitant amounts of money to treat addiction and overdose.
Appearing on Ring of Fire Radio, Tom Rodgers, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and activist and advocate for Native Americans and tribal issues, says that the problem is compounded by a lack of access to affordable health care:
"Medicaid is a huge poverty eliminator. With the proposed reduction in Medicaid across the country, and therefore the collateral impact on the ability to have drug prevention centers, best practices, research, it's going to have a cascading effect. At the time when we need, our society and Indian country needs more than ever best practices, drug abuse centers, any way to alleviate poverty and provide an environment of hope, we are doing the direct opposite of what should be done. We're cutting back on Medicaid, which services the poor."
June 23, 2017
You can watch Sam Seder's interview with Tom Rodgers here:
When Tom Rodgers heard House Republicans had voted secretly to gut the watchdog Office of Congressional Ethics, he says he couldn't help feeling a certain sad astonishment.
"I thought, 'My God, are we so flawed that we have no sense of history?'"
An attack on the OCE may have cut Rodgers, a consultant, activist and member of the Blackfeet tribe, closer to home than most.
As a whistleblower, Rodgers helped expose the Jack Abramoff scandal, which landed the notorious lobbyist behind bars, sent a congressman to prison, derailed the career of another - and, in 2008, led to the creation of the OCE.
Policy.mic By Celeste Katz. January 03, 2017
Preliminary numbers from the June 7 primary election showed 424 voting-related users, either in new registrations or updates to registrations and absentee requests at the 13 satellite offices set up on Indian reservations, according to numbers from the secretary of state's office.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said she was "pleased and encouraged" by the number of voters who used the facilities.
"Hundreds of citizens were able to register and vote thanks to our satellite offices," she said via email. "I look forward to an even greater turnout during the 2016 General Election."
Great Falls Tribune July 20, 2016
Money spent by counties defending a 2012 lawsuit on Indian voting rights could have gone toward setting up satellite voting and alternative voting areas on reservations for years, Indian voting activists said.
Blaine County paid $119,071 and Rosebud County paid $116,000 for outside legal counsel in the 2012 Wandering Medicine lawsuit, which was settled in 2014, a figure that could reach about $460,000 when combined with Bighorn County, which was also involved in the lawsuit, and the $100,000 paid to the plaintiffs' attorneys, activists said.
However, attorneys involved in the litigation say that is not the case..
-Phil Drake, Great Falls Tribune 6:18 p.m. MDT June 10, 2016
-Jordy Yager, THE HILL Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Arguments are scheduled in a lawsuit over tribal members' ability to vote.
-John S. Adams, USA TODAY10:50a.m. EDT March 18, 2013
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Richard Cebull has denied an emergency request by Montana Indians, including lead plaintiff Mark Wandering Medicine, Northern Cheyenne, for satellite early-voting offices on the Northern Cheyenne, Crow and Fort Belknap reservations. The October 30 decision, in federal court in Billings, has the effect of postponing resolution of the issue until after the election.
-Stephanie Woodard, Indian Country - 11/5/12
A federal judge in Montana has shot down an attempt by Native American tribes to get better voting access.
-Jordy Yager, The Hill - 10/31/12
American Indian groups in Montana have sued for early-voting offices on their reservations. Their request is opposed by election officials, both Republicans and Democrats, who say they don't have the time or resources to make it happen.Â The battle will be fought this week in a federal court in Billings, Mont.
-BY STEPHANIE WOODARD Open Channel, NBCNews.com - 10/16/12
A group of American Indians from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations sued state and county election officials in federal court on Wednesday, seeking equal access to voting through satellite offices.
-Billings Gazette - 10/10/12
Native American groups delivered a complaint to the federal courthouse in Billings that claims residents on reservations don't have the same access to the polls as other county residents.
-Billings Gazette - 10/10/12
In the lead-up to November's presidential election in the United States, groups on the right and left are sounding the alarm at the influence of money on US politics.
-HardTalk - 9/25/12
-Mark Fogarty - 6/20/12
-Heather Steinberger - 6/19/12
-Rob Capriccioso - 03/08/12
-Paul Blumenthal - 03/07/12
-Politico - 03/06/12
POLITICO's Robin Bravender has this report on disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's discussion at a National Press Club event Monday, where he told attendees that he sought out favorable op-ed pieces to bolster his clients during his tenure on K Street and even considered buying his own newspaper. In a bid to get clients' stories out, Abramoff said he would go to writers - "mainly think tank folks' - to write op-eds and to try to get more op-ed pieces placed to promote his side. 'Something like the Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, that kind of a thing,' he said. Earlier in his lobbying career, he said, 'I tried to put together an effort to either start a new Washington newspaper or to make a run at trying to buy The Hill or Roll Call,' he said. 'We didn't succeed.'
