January 22, 2015
A new agreement announced Wednesday between the state of Wisconsin and a tribe that wants to build an $800 million casino in Kenosha comes less than a month before Republican Governor Scott Walker must render a final decision on the project.
The state’s agreement with the Menominee Nation, which is subject to federal government approval, comes after Walker has been considering the project for the past 18 months.
During that time, Wisconsin and Florida Indian tribes, which are at odds over the new casino, contributed $170,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an electioneering group that spent millions of dollars to help reelect Walker, who is also a 2016 presidential prospect.
The Menominee Nation is partnering with the Seminole Tribe in Florida and Hard Rock Entertainment, which is owned by the Seminole, to develop and manage the facility. Federal officials signed off on the project in mid-2013 and Walker must give final approval by Feb. 19.
The project is opposed by the Forest County Potawatomi Community, which operates a lucrative casino in Milwaukee that the tribe claims will suffer from competition by the proposed Kenosha casino.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment made five contributions totaling $110,000 and the Potawatomi tribe doled out two contributions totaling $60,000 to the Republican Governors Association’s 527 fundraising arm during the 2013-14 election cycle. The association’s state political action committee spent at least $4 million in 2014 to help Walker win reelection last fall.
In addition to the contributions to the Republican Governors Association, Walker’s campaign received individual and PAC contributions totaling $6,200 between January 2013 and Oct. 20, 2014, from Potawatomi tribal members and casino employees.
There were no contributions by these casino interests to the Republican group’s counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, or to Democratic candidate for governor, Mary Burke.