Coushatta Tribe and Jack Abramoff

The Coushatta Tribe and Jack Abramoff

The miniscule Coushatta tribe in
Louisiana was federally recognized in 1973. Tribal members now number
either 400 or 837 depending on which source you rely. Members under
age 18 number 342; a current baby boom is explained by per capita
handouts. Tribal land comprises 685 acres.

Tribal finances are anything but small.
Their casino takes in $300 million a year and each tribal member is
given a quarterly sum of the profits, estimates of those checks per
member ranging from $30,000 to $40,000 annually. A family of 6 would
receive $180,000- $240,000 annually, in addition to free medical
care, education and financial aid to buy a home. Some members also
would receive pay by working for the tribe, the casino, or the
federal government. Coushattas prize this cozy arrangement and have
hired a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, to work in Washington to keep other
small tribes from getting federal recognition and setting up
competition nearby. They pay heavily for this protection.

Over three years they paid Abramoff $32
million– more than $38,000 for each of their (837) tribal members.
(It may sound like a lot but, divided by three, each member annually
paid $12,500. To protect their $30-$40,000 it was only prudent.) When
the Coushatta and other tribes began to make political contributions,
they targeted mostly Democratic lawmakers. “But when Abramoff came
calling, it was not hard for him to persuade the tribes to start
spreading the wealth to Republicans.” (David Whoriskey in the
Washington Post.)

Now the work Abramoff has been doing is
coming under attack, and lawmakers who receive his campaign
contributions are being investigated. Coushattas complain they have
been taken advantage of and are asking to get back their protection
payments, having cake and eating it, too. They expect us to believe
they are victims, but that is hard to gulp down. It is hard to feel
too sorry for a people that has profited so handsomely. The
Coushattas are not victims.

Tom Burnett

January 18, 2006


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