Pressed by Native American lobbyist Tom Rodgers, who's credited with helping bring down Abramoff, Abramoff said he couldn't remember whether he tried to influence any 'mainstream reporters,' but he didn't rule it out. 'I'm not saying there couldn't have been. My mindset in those days, if I could have gotten a mainstream reporter, 100 percent I would have gotten them, as unfortunate as that is,' he said. 'I was a killer in that business.'
-Jordy Yager, The Hill - 03/05/12
-Jordy Yager, The Hill - 03/07/12
-Paul Blumenthal, The Huffington Post - 03/07/12
-The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell
Tom Rodgers, Native American of the Blackfoot tribe, criticizes the velvet treatment of Jack Abramoff on CBS' 60 Minutes on 11/6/11; Rinku Sen of Applied Research Center says Obama's ICE is destroying families by deporting parents of kids who are US citizens.
-by PETER B. COLLINS on NOVEMBER 7, 2011
"You know, scandals are very effective tools for the opposition in an election year. And we saw, particularly in 2006, when the Republicans lost the House of Representatives and in large measure, they lost it - at least according to exit polls among the voters - because of the Abramoff scandals, where, you know, a prominent lobbyist in Washington was wining and dining and paying off members of Congress, some of whom went to jail."
-NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts, March 8, 2010
Monday, November 7, 2011
Santa Ynez Notebook
OCTOBER 3, 2005
Santa Ynez Notebook
The sparring between Santa Barbara County and the Chumash tribe moved to the national stage Sept. 7-8, as Chumash Chairman Vincent Armenta and Secretary/Treasurer Kenneth Kahn went to Washington to meet with a host of influential legislators, lobbyists and their aides.
The trip was set up by Carlyle Consulting of Alexandria, Va., lobbyists who specialize in Native American issues. The tribe voted 64-17 in August to budget up to $100,000 annually for help in D.C.
"California is a laboratory for all the significant issues involving tribal gaming in America," Tom Rodgers, head of Carlyle Consulting, said in 2003.
Mr. Rodgers' firm also works for the National Indian Gaming Association, whose PAC contributed $103,529 during the 2004 election cycle to federal candidates, according to the Web site Opensecrets.org. Mr. Rodgers opened some impressive doors for the Chumash executives.
Among those on the visit list: John Tahsuda, deputy chief of staff to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, Senate Indian Affairs Committee; legislative assistant Bryan McKeon of Sen. Barbara Boxer's office; legislative assistant Joel McFadden of Sen. Diane Feinstein's office; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia; George Skibine, acting deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development in the Office of the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior; Alison Binney, general counsel to Senate Indian Affairs; and Mark Van Norman, director of the National Indian Gaming Association.
Mr. Rodgers declined comment. Larry Stidham, attorney for the Chumash, declined to comment.
Carlyle Consulting's Web site says its clients include the National Indian Gaming Association, California Nations Indian Gaming Association, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, the Tule River Tribe, the Viejas Bands of Kumeyaay Indians and Levi Strauss & Co.
The Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives says Carlyle Consulting also represented the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Muscogee Nation of Florida, the Dunlap Band of Mono Indians and the Chumash.
A member of the Blackfoot Tribe, Mr. Rodgers established Carlyle Consulting in 1994, adding the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) as clients in 1996. "In 1997, Mr. Rodgers worked closely with NIGA's membership to defeat a House Ways and Means Committee legislative proposal to tax Indian governments," says the site.
"As our primary lobbyist and legislative insider in Washington, Tom (Rodgers) has been a key advisor on issues affecting Native Americans before the U.S. Congress and the Administration," reads a quote from Jacob Coin, executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is quoted as saying "(Tom Rodgers) has demonstrated great skill in maneuvering my tax proposals through the legislative process (many of them were included in the Revenue Act of 1992). In fact, when the Tax Foundation honored me as Tax Policymaker of the Year in 1991, I considered it in large part a tribute to Tom's work."
There are plaudits from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and many others.
Mr. Rodgers earned his bachelor's, law and master's of law degrees from the University of Denver, holds a master of international public policy in Asian studies from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, attended the Georgetown University International Executive MBA Program and has also completed the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation and the Georgetown University Executive International Business Program, according to his resume.
