Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oregon's Governor Race May Be Decided By Casinos

An amazing new independent advertising phenomenon is taking over the airwaves in Oregon, and threatens to pick the two major party nominees in the Oregon Governor's Race.

Native American run casino money independently funded political attack ads to prevent a new massive casino construction project in Oregon's Gorge area are being run by an organization, Oregonians Against Off Reservation Casinos, which is really an effort by interests of the Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde to prevent the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs from building this casino closer to the Portland area which would have a huge financial impact on the Spirit Mountain Casino. Some of these casinos take in $200 million or more a year and are a high stakes enterprise that is supposed to fund Native American services. However, the amount of funds poured into the Governor's race TV war by interests of the Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde is so masive and far more visible than any effort by the official campaign's of any candidate for Governor so far.

While Democratic Governor Kulongski has done as well as he possiby could with the massive state budget problems in the aftermath of 9/11 and a resulting unemployment rate that was either the worst or second worst in the nation for much of the last few years, which did sink state tax revenues and put a huge squeeze of state budgets, still this governor did very well to manage the state as well as he possibly could. Governor Kulongoski has also managed to attend the funeral of nearly every service person killed in the Iraq War, which says a great deal about his character that every Oregonian life lost in war matters. But a very popular former state office holder, Jim Hill, could well upset Kulongoski in the primary due to the massive help from the independently run casino ads which have been savaging Kulongoski. Hill could well become the first Black Governor of Oregon as even polls from organizations such as Rasmussen Reports give either Hill or Kulongoski a lead over the possible Republican challengers.

Both Kulongoski and Oregon Republican Party Chairman, Kevin Mannix, have been supporters of the Gorge casino plan by the Confederated Tribes Of Warm Springs. The Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde stand to lose a great deal of revenue at their Spirit Mountain casino which is further from Portland metro are than the proposed Gorge site Casino.

And Kulongoski is also suffering attacks from the left of the Democratic Party by another candidate Pete Sorenson, who is poking holes in Kulongoski's support. An Internet poll yesterday on KATU News came up with 60% support for Hill, and 20% each for Kulongoski and Sorenson. While this poll is not a scientific one, it nonetheless proves that a possible primary election defeat for Governor Kulongoski is very possible by Hill, who is bouyed by both the casino ads and not the fact of not being Kulongoski.

The Republican side is also heavily impacted by the influence of the casino interest ads. Businessman Ron Saxton, normally thought of as a Republican Party moderate is actually currently running to the right of Kevin Mannix, long a favorite of the Oregon right wing. But a new independent ad with ties to Loren Parks, is attempting to ruin Saxton with claims of his connection to some former Governor Goldschmidt supporters. Goldschimdt was implicated in a sex scandal with a 14 year old girl. But Mannix himself has raised questions as a former George McGovern delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention, former Democratic state office holder until political opportunity caused him to switch parties in the last few years, a reputation for helping to weaken state ethics laws for state lawmakers, and defending a mayor charged with ethics violation as a private attorney. And recent questions surround Mannix's fund raising eforts as well. Given all of this political baggage and the impact of the casino ads running against Mannix, who has a "holier than thou" attitude that also offends some voters, Mannix may well be toast this year where Saxton may have the best shot at winning the GOP nonimation, but likely lose to either Kulongoski or Hill in the general election at this point in time according to polling data from Rasmussen Reports.

For the first time in political history, the independently funded attack ads from the casino interests of the Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde may well choose the next Oregon Governor. And on the national scene, convicted former lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, was also a paid lobbyist for Native American casino interests. This huge political influence of Native American casino lobbies or political advertising influence efforts is an entirely new political phenomenon in American politics. This could be the next new major trend in American politics, where Native American casino money chooses the political leadership of America, instead of funding the Native American services such as better schools or social programs that are greatly needed to resolve the terrible issues of povery that harm members of the Native American community.


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