Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney Urges Voters to Call Albany, Tell Them to Reject Cuomo’s Corrupt Bargain with Oneida Indian Nation on Gaming

June 19, 2013
With the state legislature poised to vote on Gov. Cuomo’s gaming deal with the Oneida Indian Nation, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R,C,I-New Hartford) today asked voters to call their Assembly members and Senators to tell them to reject the deal.

“It’s a corrupt bargain between the governor and casino interests that will rob taxpayers, cost us more jobs, shatter our state’s sovereignty and take an innocent man’s land away from him and his family. It’s an outrage – voters need to call and email their representatives and stop this deal,” Tenney said.

The gaming deal signed May 16 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Ray Halbritter, president of the Turning Stone Casino and the self-appointed head of the Oneida Indian Nation, would cede 25,000 acres of land to a federal land trust including land belonging to Melvin Phillips, the chief of the Orchard Party Band of Oneidas.

“Phillips is a 75-year-old man and full-blooded Oneida who will lose everything, just so Cuomo can buy off the support of Halbritter’s Oneida Indian Nation,” said Tenney.

Cuomo’s concessions to the Oneida Indian Nation include the 25,000 acres of land held in federal trust – thereby, betraying the sovereignty of New York State – the deputization of Nation police as sworn officers, and full immunity from nearly $800 million in back taxes to the state and localities.

In exchange for Halbritter’s support and 25 percent of future slots revenue, Cuomo gave the Oneidas exclusive gaming rights in a wide swath of the state, without revenue sharing or tax liability on any of the Nation’s other profitable enterprises, including the sale of cigarettes and gasoline.

Tenney continued, “Cuomo’s deal is precisely why New Yorkers despise Albany: it’s another backroom deal that serves special interests at the expense of tax-paying, law-abiding residents. Demanding Halbritter’s explicit support in the May 16 deal is blatant quid pro quo; it would fall under New York’s bribery statutes.”

“The cessation of land to the Oneidas not only victimizes Phillips and his family, but cedes the state’s sovereignty in an unprecedented move; there are no federal land trusts in the original Thirteen Colonies, as they are prohibited by the state and U.S. constitution. It gives Halbritter an armed fiefdom smack dab in the middle of Central New York, which doesn’t pay taxes,” Tenney said.

Without a tax bill, the Oneida Indian Nation’s businesses, including convenience stores and gas stations, will force even more small-business owners, who do pay taxes, out of business. In turn, local governments will continue to be starved of much-needed revenue.

Tenney called on taxpayers and voters across New York to stand up and call Albany. “Call Cuomo, call your Senator and Assembly member – tell them ENOUGH to the corrupt bargains. Tell them to respect taxpayers, small-business owners, and property owners.”

Here are publications in which Assemblywoman Tenney has explained her opposition to the Oneida deal:

The NY Post (May 29, 2013): A rotten deal with ‘casino Oneidas’

The Syracuse Post-Standard (June 19, 2013): Albany should reject corrupt bargain on Indian casino