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Walker’s All-You-Can-Grab Campaign Cash

Oct. 30, 2013
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For any politician running for re-election, it’s a dream come true. That’s the proposal for the construction of an $800 million money gusher to be constructed in Kenosha that could erupt into a tremendous deluge of all-you-can-grab campaign cash.

Oh, I know. They don’t actually call it a political money gusher. They call it a gambling casino.

No, that’s not quite right either. Gambling has long had a bad reputation as a sleazy business run by violent gangsters with funny names who fill the pockets of corrupt politicians.

The casino proposed for Kenosha goes under the sanitized name that has been adopted by gambling operations all over this country that makes what occurs at the tables sound like wholesome family fun night around a Parcheesi board. It’s called “gaming.”

But no matter what you call it, the effect on politics is the same. The longer political leaders can draw out any approval process, the longer they can run around with the biggest buckets they can find under a seemingly endless shower of cash.

That’s why it was absolutely no surprise last week when Republican Gov. Scott Walker backed off from what he’d claimed would be a quick decision on whether the Menominee tribe should be allowed to build that $800 million casino in Kenosha.

Since a Kenosha casino would be located midway between Milwaukee’s Potawatomi casino, the state’s most lucrative gambling operation, and Chicago, from which it draws more than a third of its patrons, the Potawatomi aren’t real excited about losing a large portion of the approximately $400 million it takes off gamblers every year.

The Ho-Chunk, who operate a casino near Wisconsin Dells that also attracts Chicago gamblers, are equally unenthusiastic.

Any battle over hundreds of millions of dollars is no kids’ game. But a state politician holding the power of approval suddenly starts envisioning himself as that fat little tycoon in a three-piece suit on the Monopoly board.

The longer Walker can delay making a final decision, the more big money will be flying around Wisconsin from at least three well-heeled interested parties, and possibly quite a few more, who somehow have the impression that when you want something politically in Wisconsin these days, money talks.


Walker Needs Time to ‘Study’ Another Casino

It’s funny because when the U.S. Department of the Interior cleared the way for a possible Indian casino in Kenosha and said final approval was up to Walker, the governor publicly announced two very simple criteria that would have to be met.

The criteria were that all 11 Indian tribes in Wisconsin would have to approve and that construction would result in no new net gambling in the state.

Those criteria are so simple most of us probably think we already know they haven’t been met.

We know the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk don’t approve.

And we’re pretty sure that a casino the Menominee claim would bring in more than $480 million a year within five years, making it the most profitable in the state, would be an enormous increase in new net gambling.

But, see, that’s why we’re not governor.

After meeting privately with the Menominee chairman and the chairman of Hard Rock International, the multibillion-dollar Florida company that would develop and manage the casino, Walker says he needs more time to study a complicated legal argument for the casino the governor called “a very compelling case.”

Boy, that’s got to be some complicated legal argument. Part of it apparently is that the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk already have approved the new casino to be built by their competitor, but they just don’t know it yet.

Walker says he may need a week or two to ponder that intricate argument. After all, as the governor points out, “There’s considerable information in terms of pages and pages of data.”

Even Walker’s most vociferous political opponents have to feel at least a few twinges of sympathy for the governor over the next few weeks as he stays up late every night scrutinizing those pages and pages of data in order to make just the right decision.

But somehow we get the feeling that just a few short weeks won’t be nearly enough to end all the uncertainty.

In fact, even if the governor scans all those pages and pages of data until his head spins, there’s still the possibility he’ll feel the need for some additional information, maybe even some kind of outside study that could push a final decision a little closer to next year’s election.

Or, as an alternative, even if Walker makes a relatively quick decision, it’s a good bet whoever ends up on the losing end—whether it’s the Menominee or the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk—will find some legal avenue of appeal to keep the whole process up in the air for the next election year.

That’s when that political money gusher really comes in.


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