Roll Of The Dice

January 16, 2006
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Following the announcement of high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff’splea bargain with federal investigators, a flurry of local lobbying efforts has erupted.

A large portion of the Abramoff scandal revolves around his influence in the tribal gaming industry. On behalf of tribes, he admittedly launched a campaign to corrupt state and federal officials across the nation. Sometimes he worked to clear the way for casinos to open; other times he worked to clear away the competition.

All the while, he bilked the tribes out of millions.

Locally, the tribal casino controversy has been a hot-button issue, with West Michigan’s powerbrokers waging war on the Gun Lake Tribe’s efforts to open a Wayland casino. The Abramoff news raised that to a new level.

John Helmholdt, spokesperson for local anti-casino lobby 23 is Enough, released a statement pronouncing Abramoff as yet another reason to impose a federal moratorium against new tribal casinos. He invoked Arizona Senator John McCain in his argument against the “obviously corrupt” industry.

James Nye, the Lansing-based lobbyist for the Gun Lake Tribe, countered with Abramoff and local U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, then invoked his trump card, President George Bush, asserting that opposition to the federal government’s land-in-trust efforts was an affront against the administration.

As reported recently in these pages, federal investigations showed Abramoff and his partner, Michael Scanlon, were paid more than $14 million by a past tribal council of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe (re: Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort) to prevent the development of competing casinos in Michigan, including the Wayland casino.

Nye has long claimed back-handed dealings among West Michigan Republicans are more responsible for the delay than any legitimate legal claims.

What is now coming to light are additional allegations connecting Hoekstra to Abramoff via faxes between the two regarding the Wayland casino. Hoekstra also received campaign contributions from Abramoff’s firm, Greenberg Traurig.

  • Following a federal appeals court decision earlier this month, the casino battle could soon be at an end.

New Buffalo’s Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians has prevailed in a lawsuit (brought by the Taxpayers of Michigan Against Casinos) virtually identical to the current suit by Michigan Gambling Opposition against the Gun Lake Tribe — 23 is Enough’s Hail Mary attempt to stop the Wayland casino. Both concern the environmental impact of the respective casino complexes.

  • Just when it looked like Detroit automakers had lost out to foreign competition in every conceivable category…

According to Advertising Age magazine, Detroit-born Cadillac was bumped out of the top spot as “most rapped-about brand” in 2005. German automaker Mercedes-Benz (or, specifically, just “Mercedes”) took first-place honors with 100 mentions in 2005 rap lyrics. Athletic giant Nike ran past Cadillac for the No. 2 spot with 63 mentions.

Despite rappers’ proclivity for driving Hummers, Escalades and Chrysler 300s, they don’t seem to rap about them. Face it, Detroit, you just can’t beat a car that rhymes with “ladies.”

So, to help out the state’s economy, the Business Journal has compiled a list of Big Three-friendly rhymes for use in 2006. Including:

— “I’m firm on the mic, like the all-wheel traction on Cadillac Escalades/Other emcees are slipping around like dudes in the ‘Ice Capades.’”

— “Don’t step to my crew, please, I implore ya/You see, I’ve got more style than a well-appointed Crown Victoria.”

— “My rhymes are fresh, with the truest of flavor/I’m smoother than the air-cushioned suspension of a Buick LeSabre.”

— Anything involving “Ford F350 Super Duty” and the word “booty.”

  • The nighttime, sniffly, sneezy, coughy, stuffy, achy head, fever, so-you-can-rest medicines may only be good for relieving the congestion in your wallet, according to a recent study by the AmericanCollege of Chest Physicians.

Published in the January issue of the college’s publication CHEST, the study includes a statement on the general ineffectiveness of over-the-counter cough syrups. If the congested masses become more willing to, ahem, cough up $2 for a can of chicken soup instead of $7 or so for a bottle of NyQuil, that could be bad news for Allegan-based Perrigo Corp. The company manufactures store-brand cold medicines for retailers across the country.

  • Likely GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos took a, ahem, shot from critics last week, and still looked, ahem, healthy.

DeVos told the paper:

First, there was a grilling from the Petoskey News-Review’s editorial board. His primary message concerned elimination of the Single Business Tax, but the Northern Michiganders wanted to talk about tourism.

“This governor has cut spending and has cut advertising and promotion of Michigan as a tourist destination…”

When reminded that Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently earmarked $15 million from the $400 million tobacco settlement to promote Michigan tourism, and that most of the cuts had occurred under former Republican Gov. John Engler, DeVos said:

“This governor has done nothing, in terms of looking at how we’re going to drive this economy going forward, and how we’re going to get back growth.”

Then, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer called for DeVos to release his complete tax return so voters know there will no conflicts of interest.

Good stuff.

  • Speaking of Alticor heirs, The James A. Schlipmann Melanoma Cancer Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to the Van Andel Research Institute. Only eight more of those and they will have covered the salary of Chairman/CEO Dave Van Andel.

According to the VARI’s 2003 Form 990 tax return, Van Andel was paid $208,215 and $19,699 in benefits for — you’re reading this right — eight hours of work per week. That’s a boost from $164,280 the year before.

  • Bob Sullivan has quietly donated a strip of land he owns near Pearl and Front streets NW to the city for metered parking. The land, which sits on the east end of his Days Inn property, has an estimated value of $400,000, and the Public Museum of Grand Rapids will appreciate the extra spaces.

Oh, by the way, Sully is also a parking commissioner.    

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