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Why Are Casino Bosses Teaming With Union Bosses in Funding an Anti-Tea Party Group?

Casinos have contributed hundreds of thousands to Senator Harry Reid over the years. Regardless of your political views, it is understandable. Unfortunately, that’s how the game is played. In addition, given Reid’s long ties to the casino industry in Nevada (Reid was Nevada gaming commissioner from 1977 to1981), he has undoubtedly built a few relationships and loyalties up and down the Vegas strip. A back scratch here, a donation there. Welcome to politics.

The one piece of the puzzle that seems to be missing, though, is why would gaming companies like MGM Resorts International and Harrah’s get into partnership with the SEIU and other unions to help fund an tea party group?

The Patriot Majority PAC was, according to its website, founded in October of 2009. Its sole mission, according to the WaPo, is to make sure the House and Senate stay Tea Party free.

“Americans need to confront the dangerous ideas of the tea party movement head on, without any fear, before they gain any additional traction in the legislative process or the 2010 elections,” said Varoga, who managed former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack‘s 2008 presidential run.

The idea behind Patriot Majority PAC is to pick 12 to 15 races where tea party-affiliated candidates are running then launch a barrage of television and radio ads (as well as online targeting) to keep them from winning. The funding, according to Varoga, will come entirely from individuals and thanks to a ruling in U.S. District Court last week the group will be able to expressly advocate for the defeat of candidates.

Okay. Their mission is to destroy tea party candidates. Got it.

The blog Creekside Chat has done an excellent job dissecting Patriot Majority and it’s clear that this group has no other agenda than to seek and destroy tea party candidates (like Sharon Angle).

However, the really puzzling part is why would MGM Resorts International, Harrah’s, as well as the San Pablo Lytton Casino (owned by a 200-300 member Indian tribe in California) jump into bed with the SEIU and a smorgasboard of other unions to smear candidates, as opposed to maintaining autonomy in their expenditures?

With the passions running so high across the country, have the casinos made a calculated risk that the gains of being affiliated with a group whose sole purpose is to seek and destroy tea party candidates is worth the potential loss of business from an angry public? Or, is there another agenda being played out?

Another interesting link that is not readily apparent is why the biggest (and, arguably, the most powerful) union player in Vegas is missing from the Patriot Majority’s laundry list of unions and other donors (see below). That is Local 226 of Unite-HERE.

Contribution   Organization

  • $400,000 – SEIU Committee on Political Education (COPE)
  • $300,000 – American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • $250,000 – MGM Resorts International
  • $250,000VOTEVETS.ORG Action Fund
  • $175,000Guy David Gundlach
  • $125,000Guy David Gundlach
  • $100,000AAJ PAC
  • $75,000Clean Energy
  • $75,000Harrah’s Operating Company
  • $60,000  - Carpenters Legislative Improvement Committee, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners
  • $50,000MGM Mirage
  • $50,000San Pablo Lytton Casino (San Pablo, CA)
  • $20,000Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) PAC
  • $10,000R&S Investment Properties
  • $5,000American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees P.E.O.P.L.E
  • $5,000CULAC The PAC of Credit Union National Association
  • $5,000International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) PAC
  • $5,000NEA Fund for Children & Public Education
  • $5,000American Postal Workers Union PAC
  • $5,000Sheet Metal Workers International PAC
  • $5,000Sheet Metal Workers International PAC
  • $5,000UFCW Active Ballot Club

As it is clear that the above casino companies oppose Sharon Angle and the tea parties, the question of “who” they’re standing with and “why” is very curious. There are several scenarios (and probably more) that are possible:

  1. Might the unions have convinced the casinos that their “partnership” in Patriot Majority would be rewarded with union convention business?
  2. Perhaps there will be friendlier negotiations the next time their contracts come up for renewal? [Although, that is arguable, as most of these unions do not have large represented units of workers in the named casinos.]
  3. Lastly, given the bad blood that exists between the SEIU and Unite-HERE (parent of Local 226), is it possible that the SEIU and the casinos have cut a deal to allow the SEIU access to the turf that belongs to Local 226 in Vegas or elsewhere (where Unite-HERE would ordinarily have jurisdiction)?

The third option (that there might be a back-room deal cut for the SEIU to ‘raid’ Unite-HERE’s turf) in entirely possible since it was only last year that the SEIU partnered with the AFL-CIO (which Unite-HERE is part of now) to form the Gaming Workers Council. However, in establishing the GWC, Unite-HERE was not part of it.

But conspicuous in its absence was Unite Here, the international union of casino and hotel workers with robust locals in those two cities, including the Culinary Union here. By its own count, the union represents nearly half of all workers in the American gaming industry. In Las Vegas, the Culinary represents 60,000 workers up and down the Strip and downtown.

It may be some time before we find out why the real casinos jumped in with the Patriot Majority. However, we do know the group’s only agenda is to hurt the tea party movement. Therefore, even if the casinos are BFF with Harry Reid, the risk of losing business by alienating the millions of Tea Party activists seems to be more than just business.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

[Check out Creekside Chat's in depth post on the Patriot Majority. ]

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“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.”  Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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