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Reno Not Expected To Expand Indian Casino Probe


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 15) -- Attorney General Janet Reno is not expected to expand an ongoing casino gambling investigation to include President Bill Clinton, sources tell CNN.

Now the probe focuses on Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and whether the Clinton Administration blocked one Indian tribe's casino application in exchange for campaign contributions from competing tribes.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and other House Republicans have demanded Reno seek an independent counsel in the matter.

Justice Department officials maintain the independent counsel statute will be invoked if "specific and credible" allegations against the president come to light.

Reno is expected to repeat that position in a letter to Hyde later today.

In October, Reno initiated a preliminary investigation of Babbitt. The investigation could lead to the appointment of an independent counsel.

Casino controversy history


In November 1994, three bands of Chippewa Indians asked the Interior Department, the parent agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), for permission to build a casino on the site of a failing dog track in Hudson, Wis.

Babbitt rejected a permit for the casino in July 1995, even though a regional Bureau of Indian Affairs office had recommended approval.

Three other nearby tribes that operate gambling enterprises -- the St. Croix Chippewa and Oneida of Wisconsin and the Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux of Minnesota -- opposed the Hudson casino. After Babbitt's rejection, they gave about $270,000 to the Democratic Party.

Babbitt has denied that the contributions played any role in his decision. Rather, his position has been that the casino, which would have been located off of tribal land, was rejected because of local opposition.

But Paul Eckstein, a lawyer and onetime Babbitt confidant who represented the three Chippewa bands that sought the permit, told a Senate committee in October that Babbitt mentioned the contributions when Eckstein met with him to lobby on the Chippewa's behalf.

Babbitt's contention that the casino application was turned down on its merits is backed up by the former director of Indian gaming at the Interior Department, George Skibine.

"We were not made aware of any activities of the three tribes or their lobbyist or the Democratic National Committee on behalf of them or the White House," he said. "I had absolutely no knowledge of White House involvement."

CNN's Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.

In Other News:

Monday Dec. 15, 1997

Clinton Makes Lee Acting Civil Rights Chief
Reno Not Expected To Expand Indian Casino Probe
Kantor Aided Hubbell In L.A. Fee Dispute
Clinton Family Together for Holidays

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