Friday, December 07, 2007

Buttleggers For Sure

Indian tribes on Long Island are threatening to sue John Catsimatidis because some of the retailer's law suit complaints were thrown out by a Federal judge. The one thing that has set the Indians on the war path is the allegation that they're operating black market-abetting businesses. As one Indian leader told Newsday: "Right now we're actually looking at suing him [Catsimatidis] for damages done to our reputation, calling us black marketeers and all of this kind of stuff," Gumbs said. "You can't just hurl these accusations. He made us look like absolute criminals. And this guy wants to be mayor of the biggest city in the world?"

Let them. Catsimatidis' allegations are right on the money, and the best defense against libel is the truth. Let these so-called honest businesses open up all of their books and records in order to determine how many cartons are flying down the LIE into New York City. Listen to their lament: "Gumbs, Unkechaug Chief Harry Wallace and the other defendants have argued that the smoke shops are legitimate enterprises that provide jobs and significant revenue to provide community assistance for heating and other utility bills and college tuition costs."They want us to stop because it benefits the community," Wallace said. "They want us to be a dependent, subservient community."

Nonsense, and as we pointed out to the paper: "The merits of the lawsuit notwithstanding, Mr. Catsimatidis was trying to bring equity to an inequitable situation where Indian retailers were taking advantage of the tax laws to the detriment of other retailers," said Richard Lipsky, who represents the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, a Manhattan-based advocacy group." Maybe the tribes should go into subprime lending instead.

All we're asking is that the tribes operate under the same conditions that all other retailers operate under. As Catsimatidis and ace attorney Bill Wachtell point out: "...Gristedes' attorney, William Wachtel, said Catsimatidis would have preferred if the city, state and federal governments "did their jobs in protecting the interest of honest business people faced with black market cigarettes being sold in front of their stores." Catsimatidis is, however, dedicated to pursuing the remaining claims, Wachtel said."

All of this could have easily been avoided if state officials hadn't been so derelict in their protection of the rights of legitimate retailers, as well as the tax payers of New York. Catsimatidis' lawsuit is doing a good job at filling an unfortunate public policy void.