Sunlight Live bets it all with casino hearing

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This Thursday, when the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs examines the National Indian Gaming Commission, Sunlight Live will be on hand to show the connections between the committee members and the industry it oversees. The committee's members have received thousands, and in the case of Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the casino and gaming industry, and drawn interest from the Native American tribes many of the committee's members represent. During the hearing, we'll work to untangle the strings that tie legislators, witnesses and special interests in real time.

Joining the Sunlight Live team during the oversight hearing will be Tom Rodgers and Roger Gros. Rodgers is a Blackfoot Native American advocate for Indian Country and was the main whistleblower in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Gros is publisher of Casino Connection and Global Gaming Business.

The close connection between Indian casinos and the lobbying community came to the forefront during the Jack Abramoff scandal, which prompted Congress to change lobbying laws, and more recently, in 2007 with the misuse of gaming revenue for personal expenditures by Florida Seminole tribe leaders. That scandal was uncovered by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), a federal regulatory agency within the Department of the Interior often criticized of being understaffed and inadequate.

In April 2010, President Obama nominated Tracie Stevens, a member of the Tulalip reservation, as Chairwoman of the NIGC, replacing Philip N. Hogen, who headed the agency during the Abramoff and Seminole scandals.

Witnesses for Thursday's hearing come from prominent regional and national posts in Indian gaming oversight and regulation:

  • Tracie Stevens, Chairwoman National Indian Gaming Commission
  • Ernest L. Stevens, Chairman National Indian Gaming Association
  • J. Kurt Luger, Executive Director Great Plains Indian Gaming Association
  • Jamie Hummingbird, Chairperson National Tribal Gaming, Commissioners/Regulators
  • Shelia Morago, Executive Director Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association
  • John Meskill, Executive Director Mohegan Tribal Gaming Commission, the Mohegan Tribe
  • Harold Monteau, former National Gaming Indian Association Commissioner

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m. and is expected to last two hours. The Sunlight Foundation will provide live coverage of the oversight hearing with streaming video, analysis, transparency data and real-time online debate.

So, join us Thursday at http://sunlightfoundation.com/live/.