LOBBYING - FROM THE K STREET CORRIDOR

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June 12, 1999, 8 a.m.

A Tri­bal Tussle

The Shako­pee Mde­wakan­ton Sioux, a Min­nesota tribe that runs the hugely suc­cess­ful Mys­tic Lake Casino in Pri­or Lake, knows how to cause a Wash­ing­ton ruck­us. Four years ago, the tribe’s lob­by­ing ef­fort helped per­suade the In­teri­or De­part­ment to re­ject a rival In­di­an casino pro­ject in Hud­son, Wis. For roughly a year, In­de­pend­ent Coun­sel Car­ol Eld­er Bruce has been in­vest­ig­at­ing al­leg­a­tions that In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Bruce E. Bab­bitt denied the casino li­cense be­cause the tribes op­pos­ing the pro­pos­al con­trib­uted $ 400,000 to Demo­crats in 1995-96.

This time around, however, mem­bers of the Shako­pee tribe are fight­ing one an­oth­er. Two mem­bers of the tribe—Wini­fred Freezor and Cecil­ia St. Pierre—say the In­teri­or De­part­ment has al­lowed cor­rup­tion among tri­bal lead­ers to go un­checked . Since 1992, the two al­lege, the tri­bal coun­cil has al­lowed more than 350 ad­op­tions by Shako­pee mem­bers. Each ad­op­tee is a tri­bal mem­ber and is en­titled to roughly $ 700,000 a year from the casino. Many of the ad­op­tees, Freezor and St. Pierre con­tend, don’t meet the tribe’s con­sti­tu­tion­al re­quire­ment that its mem­bers be one-quarter Shako­pee. (The fed­er­al ap­peals court in Min­neapol­is has ruled that the tri­bal coun­cil can set mem­ber­ship re­quire­ments.) The is­sue is ”greed, pure and simple,” Freezor said. The two have hired the Wash­ing­ton of­fice of the Rich­mond, Va.-based law firm of McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe to press the is­sue with In­teri­or and with the House Re­sources Com­mit­tee. The duo ”don’t want to dis­par­age their tribe, but they feel le­git­im­ate mem­bers of the tribe have lost all rights,” said Eliza­beth T. Walk­er, a vice pres­id­ent with McGuire Woods’ fed­er­al pub­lic af­fairs group. Mean­while, the Min­neapol­is Star Tribune has re­por­ted that a fed­er­al grand jury in the in­de­pend­ent-coun­sel in­vest­ig­a­tion has sub­poenaed the tribe’s en­roll­ment re­cords.

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