Report: Zinke Met Rival Lobbyists Before Blocking Tribe Casino

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

American Indian tribes filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department because Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to either block or approve their application for building a new casino within 45 days of the request as required by law.

It would be bad enough if you were assume the department's failure to block or approve the project was an oversight, but new reporting from Politico suggests something a little more scandalous than mere incompetence.

A review of Zinke's activities found that he held meetings and phone calls with lobbyists from rival MGM ahead of the deadline for approving the tribes' casino project. Moreover, Zinke never even met with the tribes.

The Interior Department’s refusal to sign off on the tribes’ plans for a third Connecticut casino came after Zinke and other senior department officials held numerous meetings and phone calls with MGM lobbyists and the company’s Republican supporters in Congress, according to a POLITICO review of Zinke’s schedule, lobbying registrations and other documents. The documents don’t indicate whether they discussed the tribes’ casino project. [...]

MGM and its allies had direct access to Interior. Zinke had multiple conversations last year with Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei — two Nevada Republicans whose state is a major center of employment for MGM, and who have each tried to impede the tribes’ casino plans. The company also doubled its lobbying spending and assembled a team that includes Bush-era Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Florida-based Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard.

If this didn't already stink to high heaven, MGM is reportedly planning to file a legal brief in support of the Interior Department in their case against the tribes which is odd considering that the department hasn't technically blocked the tribes' casino.

This may be just a coincidence, but one of the tribes involved in this case is the Pequot; the same tribe that Donald Trump himself smeared in 1993 with a racist astroturf campaign that accused of tribe of spreading drugs and violent crime.

On the other hand, it's possible that's not a coincidence. It's possible it's not a coincidence that Trump's Interior Department is slow-walking the approval of a casino owned by tribes that he has a personal vendetta against.

Republicans love the free market until the moment that they don't.

  • muselet

    The documents don’t indicate whether they discussed the tribes’ casino project.

    I think one can reasonably infer that was the entire point of those meetings.

    And coincidences do occur quite often. However, in this particular case, not bloody likely.


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