Babbitt's Department of Ulterior

Introduction
Watching the Cash
Astroturf Opposition
Raise Your Right Hand
The Decision
Excerpts from C-SPAN
Comments/feedback
Raise Your Right Hand
Anderson’s deposition is an anomaly. Lawyerly wiggle phrases like, “To the best of my recollection . . .” simply do not appear in his testimony. Asked if he was ever contacted by anyone at the White House, the DNC, the Clinton-Gore campaign or Patrick O’Connor, Anderson answered no to each question. Clearly, unequivocally and without qualification. He was not offered a job with Steptoe and Johnson and remains at Interior.

Someone who did find employment with Babbitt’s old firm was his chief of staff, Tom Collier, whose deposition contains the following exchange.

“Q: ‘Other than talking to (O’Connor), what other involvement in the Hudson matter did you have in 1995?’”

“A: ‘I don’t think any. I don’t recall any. My days were--I never had an experience in my professional career like my days were in that job. I would have 15 meetings a day and 40 or 50 phone calls a day on a variety of subjects, sometimes doing one while I was doing the other.

‘And so the recollection that I have of meetings or phone calls really, unfortunately, were only those that were of some significance, like where I made a decision, where I did something.

‘But to the best of my recollection--I just don’t have any recollection . . .’”

Mr. Collier is too modest. It was Mr. Collier who, upon talking with O’Connor, reopened the Hudson casino case. The customary period for comment had closed, with the BIA recommending that the casino be approved.

Collier’s decision marked the first time the Interior Department ever took such action.

“Q: ‘Since you returned to private practice, have you represented in any capacity any of the tribes that were opposed to the Hudson Casino application?’”

“A: ‘Yes, I have.’”

“Q: ‘Which tribe or tribes?’”

“‘A: ‘The Shakopees (O’Connor’s clients).’”

“Q: ‘Have you ever solicited political contributions of any kind from any members of any tribes that were opposed to the Hudson Casino matter?’”

“A: ‘Solicited political contributions? The Shakopees asked my advice on how best to make a significant contribution to the President’s re-election campaign, and I gave them that advice. I did not solicit a contribution from them on behalf of the President’s re-election campaign.’”

“Q: ‘Do you recall how large a contribution or contributions the tribe made and to which entities the contributions were made?’”

“A: ‘Give me a second.’ (Witness confers with counsel.) . . . ‘A hundred thousand.’”

“Q: ‘To the DNC?’”

“A: ‘To the DNC.’”

Further down the food chain in the Hudson casino dispute, far outside the Beltway, perhaps even beyond the reach of the Sunday Times, depositions in Wisconsin had a more aggressive spin upon the plausible-denial phenomena.

Antigambling activist Ken Tilsen, a former Minnesota attorney and once the organizer of the Wounded Knee defense committee, was no more cooperative than his counterparts at Interior. An excerpt from Tilsen’s deposition:

“Q: ‘What was your involvement with the Better Future for Hudson Group?’”

“A: ‘I don’t know what group you are giving that name to.’”

“Q: ‘Let’s use that name for the group that published Exhibit 17 (the full-page newspaper ad Tilsen wrote).’”

“A: ‘I think that would be inaccurate. I do not know that that was the name of the group.’”

“Q: ‘Well, why don’t we, for the purpose of this deposition, use that name because it was used by members of the group who in fact paid for this ad in earlier deposition testimony.’”

“A: ‘My recollection is that they would be erroneous. That’s not my recollection.’”

“Q: ‘Well, what would you call the group that did this ad?’”

“A: ‘A group of local business people and others.’”

“Q: ‘Did they have a name for their group?’”

“A: ‘Not to the best of my knowledge. People’s recollections differ. That’s my recollection. . . .’”

“Q: ‘What was your connection with the group that ran the ad?’”

“A: ‘I don’t know what the term “connection with the group” means. I can’t answer that question. You have to be more specific with your questions.’”

“Q: ‘Did you ever meet with them?’”

“A: ‘“Them” assumes an organization. I met with certain people, but I don’t know what “them” means.’”

“Q: ‘“Them” means the people that met on a fairly regular basis and ran that ad.’”

“A: ‘I don’t know how to answer it.’”


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As originally published in Phoenix New Times