Were many Democratic Candidates looking to avoid embarrassing questions about actions by Pechanga to disenroll 25% of their tribe? At least Dennis Kucinich had the balls to stand up against disenrollments.
Candidates snub Indian forum in Calif.
A presidential forum set for today at the Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservation in Southern California has attracted only three of the eight Democratic candidates: Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.
The absence of top-tier candidates — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina — shows the leading contenders continue to take the small and usually Democratic Indian vote for granted, organizers say.
"If they won't come talk to us now, they certainly won't be responsive to us if they get in the White House," said Kalyn Free, a Choctaw from Oklahoma who is organizing the Democratic forum, called "Prez on the Rez."
Top contenders said they could not attend because of scheduling conflicts. The event is the first attempt to bring a presidential debate to Indian country.
Tribes contributed $7.6 million to federal candidates in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They spent $16.7 million on Washington lobbying last year.
"They have gone from being the poor sisters of American politics to being more politically influential," said John Kenneth White, a political scientist at Catholic University in Washington. "The challenge they've had is how to be effective politically and savvy politically."
— Diana Marrero,Gannett News Service