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Wisconsin Tribe Dramatically Increases Political Spending

One of Wisconsin's Native American tribes has contributed more to candidates in the last seven months than in the past six years. (Kagenmi/
One of Wisconsin's Native American tribes has contributed more to candidates in the last seven months than in the past six years. (Kagenmi/
August 17, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin is home to 11 sovereign American Indian tribes, and rarely do any of the tribes spend much money supporting political committees or candidates. But the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that carefully tracks political spending, has just reported that the Forest County Potawatomi Community has, in the first half of the year, spent more money on politics than in the past six years combined.

Matt Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

"Well it's dramatic that the Potawatomi tribe has spent more than $70,000 from its PAC to political committees and candidates here in Wisconsin the first seven months, it's the biggest PAC contributor in the state, except for the Realtors, and it's just curious," he said.

The tribe has spent three times as much on Republicans as Democrats. Most of the money, according to Rothschild, went to two Republican legislative campaign committees that raise money from special interests to spend on elections. The Potawatomi did not return calls for comment on this story. None of the 10 other tribes have so dramatically increased political spending.

The Potawatomi spending increase is a mystery to Rothschild, who points out that the tribe, which operates a huge casino in Milwaukee, was the benefactor of a decision from Governor Scott Walker to reject a proposed $800 million casino the Menominee tribe wanted to build in Kenosha.

"One thing I know they'll probably oppose is the betting on fantasy football that is just a craze across the country right now," he added. "Or maybe they're worried about a move down the road to legalize gambling in Wisconsin, as other states have, outside of Indian casinos."

Rothschild said the Potawatomi PAC gave a total of $9,000 to Governor Walker's campaign in 2011 and 2013.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI