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Indian council member says Gov. Ivey is ace-in-the-hole — but not so fast

Behind closed doors in Atmore and in the halls of the U.S. Senate, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are desperate to pass a Land Reaffirmation Act that would ensure tribal lands are safe from any lawsuit challenging their legitimacy.

PCI Tribal Council Vice President Robbie McGhee, for months, has been telling his fellow council members that Gov. Kay Ivey has agreed to take up the tribe’s cause if she is re-elected. He has assured council members that Ivey has agreed to write a letter on the tribe’s behalf to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby encouraging him to back passage of a Land Reaffirmation Act to protect the tribe’s vast gambling empire. He has also said appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall will join Ivey, but at the moment, Marshall is struggling to keep the job disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley gave him, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s getting from PCI-backed Progress PAC.

Both Gov. Ivey’s and Senator Shelby’s people have confirmed to the Alabama Political Reporter that they have no intention of supporting a recent U.S. House Bill, or any bill, to protect tribal lands now or in the future.

“Senator Shelby does not support the bill and has no plans to do so in the future,” wrote Shelby’s communications director, Blair Taylor. Likewise, Gov. Ivey’s spokesperson, Daniel Sparkman, told APR, “Governor Ivey has no plans to write such a letter,” encouraging Senator Shelby to support a Land Reaffirmation Act.

“McGhee can’t even get a meeting with Kay Ivey, and he certainly isn’t going to find a warm reception at Shelby’s office,” said a longtime D.C. insider speaking on background. “McGhee stepped in it when he backed [Billy] Canary,” said the insider. “Shelby’s the man who says Canary must go [As CEO Business Council of Alabama] and McGhee is one of the main guys stopping that from happening.”

As APR warned in January, Sen. Shelby had no intentions of letting reaffirmation legislation come up for a vote in the Senate.

Senate support for Poarch Creek legal fix in jeopardy

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It is no secret that the state’s senior U.S. senator is leading an effort to have Canary replaced as head of the Business Council of Alabama. Shelby, along with seven of the state’s largest corporations, are demanding Canary’s removal as BCA’s CEO, but so-far, current BCA President Perry Hand and the executive committee are defying Shelby and the corporate giants calling for Canary’s head.

PCI’s desperation dates back to a 2009, U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar.

In Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the federal government could not take land into trust from any tribes that were federally recognized and acquired land after 1934. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians were not federally recognized until 1984, some 50 years after the court’s cut off date.

Under the Obama administration, the tribes had little to fear, but the same can’t be said with President Donald Trump whose interaction with Indian casinos is less than favorable.

Earlier this year, U.S. Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile, successfully shepherded H.R. 1532 through the U.S. House of Representatives, which would have been a “Carcieri fix,” as the Reaffirmation Act is also known. However, the bill never made it to the floor of the Senate because Sen. Shelby refused to support the measure.

Poarch Creek have major legislative victory in Congress

McGhee seems not to understand that his alliance with Canary has drawn the ire of Sen. Shelby. Even now, McGhee is bankrolling BCA candidates that will turn the tribe into a pariah next session with little hope of recovering, according to officeholders who McGhee and Canary have offended.

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And so it is that a neophyte politico representing PCI’s billion-dollar gaming interest is butting heads with one of the nation’s foremost lawmakers without even understanding the fight.

The tribe can expect nothing that McGhee has promised, and that’s coming from Capitol Hill and Goat Hill, directly.


Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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