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Originally published Friday, October 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Spokane Tribe upset about casino ads

The Spokane Tribe is upset with supporters of Republican governor candidate Dino Rossi over television commercials that suggest the tribe and the state struck an improper deal to expand casino gambling. The gambling compact has become an issue in Rossi's campaign against Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

SPOKANE — The Spokane Tribe is upset with supporters of Republican governor candidate Dino Rossi over television commercials that suggest the tribe and the state struck an improper deal to expand casino gambling.

The commercials, which the tribe contends are "misleading and racially charged," highlight a bone of contention between Rossi and incumbent Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The gambling issue came up at a debate Thursday in Spokane. Rossi repeated his contention that Gregoire made a mistake by negotiating a gambling compact with the Spokane Tribe that turned down an offer of revenue for the state. He referred to a newspaper article that said the state could have received a share of casino revenues, up to $140 million, but turned it down during negotiations.

Indian tribes have "laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Democratic Party, directly into my opponent's campaign," he said.

Gregoire said she turned down an offer that would have led to unlimited tribal gambling off reservations. Any suggestion that she's taken money from casinos is "an out-and-out lie," and a contribution to the party is not the same as a contribution to her campaign, she said.

"Our job is not to be a partner in gambling, our job is to be the police, the cop, the regulator," she said.

In a half-page ad Thursday in The Spokesman-Review, the tribe blasted the commercials, which it said were full of "lies, half-truths and words taken out of context."

The compacts were negotiated with legislative oversight and, according to state Attorney General Rob McKenna, follow the law, the tribe said in its ad.

The commercials are paid for by the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Republican Governors Association, which support Rossi but are running the commercials independent of his campaign. The commercials feature Native American actors portraying tribal officials making "a backroom deal" with state officials, the newspaper ad says.

"Before you cast us as some sort of villain, perhaps you should come out to our reservation and see how our modest gaming revenues are being put to use," the tribe's ad said.

A Rossi spokeswoman said the issue isn't whether the tribe did anything wrong. Any appearance of corruption is on the governor, not the tribes, she said.

"This isn't a racist issue," said spokeswoman Jill Strait, adding that Rossi is one-fourth Native Alaskan. "Dino Rossi has never blamed the tribes. They were trying to get the best deal possible."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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