January 16, 2010

Summing up the Abramoff scandal

‘Casino Jack and the United States of Money’ premieres at Sundance

By Gale Courey Toensing[T]he importance of the Jack Abramoff story to Indian country was its lessons about unrestrained greed, and its unmasking of Washington lawmakers and their staff, nonprofit leaders, and federal agency officials, who were willing to accept Abramoff’s gifts, fees, and donations in exchange for legislation or administrative decisions that would help his Indian clients or harm their perceived tribal opponents.

The Abramoff scandal was the largest ever to hit Indian country. Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon defrauded Michigan’s Saginaw Chippewas, California’s Agua Caliente, the Mississippi Choctaws, the Louisiana Coushattas, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo of Texas (Tigua), and the Pueblo of Sandia of New Mexico for an estimated $86 million by grossly over billing them, splitting profits and even scheming to secretly lobby against their own clients in order to squeeze more money out of them.

Thousands of pages of e-mails and other documents made public during an investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs showed not only how Abramoff and Scanlon’s influence peddling injured tribal nations, but also revealed the insult of their expressed racism in contemptuous remarks they made about their Native clients.
Comment:  Along with Time magazine's so-called exposé, the Abramoff scandal contributed mightily to the perception that Indians are rich, greedy, and corrupt. We'll see if Casino Jack strengthens or weakens these stereotypes.

For more on the movie, see Preview of Casino Jack and Spacey Making Abramoff Movie. For more on related subjects, see The Facts About Indian Gaming and The Best Indian Movies.

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