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Former MA Congressman to Lobby for Tribal Casino

11 March 2011 by admin

Wiliam DellahuntCongratulations to former Massachusetts congressman William Delahunt for landing the only job more hated by the people than that of a politician: a lobbyist. Politicians often become lobbyists when they return to the private sector after either being voted out of office or retiring from politics. It’s the perfect job for them because they can use the connections and influence they gained as a politician, they’re already familiar with most of the issues on the lobbyists’ plates, and they’re not burdened by the morals that would prevent most people from going into that line of work.

William Delahunt, who spent nearly 40 years in Massachusetts politics, including the last 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, registered as a lobbyist with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office yesterday. By registering as a lobbyist, Delahunt is now allowed to be paid to advocate with members of the state legislature on behalf of his clients. He announced that his top client will be the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, who wants to open a casino within the state.

Like it or not, lobbyists are used to grease the wheels of the legislative political machines in America, so they can do a lot of good for a cause, if it’s your case. That’s why everyone hates lobbyists unless they’re your lobbyist, in which case they’re a necessary evil.

mashpee wampanoagThe Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was only formally recognized by the U.S. government in 2007. Since then, they have been pushing for tribal land and the right to build casinos on that land. Legislation to that effect has always stalled in the legislature, though Delahunt was supportive of their efforts.

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag, said that the tribe will have Delahunt lobby state lawmakers for gambling expansion. They also want him to lobby at the federal level on other issues, including housing and education for members of the tribe. However, there is a potential ethical and legal hurdle to that. Delahunt has only been out of office for two months. Some say that it is improper for him to take a lobbying position so soon. Congress has ethics rules that prohibit a representative from contacting any former staff member or colleague regarding business within one year of leaving office. That rule means that Delahunt cannot lobby members of the U.S. House for one year, though he could lobby federal agencies and possibly the Senate (I’m unclear on that last part).

While a member of Congress, Delahunt received contributions from various tribal interests. Having worked on their behalf in Congress and seen a lack of results, he has an interesting take on the situation. “The history of this tribe’s dealings with our government is replete with bureaucracy, impasse, inertia, and sometimes outright hostility,” he said in a prepared statement. “The tribe has rights as a sovereign nation, and more importantly, treating them with respect and helping them achieve self-sufficiency is simply the right thing to do.”

Last year, the tribe spent $155,625 lobbying for gambling. By representing the Wampanoag in their push for casinos, Delahunt is filling the shoes of another famous lobbyist. Remember Jack Abramoff?

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