Before venturing into this subject let me make three things clear:
1) Personally I am opposed to all forms of gambling, whether tribal, state endorsed or publicly traded business firms. It is horrible social policy and illogical tax policy to generate revenues by taking money from folks who almost always cannot afford to lose what they fritter away. States should not be running lotteries nor sanctioning betting whether on horses, dogs or sporting events.
2) The “giving back” spirit of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, as well as the Nez Perce and the Kalispell’s, is commendable. That there are unanswered questions is not meant to impugn motives or demean their civic mindedness or their significant job-generation in north Idaho’s economy.
3) The Gallatin Group, a regional public affairs firm I co-founded in 1989 (two of its five offices are in Spokane and Boise) performed limited work for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe three times in the last 10 years. I have neither financial interest in nor any ties to Gallatin since retiring several years ago. While a senior partner I participated in the firm hiring Heather Keen, who just recently became the Coeur d’Alene Tribal communications director.
Late last month readers of The Spokesman-Review and the Coeur d’Alene Press may have seen full page ads taken out by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe claiming they had kept the promise made to voters in 1992 to give back 5 percent of the annual gaming net revenues to the support of education.
Yes and No. Yes, they have contributed $17 million by their account but it is misleading to say it all falls under the rubric of education. It stretches credulity to see where funds donated to the Kroc Center or to Mark Few’s Coaches vs. Cancer annual fund drive complies with initiative language that pledged the 5 percent would go to support education in surrounding school districts. Money listed for Gonzaga, for example, includes the annual payment for the tribe’s private box at McCarthy Arena.
One has to know the background. Scrutiny of the tribal pledge by both the Coeur d’Alene Press and the St. Maries Gazette-Record earlier in 2011 led to stories that raised legitimate doubts as to whether the tribe had kept to its pledge. Other issues came to the forefront as these papers continued to investigate the matter. (more…)