Swamp politics at its worst: Congressman Rokita accepted $160,000 from casino groups while pushing legislation in their favor

INDIANAPOLIS – In a blatant display of pay-for-play politics, the Associated Press reported yesterday that Congressman Rokita accepted $160,000 from casino special interest groups as he worked to sponsor legislation in their favor. Congressman Rokita, the number one recipient in the House of tribal gaming money last year, repeatedly went to bat for a bill that would strip labor and environmental protections for tribal casino workers.

The voters that Congressman Rokita is trying to court in this primary are likely to see his shady deal as “corrupt,” according to Purdue University Political Science professor James McCann. It’s also another apparent instance of Congressman Rokita’s use of his public office to support his campaign. He had previously been slapped with an ethics complaint following another AP report last year that he had misused taxpayer resources by compelling congressional staffers to “volunteer” for his political operation.

“Congressman Rokita will tell anyone who’ll listen that he’s an outsider, but taking more money than any other congressman from the tribal gaming industry and pushing their agenda is swamp politics at its worst,” said Michael Feldman, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party. “After spending nearly his entire adult life as a politician, Congressman Rokita seems to have forgotten that his office isn’t his personal plaything. This is a massive instance of Congressman Rokita’s shady dealings that shows he’s not looking out for hardworking Hoosiers.”

From the Associated Press: Casino interests gave to Indiana’s Rokita as he pushed bill

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana congressman who has made repeated calls to “drain the swamp” in Washington collected more than $160,000 in campaign contributions from gambling interest groups that stand to benefit from legislation he is sponsoring, an Associated Press review found.

Republican Rep. Todd Rokita’s collection of such contributions has surged since 2015, when he first sponsored legislation that would end employee protections for tribal casino workers under the National Labor Relations Act. While not illegal, Rokita’s acceptance of the donations gives the appearance of the pay-to-play Washington politics that he has frequently inveighed against during his Indiana GOP Senate primary campaign.

Rokita does not have any recognized Native American tribes within his western Indiana district and collected scant contributions from tribal gambling interests before sponsorship of the Tribal Sovereignty Act in 2015. But since then, he has received at least $163,250 from roughly two dozen tribes or tribal gambling affiliated groups, according AP analysis of FEC data. About $8,100 of that comes from a Michigan tribe with a presence in northern Indiana.

In 2017, he was the top recipient of tribal gambling dollars in the House, according to Federal Election Commission data reviewed by the website OpenSecrets.org.

Purdue University political science professor James A. McCann has studied perceptions of political corruption among the electorate and says that research shows marginalized people often view “deal making and special interest politics” like the kind Rokita engaged in as “corrupt.” Rokita is counting on that demographic, including those who embraced President Donald Trump’s anti-establishment message, to also support his campaign.

“People who are maybe having to work two jobs, or are lower on the economic totem pole, tend to see everyday politics as more corrupt,” said McCann. “If Todd Rokita is seeking to differentiate himself based on sticking up for the little guy, or draining the swamp, that undercuts his messaging.”

###