Sunday, October 31, 2010

Barb Boxer’s Indian Tribe Take by Rick Manning

Barb Boxer’s Indian Tribe Take by Rick Manning
10/30/10 08:55 AM ET

For the past 10 years Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has been playing a game that would make Jack Abramoff blush, a game that can best be described using the language of “Get Smart’s” Maxwell Smart as “the ole family-profiting-off-of-the-Indian-tribe-that-you-created trick.”

Here’s the story.

In 1998, Lynn Woolsey introduced legislation reinstating an Indian tribe in the wine country of Northern California that had been declared defunct by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1958. None of the Indians of the tribe objected at that time; they received a payment and went about their lives. The Woolsey bill would reinstate the tribe but specifically prohibited them from starting a casino. The legislation ran into trouble when the Bureau of Indian Affairs opposed the legislation because it had not seen any evidence that the tribe was significantly tied to the terminated tribe.

In 2000, Boxer helpfully picked up the Woolsey bill, but changed the prohibition against gaming, and designated any land that the group owned to be considered as a reservation.

In the same year, Boxer got her language into the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act of 2000, and with the changes unbeknownst to either fellow Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) or House sponsor Woolsey (D), the bill was signed into law by then-President Clinton.

That’s when the game got interesting.

Shortly after passage, the newly minted Indian tribe declared that after much soul-searching, the only thing it could do was open a casino on the outskirts of San Francisco in the town of Rohnert Park.

The tribe turned its fortunes over to two firms to make its dreams of wealth come true — Platinum Advisers, a political consulting/lobbying firm, and Kenwood Investments 2. Amazingly, and I’m certain quite coincidentally, Barbara Boxer’s son, Doug, was a partner in each firm.

To avoid immediate citizen concern about a casino popping up in their posh neighborhood, Doug Boxer’s Kenwood Investments 2 kindly fronted for the casino interests in purchasing a tract of land in Rohnert Park, as well as helpfully taking options on adjoining parcels of land for themselves to sweeten the pot. (Can I say pot and Sonoma County, Calif., in the same breath?)

Then Platinum Advisers sprang into action to try to gain community support for the casino. They apparently didn’t do a very good job, because the casino still is not built 10 years later.

According to, Doug Boxer’s take from the project was a very Abramoff-like $8 million.

What makes the story timely is that the federal government just a couple of weeks ago was compelled to declare the land that Boxer’s son had purchased on behalf of the Indian casino a reservation, effectively killing the local zoning and lawsuits that had tied the project up in knots for most of the past decade.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat rightly pinned the federal decision right on the Senate Ethics Committee chairwoman’s doorstep by pointing out that since she used the word shall, rather than may, in the legislation that birthed this tribe, the federal government had no choice but to declare the property that the tribe subsequently purchased to be tribal lands.

Of course, my favorite part of this story is the poor bedraggled, downtrodden Indian chief, Greg Sarris. You see, poor Greg Sarris is a Ph.D. who has served as a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dr. Chief Sarris, according to his own biographical story, was adopted out when he was born, never meeting his natural parents. At some point in his life, like many who have been adopted, he wanted to know about his birth parents, and began to research. He discovered that his mother was deceased, and his father’s name was unlisted on the birth certificate. His mother was not a Native American.

Just so this tale is believable, I am now directly quoting Sarris’s bio from According to Sarris in Mabel McKay (a book he wrote), Bunny (his mother) claimed that the father of her baby was a Mexican stablehand who worked where she kept her horse, but her brother disputed this (based on Sarris’s looks) and suggested that the father was more likely to have been a boy called Emilio. Sarris describes looking through yearbooks from his mother’s school to locate him:

“Then I saw it. The name, Emilio Hilario. I looked at the picture and saw my face. Darker, yes. But my face all the same. I ended up interviewing over twenty people, and yes, they confirmed that Emilio was my father. Other girls had gotten pregnant from him also. ‘Oh, your mother loved him so, even as wild as he was,’ her best friend told me.” — Mabel McKay. p. 142.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, Sarris located the Filipino father of Emilio, who said that Emilio’s mother’s father had some Indian ancestry, and so Sarris adopted his “father’s mother’s” heritage and proceeded to regenerate an Indian tribe.

And that, boys and girls, is the abridged story of how you create an Indian tribe and profit off of it in six easy steps. Isn’t it nice to have a Senate Ethics Committee chairwoman who is so skillful at playing the game?

Manning is a native Californian and a Fairfax, Va.-based political communications professional.

Barb Boxer's Indian tribe take -- The Hill's Pundits Blog

Greg_sarris encyclopedia topics --

Rohnert Park casino bill tarnishes Boxer's green image --

Boxer’s sweetheart deal with reinstated Indian tribe « Hot Air

This is Google's cache of It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Oct 30, 2010 13:59:45 GMT.

Update: As of 8:35 pm tonight, the page seems to have disappeared from The Hill, or at least the story has. The comments are still up.
Update II: Here’s the Google cache of the story.