October 31, 2008 · Updated 2:59 PM
As chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, I am very disturbed by Dino Rossi’s campaign for governor.
Rossi and the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) have bought and run millions of dollars of television ads that insult, offend and lie about the Washington Indian communities. These ads, which include actors portraying tribal and state leaders working in under-handed dealings, reinforce Indian stereotypes that nurture bigotry and racism.
The Rossi/BIAW campaign strategy appears to be based on the Spokane Tribe’s 2004 proposal to Gov. (Christine) Gregoire to expand gaming in Eastern Washington in exchange for revenue sharing. Rossi’s anti-tribal advertising falsely claims Gov. Gregoire rejected a similar deal for all Washington tribes, which he says would have brought millions of dollars to the state’s coffers.
Governor Gregoire understood that accepting the Spokane’s proposal would lead to other tribes asking for the same compact, enabling tribal casinos to triple in size. The late Republican King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng wrote Gov. Gregoire asking her to reject the Spokane proposal, stating such a gaming compact “would have opened the door to a breathtaking expansion of gambling.” Mr. Maleng especially urged the governor to reject Spokane’s proposed revenue sharing because “the idea of requiring tribal governments to share their gaming revenue with state government is appealing on the surface, I think it would place state government in a conflicted position as a business partner with the tribe. The state cannot effectively regulate gambling and manage gambling policy when it has a vested economic interest in gambling expansion.”
With overwhelming bipartisan support, Gov. Gregoire rejected the Spokane proposal. By doing so, she accomplished what Washington voters want — tribal government casinos that are limited to rural reservations with gaming revenues paying for tribal programs for education, health care, jobs and cultural preservation. In tough negotiations in 2006, she succeeded in continuing to limit tribal gaming expansion which the tribes, including Suquamish, accepted.
The Suquamish and other Indian tribes of Washington work hard to address poverty in our communities and have made great progress. We create jobs, invest locally, make charitable contributions and actively participate in intergovernmental relations. The Suquamish have spent its gaming dollars to rebuild a community dock that will be open to all. We invest gaming dollars to provide 24-hour police protection for all residents of the Port Madison Indian Reservation, tribal and non-tribal.
Negative campaign ads hurt all Washington voters. Those based on lies have no place in any campaign. Those that perpetuate Indian stereotypes are despicable.
Dino Rossi, who supports the BIAW ads that call tribal governments “money launderers,” should retract his statements and denounce the reckless BIAW campaign against tribes. As an Alaska Native, Mr. Rossi should apologize for his divisive conduct. Lastly, voters must decide if Dino Rossi is the type of person that should be leading the state of Washington, which has gained a national reputation for fairness in tribal-state relations.
Editor’s note: For North Enders’ opinions on the Nov. 4 election, go to www.northkitsapherald.com.