Sen. Jeff Denham, WILL YOU TURN DOWN the endorsement of a tribe that violates the civil rights of its people? They have destroyed 50% of their tribe, sir. DO YOU STAND WITH THEM?
Just days ahead of Tuesday's election, an interest group set up by the Chukchansi Indian tribe is airing radio commercials attacking the congressional candidacy of former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson.
Critics say the ads are yet more evidence that the tribe -- which operates a casino near Coarsegold -- strongly supports state Sen. Jeff Denham, who along with Patterson and two others are seeking the Republican nomination in the 19th Congressional District.
As with a recent charity event at the casino that featured Denham in a series of promotional television and radio ads, campaign experts say the commercials test the bounds of election law -- but probably don't break them.
"This is increasingly showing the gray area between coordinated expenditures and independent expenditures," said Jessica Levinson, political reform director at the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles-based think tank.
The 30-second spots attack Patterson and don't mention Denham. They are sponsored by Californians for Fiscally Conservative Leadership, but a phone number at the end of the ad is for the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians' tribal council office.
Tal Cloud and Michael Der Manouel Jr., local Republican activists and leaders of the conservative Lincoln Club of Fresno County, on Friday sent an official complaint to the Federal Election Commission, saying the latest ads violate the law because no disclosure statements have been filed.
"The coordination between Chukchansi and the Denham campaign are not what free and fair elections are all about," said Cloud, who has endorsed another candidate in the race, former congressman Richard Pombo.
Der Manouel has endorsed Patterson.
Cloud claims that Chukchansi is supporting Denham because he has pledged to oppose a $250 million casino proposed by the North Fork Rancheria at a 305-acre site off Highway 99, four miles north of Madera. The casino would likely be competition for Chukchansi.
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