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Originally published Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Spokane Tribe upset over casino ads

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

SPOKANE — The Spokane Tribe is upset with supporters of GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi over TV 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 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 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," Gregoire said. The state Democratic Party also denies allegations it "laundered" money.

In an ad Thursday in The Spokesman-Review, the tribe blasted the commercials as 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 ad said.

The commercials in question were paid for separately by either the Building Industry Association of Washington or the Republican Governors Association. Both groups support Rossi, but the commercials are independent of his campaign.

One set of commercials features Native American actors portraying tribal officials making "a backroom deal" with state officials.

"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, that any appearance of corruption is on the governor, not the tribes.

"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."

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