As I wrote last week, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians is going on the air today with a TV ad, viewable here, promoting the passage of the new casino tribe compacts in the California state Assembly. The initial buy is statewide cable TV, with some broadcast TV in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, for $1.25 million for the first week.
The compacts were negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration and easily approved by the state Senate. But passage in the Assembly may be more problematic.
The ad is in two versions, 30 seconds and 60 seconds. It begins with the image of a bald eagle soaring and features a host of Native Americans.
“California and California Indian tribes. Together, we soar,” the narrator declares. “Not so long ago our tribes were but a small part of California’s economy, and now we soar.”
Calling the casino tribes “good, responsible neighbors that bring thousands of jobs,” the ad tells people to urge legislators to approve the compacts, which will generate revenue to “help balance the budget, improve education and provide high-quality healthcare for those who need it most.”
“Don’t let special interests stand in the way,” says the narrator, referring to the union opposition.
The ads come out of Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign shop, courtesy of campaign manager Steve Schmidt and media consultant Fred Davis, who produced the advertising.
While the first week of TV advertising will cost $1.25 million, weeks of media buys are planned. The advertising, paid for by the Morongo, pushes the Asssembly to ratify all the tribal pacts. Assembly Democratic leaders say they will take their time on this. But while they do, they can expect the advertising to continue.
The TV ads support a massive expansion of casino gambling in California. Five tribes in Southern California would increase the number of their slot machines from 10,000 to 32,500. Schwarzenegger has included revenue from the deal in the current budget, some $500 million, and it’s needed given lower than anticipated tax receipts so far.
Those tribes are the Morongo, who operate in the Palm Springs area, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in San Bernardino, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula, and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in the San Diego area. (The latter have the distinction of being the first tribe to intervene in the 2003 recall election, against Schwarzenegger.)
A sixth tribe, the relatively poor Yurok, would benefit by gaining 99 slot machines in a remote part of Northern California. This will help the tribe keep its gas station open during the winter. There will be no gambling Xanadus in Klamath.
The compacts failed passage last year in the Legislature. Democratic legislative leaders complained that Schwarzenegger got them to the Legislature too late for considered judgment.
But there was another factor at work. Organized labor was strongly opposed. In fact, it still is. The casino and restaurant workers union, in particular, wants more protections for labor organizing in the deals, some of which was present in previous compacts negotiated by the Schwarzenegger Administration. Labor also wants an audit done of the casino tribes books.