Thursday, September 02, 2010

Whither the Rule of Law?

The latest snafu in regards to enforcing the NY State tax laws, raises the question of whether the rule of law will be upheld-or will an undeserved lucrative criminal enterprise will be allowed to flourish with impunity at the expense of helpless small business owners and NY tax payers? The decision of the Federal judge in Buffalo cries out for an investigation from the US Attorneys office-since the sovereignty claims of the tax scofflaws have been exposed as baseless by this country's highest court.

Now a state judge has joined his federal colleague and has thrown this whole controversy into limbo. As the NY Times reports: "A state law to tax cigarettes sold by Indian tribes in New York had barely gotten off the ground on Wednesday when a state appellate court judge brought it to a halt, blocking an effort that Gov. David A. Paterson said could help stabilize the state’s finances. The judge’s decision, to stop the state temporarily from enforcing its plan, came a day after a federal court ruling prohibiting tax collections specifically on cigarettes sold by the Seneca and Cayuga Nations, two of the largest tribes in the state."

On what grounds? The Times doesn't say-but the governor's office vows to fight on: "But the Paterson administration said it was determined to carry on the fight and make its case in court. “We believe the state’s legal arguments are sound and we believe that ultimately the state will prevail in this matter,” Jessica Bassett, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement."

Meanwhile there is a budget hole-something between $150 and $200 million-that needs to be filled. But the larger question is whether one small group of special pleading criminals-folks who have amassed a fortune while operating spuriously under a cloak of victimhood and past injustice-will be allowed to flout the law and victimize the rest of us. And the Indians, for their part, want to re-litigate the 1994 decision that then AG Oliver Koppell had successfully prosecuted all the way up to the Supreme Court.

As the NY Post reports: "The Indians' challenges are in multiple courts because they're attacking the taxation on several levels. The Senecas' federal court suit, which the Cayugas joined, seeks to invalidate the state tax law by arguing New York lacks jurisdiction to regulate Indian nations within their territories. The tribes' state court challenge, meanwhile, opposes the expedited way New York tax officials chose to adopt the regulations to implement the law, not the law itself."

But aside from all this legal flim flamming, the threats of violence still remain. As the Buffalo News tells us: "Seneca Nation Tribal Councillor Travis Jimerson told a crowd of about 100 at one of the morning rallies that he wanted to remind the state and state leaders that New York "was built around us. They never beat us. They never removed us," Jimerson said. "We're a nation that's never been beat. Many have tried, and they failed."

And then there's this: "Richard Nephew, a member of the Seneca Nation Tribal Council, told the crowd at the rally at Big Indian that he believes that the media rarely point out what the state owes the Seneca Nation, instead focusing on what the nation owes the state. The state made promises in 1976 surrounding the construction of Route 17, which crosses the Allegheny territory, Nephew said. "We're still waiting for those promises to be kept," he said. Nephew also called the Thruway that runs through the Cattaraugus territory "an illegal business conducted by New York state on our territories."

Give us a break! If the state owes the tribe money for the right of way, make that deal with them-but don't give them a multi-billion dollar annuity that is killing the small shop keepers all over New York. And, if they are sovereign, why are we providing the 25,000 Indians in the state with all of those American health and welfare benefits?

Enough is enough. Enforce the law and let these judges step aside for the sovereignty rights of the State of New York.