Monday, March 08, 2010

US Senate and the Seneca Tax Conspiracy

Well, at least now it has become crystal clear why the State of New York, under three different governors, has failed to enforce the tax laws against Indian cigarette retailers. As the NY Times reported on Saturday, the role of special interest money with the Seneca Nation front and center-is the linchpin of why a single class of criminal conspirators have been allowed to flout the law with such impunity.

The clarity is achieved in the Times' look at why a bill restricting the sale of cigarettes through the US Post office has become stalled in the Senate: "There is a relatively short list of people who like mail-order cigarettes: teenagers, adults evading sales taxes and the Seneca Nation of Indians of western New York, which dominates the national market."

And the reason the Seneca oppose the measure is quite simple-it allows them to market cigarettes, absent any tax, to anyone with access to a computer-and that includes children as well. So, the bill was sailing along after passing in the House and then...: "But then the Senecas, who control a gambling and cigarette empire that brings in more than $1 billion a year, began a campaign of back-room lobbying and public political threats. That now appears to have shut down the legislation and kept the tribe in the cigarette business, a case study in the power of a well-financed special interest to thwart what had seemed to be a national consensus."

Just as they and their fellow tribes have shut down enforcement in New York; and why we believe the governor isn't really serious about shutting down the illegal enterprise. It's easy to see why Indians have been so taken by gaming, given their ability to game the political system: "Isn’t that the way things go in the American system?” asked Richard Nephew, co-chairman of the Seneca Nation’s foreign relations committee. “It is something new for us to actively get involved in the American political process,” he said. “But we are trying to learn what works in America, and I guess making political contributions is something that works.”

You guess? The Senecas have been taking the guess work out of this for the past sixteen years. And what's this about "foreign relations committee?" All of a sudden the tribe wants sovereignty after glomming every single public assistance gambit it could possibly get its hand on. Makes you long for Groucho Marx and Freedonia.

And can't we at least find out which senator quietly out the kibosh on this bill? As the Times points out, a couple of senators asking for anonymity stopped the bill in its tracks: "As recently as December, a ban on mail-order cigarettes called the PACT Act — for Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking — looked all but certain to become law. After the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the House measure, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, prepared the bill for passage on the floor. No senator has publicly opposed the legislation. But at the last minute, two or three Democratic senators told party leaders privately that they might block the bill, according to senior Senate Democratic aides. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly."

And now for the comedic interlude: "The Senecas and their lobbyists said they did not know who their Senate protectors were. Records of the tribe’s campaign contributions offered few clues; the only significant donation was a $15,000 check to the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee." Poppycock!

The Senecas are lying through their teeth. They know who their benefactors are-and the senators who intervened are certain to to cash this chit. This ain't philanthropy where some motivated billionaire wants to do good without the requisite public fanfare. But notice the real problem here-the "few clues" as to where the Seneca's money is coming from.

There are a myriad of corporate veils that are the likely conduits for Indian cash-and the same situation applies to New York State. A friend of ours attended a recent Paterson fundraiser and took notice of the headdresses in attendance. Putting the checks to the source would take a forensic accountant.

And in the process, the Seneca drag out the phony job loss argument-as if the shuttered retailers and bodegas was all a result of immaculate conception: "By mid-December, the campaign had won two important converts. Two western New York congressmen, Brian Higgins and Eric Massa, both Democrats, wrote letters to the state’s two senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, also Democrats, urging them to block Senate passage. Mr. Higgins and Mr. Massa had voted for the bill in the House, but they said the Senecas’ arguments about the economic impact had changed their minds. “I do not believe that western New York can afford any more job losses,” Mr. Higgins wrote to the senators. (Mr. Massa, who announced this week that he was retiring, echoed the sentiment.)"

And the Seneca's political declaration of war has just gotten started: "The nation, which has fought off years of New York State efforts to tax its cigarettes, had already dedicated a $1 million war chest for political retaliation against any New York State official who crossed the tribe. Also in January, the Seneca Nation’s foreign relations committee approved a proposal to spend $250,000 opposing Ms. Gillibrand’s campaign for election this fall; it will be her first statewide race because she was appointed last year to fill the seat left open by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton."

So, we hope that every one's getting the picture here-including the Albany Bureau of the NY Times that has yet to see the news worthiness of the organized campaign to enforce the tax laws against these crooks. The state is in a billion dollar a year hole as a result of a criminal conspiracy that not only operates in plain sight, but does so while at the same time employing political tactics-while using the swag from its activities-that are normally reserved for legitimate interests.

It's time to shut this conspiracy down-and do so as expeditiously as the demise that was arranged for the disgraced Congressman Massa. New York's tax payers are waiting governor.