Ietan admits tribes met with Sen. Feinstein to discuss gaming

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill on October 21, 2015. Photo from Facebook

The Ietan Consulting lobbying firm has long been at the center of controversy over failed efforts to fix the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.

Although Indian Country has repeatedly called for a "clean" fix to the decision, Ietan has faced criticism from other Indian lobbyists for seemingly circumventing efforts to secure passage of one. Larry Rosenthal, the firm's non-Indian co-founder, has repeatedly said a clean fix won't succeed on Capitol Hill.

"All of my clients support a clean Carcieri fix,” Rosenthal told Dave Palermo for a story in Global Gaming Magazine, echoing remarks he made a year earlier. “The problem is after four years there hasn’t been a road map on how to get there. Do the math. There simply are not enough votes."

Rosenthal is again confirming suspicions about some of the firm's clients, who are calling themselves the Aboriginal Lands Coalition. They met with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who is attempting to limit new tribal casinos by amending the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, an effort that has hindered a clean Carcieri fix, Politico reported.

Lobbyist Larry Rosenthal, right, with Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler at the White House in July 2015. Photo from Facebook

“Allowing tribes to `leap-frog’ other tribes for better gaming markets would undermine public support for Indian gaming,” Rosenthal told Politico. “Tribal leaders have met with Sen. Feinstein to discuss their concerns about off-reservation gaming outside a tribe's aboriginal lands.”

Feinstein has not been successful in securing passage of bills like S.477, the Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act, which would have made it harder for tribes to open casinos on newly acquired trust lands. But her mere presence in the debate, and the implicit support from Ietan's clients, has been viewed by other Indian lobbyists as detrimental to the Carcieri cause.

"There are a number of lobbyists who are never going to be for a clean fix because they always have been pushing a compromise, which is to serve their clients, which is to link IGRA changes to Carcieri," Mike Anderson, a former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who runs a rival lobbying shop told Global Gaming Magazine last year.

Although it's not an official organization, Politico describes the Aboriginal Lands Coalition as "a collection of often wealthy tribes that fear gaming’s image and their own profits could suffer unless more is done to prevent new casinos far from historic lands." Global Gaming identified the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in California as a member.

Marc Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians speaks at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention in San Diego, California, on October 21, 2015. Photo from Cladoosby for NCAI / Facebook

Pechanga Chairman Mark Macarro has repeatedly slammed "reservation shopping" and testified in support of a different Feinstein bill that would have limited another tribe from from expanding its casino on newly acquired trust lands even though the two are separated by hundreds of miles. The Pechanga Band was a top client of Ietan, which counts the chairman's wife, Holly Cook Macarro, as a partner.

In June, Original Pechanga, a blog run by a disenrolled tribal member, calculated that Ietan received $1.2 million from the Pechanga Band from 2010 through 2014. Holly Cook is now helping Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with outreach in Indian Country.

The Gila River Indian Community was also identified as being a part of the Aboriginal Lands Coalition. The tribe has outspent everyone else in Indian Country in 2015, 2014 and 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, all in an attempt to prevent another tribe from opening a casino on newly acquired trust lands.

The primary beneficiary of the tribe's lobbying expenditures is Akin Gump, the largest lobbying firm in terms of revenue. Akin Gump boasts of a "strategic alliance" with Ietan and shares space with the smaller firm.

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