From The Legal Times
MARCH 29, 1999
“STACKED DECK”- Tribes Claim Gaming Panel Favors Old-Line Casinos. With the federal commission on gambling in the midst of drafting its final report—which will include recommendations to Congress on how to address the rapid growth of the gaming industry—pro- and anti-gambling forces of all stripes are girding for a fresh lobbying battle.
So it’s no surprise that when the panel, known as the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, held its last scheduled hearings in Washington earlier this month, there was no shortage of anxious advocates in the audience, from the American Gaming Association to the National Council on Problem Gambling.
But few were as distressed as Thomas Rodgers, a lobbyist for the National Indian Gaming Associations, which represents the 168 Indian nations with gambling operations.
“This is a fundamentally flawed process,” Rodgers says. Rodgers, a member of the Blackfoot Tribe in Montana, and others point to a series of events since the commission was first established that they say illustrates a disturbing pattern. For example:
• The commission has only one Native American representative—Robert Loescher, a member of Alaska’s Tlingit Tribe, which has no gambling facilities. President Clinton planned to nominate Tadd Johnson, a Native American with ties to a gaming tribe, but passed him over after pressure from critics who said Johnson would leave the commission with too many pro-gambling members.
The Nevada and New Jersey gaming interests, on the other hand, have J. Terrence Lanni, CEO of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas; William Bible, former chairman of Nevada’s State Gaming Control Board, who has also held a number of other state government posts; and John Wilhelm, president of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, which represents 75,000 casino employees. And anti-gambling forces have two representatives, the most vocal being James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family and a harsh critic of all gambling.
Loescher says it’s been hard for him at times to get the Indian’s message across to his colleagues: “It’s been a difficult exercise to educate the full commission about the aspects of tribal sovereignty.”
But Shosky says none of the commissioners arrived with the preconceived ideas about gambling or what kinds of recommendations they should make to Congress. “The Commissioners have been more than open to the facts and arguments that have been presented” by all sides, he says.
• Rodgers and two other sources familiar with the panel say a staffer hired to draft the Indian gaming section of the report had her role diminished … Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds who represents the Mississippi Band of Choctow Indians, says a first draft seemed fair in its treatment of tribal gaming, and finds it “very troubling” that the final report may be tainted by indications of improper meddling.
Shosky adamantly denies this, saying that while the commission did make some staff changes, the moves were dictated solely by workload demands.
• The chairman of the Indian gaming subcommittee, Paul Harold Moore, a Mississippi native appointed by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), has made a few remarks that the Native Americans found offensive.
At one point in the proceedings, for example, Moore noted that the tribal gaming regulations were self-enforced and seemed to indicate that he had a problem with, as he puts it, “Indians checking Indians.” In another instance, Moore asked whether Native Americans were going to “scalp” the new California governor to get a gambling compact.
Moore was traveling last week and unavailable for comment. But Shosky says that Moore has been one of the Indian’s most ardent defenders and that his remarks were taken out of context. “He’s one of the best, fairest, most open-minded people anyone could ask for,” Shosky says.
• The only two major votes the commission has taken to date related to Native American issues, and in both cases, Loescher was outvoted 8-1. In one, the commission voted to ask the interior secretary not to issue regulations on Indian gaming agreements until its report is finished. Without the secretary’s involvement, Native Americans say, they have nowhere to turn if states and tribes can’t come to an agreement on their own or if a governor doesn’t bargain with them in good faith.
That move raised eyebrows on the Hill; Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Col), chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, issued a letter calling the commission’s move inappropriate and “beyond the scope” of its legislative charge.
Shosky says the commission weighed in on the Interior Department regulations because it made sense; after all, he asks, why should that agency write regulations without benefit of the commission’s research and input?
• The commission has repeatedly clashed with Native Americans over the panel’s requests for financial and other data that tribes say is proprietary but that commissioners argue is necessary for them to evaluate Indian gaming. In February, the commissioners voted to set up a procedure to subpoena the National Indian Gaming Commission, the regulatory body for tribal gaming, to get that data, although the panel is still trying to resolve the dispute without taking that legal step. For non-Indian casinos, the information is already public, but Native Americans say the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) makes their financial information proprietary.
Shosky says the commission’s requests are straightforward. “We believe we have a congressional mandate to look at this information because we need it to do the job that was assigned to us by Congress, “ he says.
But Rodgers and others aren’t persuaded by any of the commissioner’s explanations and suggest that the panel has ignored facts that didn’t fit their preconceptions.
He and others are concerned that the commission’s report will call for taxation of tribes’ gaming revenues or for federal regulations forcing the wealthier gaming tribes to share revenues with poorer tribes—trampling on tribal sovereignty in the process.
