Former FPPC exec becomes tribal administrator

California’s former chief political law and ethics watchdog has gone to work for one of the state’s most prominent gaming tribes, succeeding someone fired in connection with a fraud scandal.

Roman Porter, former executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, is now tribal administrator for the United Auburn Indian Community, where he’ll oversee a tribal government staff of 115 administering services for tribe members; the community’s elementary school; and cultural resources and environmental protection programs.

United Auburn owns Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln.

“Roman brings with him extensive experience in governmental ethics,” United Auburn Chairman David Keyser said in a news release. “We welcome Roman as a member of our team, where he will implement consistent ethical standards while ensuring that all aspects of our tribal programs continue to run smoothly.”

The Sacramento Bee last month reported United Auburn had fired tribal administrator Greg Baker, who was named in an IRS court affidavit as being involved in a construction-overbilling scheme that defrauded the tribe of $18.6 million; no charges have been filed.

Porter, 39, said in the tribe’s news release that he’s honored to take the new job. “I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the UAIC to help ensure the continued economic prosperity of the Tribe and the delivery of high quality government services to its members.”

Porter rose rapidly through the FPPC’s ranks, starting as an intern in the early 2000s and later being promoted from communications director to executive director. He announced late last summer that he would leave to seek other opportunities; his LinkedIn profile indicates that since then he has worked with Mobile Commons to identify opportunities to expand that company’s text, cell and mobile web platforms into California, predominately focusing on the political and government arena.

Earlier in his career, Porter had worked at the California Medical Association and as a legislative aide to state Sen. Joe Dunn.


California’s online poker bills are dead until 2012

A contentious effort to legalize and regulate online poker in California was pronounced dead for this year by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, wrote a letter to stakeholders saying that although the Legislature has held several hearings with hours of testimony, “significant, unresolved issues remain, including tribal exclusivity and waiver of sovereign immunity, the types of games that would be authorized, who would be eligible to apply for gaming site licenses and potential federal constitutional questions.”

The problems aren’t insurmountable, he wrote, “but not before the end of this legislative year on September 9th, when Interim Study Recess is scheduled to begin. Rushing to meet a legislative deadline on an issue of such significance for our state and our people would be unwise.”

Steinberg said he expects a better proposal will be developed during the recess for consideration when the Legislature reconvenes in 2012, and the state Senate Governmental Organization Committee will hold a hearing in January to move that bill along. “There is time to get this right, and it is imperative that we do so.”

A million Californians per week already play online poker on sites that are operated overseas or may be run illegally, says state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. The sites operate despite a 2006 federal law that bars gambling businesses from taking and paying out money online, unless the bets are made and paid within a state that has laws regulating it. No state currently does.

A pending, bipartisan House bill would end that federal ban and set up an interstate licensing program giving states authority to run online sites; U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged cooperation.

And Reid’s home state of Nevada, where gaming is king, is straining at the bit to see the ban overturned: Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a law in June requiring his state to adopt its own online poker regulations by January.

California could be left behind if it doesn’t do the same, Correa has said, as Nevada and other states stand to cut into approximately $7.5 billion in annual revenues now earned by California’s brick-and-mortar card rooms and tribal casinos. He said his SB 40 instead would bring California 1,300 new jobs and — with a 10 percent take from all online poker fees — $1.4 billion in revenue for state coffers in the next decade.

But while a coalition of card rooms and Indian tribes backed Correa’s bill, some gaming tribes opposed it, claiming a $50 million “buy-in” for online poker licenses would create an unfair advantage for certain gaming interests.


Torrico leads in tribal casino campaign money

I was talking with someone the other day about Indian gaming in California – about how it remains wildly lucrative and politically influential, and about how nascent casino developments like the one right here at the East Bay’s Point Molate are likely to keep it a hot issue in the next few years.

Gaming tribes have always been a formidable force in campaign contributions, so I figured I’d check the candidates for attorney general – whose office includes the Bureau of Gambling Control that ensures tribes comply with their gaming compacts – and the candidates for governor, as the governor has authority to negotiate those gaming compacts with tribes.

Attorney General candidate and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, has received the most in this election cycle of any candidate – $74,124.82 – in either of these races, by far. Next-closest in either race is Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current state Attorney General Jerry Brown, who got $47,000; next closest in the AG’s race is Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who got $36,400.

None of which is all that surprising: Torrico until recently chaired (ed. note – 2006-2008, until his ascension to Assembly Majority Leader, though he serves on the committee still; my bad) the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, which has dominion over Indian gaming matters, and now he’s running for another post with important Indian gaming oversight duties. Lieu is a member of that committee, too. (State Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, is vice chair of the Senate Governmental Oversight Committee; tribes gave him $26,400 for his run for AG.) And Brown’s hoping to go from one post crucial to Indian gaming to another.

Four candidates for AG reported no Indian gaming contributions at all – Democrats Kamala Harris and Chris Kelly, and Republicans Steve Cooley and John Eastman (though both the Republicans entered the race recently and haven’t filed campaign finance reports yet other than late and $5,000+ contributions requiring immediate disclosure).

In total, it looks as if tribes have spent almost $229,000 on these contests so far, but it’s still a long way to the primaries in June.

For the full breakdown of what Indian gaming money has gone where, follow me after the jump…
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Anti-casino TV ad hits Richmond

NOTE: This blog has been corrected to reflect updated information about the group behind the effort, Stop the Mega Casino. LAV

Mailers and a television ad hit Richmond over the weekend calling on residents to oppose the construction of an Indian casino on Point Molate.

The anti-casino campaign is funded by a group titled Stop the Mega Casino, a coalition of card rooms including the Oaks in Emeryville and the California Grand Casino in Pacheco.  The card rooms don’t want the competition.

Of course, unless you know which companies are part of this coalition, the name won’t mean much.

The TV spot depicts the seamiest sides of Richmond and suggests the arrival of Las Vegas-style gaming will further deteriorate the city’s already troubled neighborhoods.

I’m still working on obtaining an electronic copy of the mailer but here is the TV ad, kindly provided by its producers, Whitehurst & Mosher of San Francisco.

And here is a transcript of its wording:

Out of town developers are trying to build a mega casino in Richmond. They’re pushing Las Vegas dreams and promising jobs. But if we allow them to make a casino at Point Molate,  the drug dealing stays in Richmond, the loan sharking stays in Richmond, the poverty stays in Richmond, the crime stays in Richmond.  If we approve the mega casino, what won’t stay in Richmond is the gambling money we’ll never see and the jobs we’ll never get. Call the Richmond City Council. Tell them no to the mega casino.