Staff & Wire reportsCalifornia’s Indian tribes, among the state’s largest political donors, can be sued by the state for failing to report campaign contributions despite their status as sovereign nations, a divided state Supreme Court ruled last week.
In a 4-3 decision, the court said tribes’ normal immunity from lawsuits in state court was outweighed in this case by the state’s constitutional authority to maintain a "republican form of government’’ free from corruption.
"Allowing the tribe immunity from suit in this context would allow tribal members to participate in elections and make campaign contributions ... unfettered by regulations designed to ensure the system’s integrity ... leaving the state powerless to effectively guard against political corruption,’’ said Justice Ming Chin in the majority opinion.
Dissenting Justice Carlos Moreno said the Constitution, as consistently interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, immunizes Indian tribes from being sued in state court without their consent, unless Congress passes laws creating exceptions.
"The idea of Indian tribal and sovereign immunity and federal protection has existed side by side with the reality of Indians massacred and dispossessed from their land,’’ said Moreno, joined by Justices Joyce Kennard and Kathryn Mickle Werdegar.
They said the state and the public have other ways to get information on tribal contributions, including reports filed by the recipients of the money and a possible disclosure agreement negotiated between tribes and the state.
The ruling allows the state Fair Political Practices Commission to sue the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians for failing to promptly disclose $8.5 million in contributions to political committees and candidates from 1998 to 2002. The tribe owns two casinos in the Palm Springs area.
Tribal campaign contributions in California exceeded $100 million during campaigns to pass Indian casino initiatives in 1998 and 2000. Most tribes have complied with the state law requiring prompt disclosure of contributions above $10,000, but the Agua Calientes contended the state has no power to enforce its regulations against them in court.
Pechanga to host
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) will hold its 12th Annual Western Indian Gaming Conference next month, and taking the next step in technology, will award an iPod to each fully paid full conference attendee at the end of its tradeshow.
The tradeshow and conference will be held January 17-18, at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, and is preceded by a golf tournament at the Temecula Creek Inn on the 16th.
The attendee registration fee is $500. The full conference registration fee includes admission to the tradeshow, all conference presentations and reception. Registration materials for the golf tournament and tradeshow/conference can be accessed on CNIGA’s website, www.cniga.com.
The iPods are valued at $249 retail and hold 30GB of data. They have a 2Â½ inch color display, and weigh only 5Â½ ounces.
CNIGA will load each iPod with various conference related activities occurring during the first day of the conference and plans to have the second day’s activity available for download to the iPod after the show.