“The tribes believe they are 100 percent taxed because of IGRA, which requires they spend all the money on tribal governance, infrastructure, and social and welfare programs,” says Loescher. “But the notion of adding another tax seems to be where the full commission wants to go.”
Of course, whether any commission recommendations ever become law is another question entirely. Once the report lands on the Hill, the tribes and other gaming interests will have to grapple with a different dynamic—one they’re more accustomed to.
The gambling industry has long wielded considerable political clout on the Hill, and Indian tribes have recently started to ratchet up their Washington activities.
In 1991-92 election cycle, for example, the gambling industry gave more the $1.1 million in campaign contributions; Native American gaming money made up 11 percent of that total, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the 1995-96 cycle, Indian contributions made up 27 percent of the more than $6.7 million the gambling industry doled out to the candidates in individual, soft and PAC contributions. (In the last election cycle, the industry forked over about $5.7 million, although the center didn’t break out of the Native American contributions.)
And there’s no question that Native American advocates will crank up their lobbying engine on the Hill now that the commission’s work is starting to wrap up.
“This report might come out and it might just nick us, but we’re preparing for the worst.” Rodgers says. “We will now turn our attention to educating policy-makers on Capitol Hill… as to the process that was followed with this commission and the true story of what gaming has provided to a few Indian nations.”
"IS PANEL BIASED AGAINST TRIBES?”- Indian tribe lobbyist Thomas Rodgers says that members of the gambling commission harbored a bias against his clients.
… Rodgers and others who have kept close tabs on the panel, appointed in 1997 to study the social and economic impacts of legalized gambling, argue that after almost two years of gathering information and testimony on all forms of gambling, the commissioners seem pointed to issue a report that takes specific aim at Indian gaming.
Advocates who have seen the commission at work say its members seem to believe that their report has to slam some sector of the industry—and that the Indians are the easiest target. They fear that the report could call for increased regulation or taxation of Indian gaming.
“The Indians are going to be a scapegoat,” says one lobbyist for a Native American tribe. “They’re going to go easy on Las Vegas, they’re going to go easy on the state lotteries… it’s going to be very one-sided from everything we hear.”
Predicts another tribe representative, Philip Baker-Shenk of Doresy & Whitney: “The bulk of the recommendations will, by political default, fall on tribal gaming. The tribes are, and always have been, an easy, cheap and political target in this town.”
The tribes’ lobbyists say that throughout the process, they’ve seen indications that they aren’t going to get a fair shake—from the makeup of the commission to votes the body has already taken.
The commission’s deputy director, John Shosky, dismisses any accusation of anti-Indian bias. He says commissioners have gone out of their way to be fair and have gone out of their way to give Native Americans a chance to set the agenda and to have a voice in the process.
“We’ve had hundreds of people from tribes come and testify,” Shosky says.
Shosky notes that since Indian gaming is a big part of the gambling landscape, the commissioners are naturally going to spend a significant amount of time on it “[But] I don’t think we’ve singled out anyone unfairly,” Shosky says.
Congress created the commission in 1996 in response to the explosive growth of the gambling industry in the last two decades. In 1976, when the federal government last studied the issue, casino gambling was legal in only two states and Americans spent less than $25 billion on it.
Now some form of gambling is legal in all but two sates, and Americans pour more the $500 billion into slot machines, blackjack, bingo, and other games of chance, according to statistics cited by Kay James, the commission’s chairwoman and dean of the school of government at Pat Robertson’s Regent University in Virginia.
The commission’s nine members, appointed by congressional leaders and President Bill Clinton in 1997, were asked to study the possible effects of this boom, such as gambling addiction and the relationship between gambling and crime.
Since then, the commissioners have crisscrossed the country, visiting the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, researching state riverboat casinos and Internet wagering in Chicago.
Of course, nobody in the gambling advocacy business is looking forward to the report, which will be released in June.
Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association, which represents the large Vegas-style casinos such as Circus Circus Enterprises Inc. and the MGM Grand Inc., says the commission’s yet-unknown recommendations are one of his group’s top legislative concerns for this year.
“Fallout from the release of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission’s final report is likely to be the great challenge we face during this, the 106th Congress,” Fahrenkopf told AGA members at a retreat in January.
William Bergmann, a lobbyist for the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, says his members are also worried about taking a hit. “The sense is that we’re one of the under-represented people at the table, so we’ll get recommendations” in the report that affects state lotteries, he says.
As anti-gambling activist Bernie Horn, head of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, says, “We’ll have enough condemnation to go around.”
But many advocates—even those who represent nontribal gambling interests—agree that Native American operations are likely to feel the brunt of the commission’s wrath.
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