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The Least Transparent Industry in America

Last Thursday Fegus Bordewich wrote a fascinating Abramoff-related piece in The Wall Street Journal about the absolute lack of oversight of Indian operated casinos:

Tribal gambling may be the least transparent large industry in the United States.  Constitutional protections reach only feebly onto Indian land, where tribal governments enjoy a degree of secrecy that would never be tolerated in any other American community.  Gigantic sums disappear from public view as soon as the leave tribal gaming tables. This money is shielded from outside regulation by the principle of tribal sovereignty, upheld by the Supreme Court, which regards tribes as autonomous "nations," enjoying self-regulation, immunity from lawsuits and independence from state laws. [snip]

Many Indians treat scrutiny of the tribal casino industry as an attack on tribal sovereignty, and racist, virtually by definition.  Tribal ideologues claim an absolute right to self-government without "interference" from state and federal governments, or any other outside institutions, such as the independent press.  This vision of sovereignty serves the self-interest of tribal officials and predators like Jack Abramoff much more than it does the welfare of rank-and-file tribal members, who are the most vulnerable victims of closed-door government and official corruption. Nor should any $19 billion industry enjoy a "sovereign" protection from regulatory laws that are mean to protect all Americans - including Native Americans.

The recurring theme with tribal gaming, lobbying in Washington, campaign finance, and good governance in general is not more regulation, but more transparency. Corruption, graft, kickbacks, payola, etc. are all vastly more difficult when everyone can easily see what you're doing - especially in the age of the Internet.