A Dirty Trickster's Bush Bonanza

The man who stopped Miami recount makes gaming millions

Hiding himself from the burden of public disclosure, Stone has brought an old lobbyist friend, Scott Reed, who already represented Connecticut tribes, into the incestuous world of California gaming. He got Buena Vista and the developers doing the Lytton and Enterprise ventures to retain Reed's firm, Chesapeake Enterprises. The campaign manager for Bob Dole in 1996, Reed, unlike the tarnished Stone, actually registers on behalf of the tribes he represents, only works on retainer, and is now doing cable appearances as a GOP insider.

"I'm paid to think, not lobby," insists Stone. He was, for example, "very helpful" to Katz when he suggested ways to win the support of anti-gambling senator and "very dear" Stone friend Arlen Specter, whose campaigns Stone has long aided. In 2001, Specter played a key role in protecting a special land-in-trust exemption that had been granted to Katz's project. Similarly, a two-page Stone memo in March 2003 to Enterprise's development team lays out "a legislative strategy in which we will attempt to insert language" in a still-pending technical corrections bill. Urging that the bill not identify the tribe or casino location, Stone wrote that it was "essential to maintain the element of surprise," contending that a "premature leak" to Congressman Wally Herger "would be disastrous."

Since 2001 Reed has represented a dozen tribes and developers, many unconnected to Stone. Stone hovers in the shadows because of the scandals that have dogged him for years— especially his jettisoning by the Dole campaign after widespread news accounts of a magazine ad he and his wife placed, with photos, seeking swinging partners. Since then, his career as an up-front lobbyist or consultant in presidential campaigns has come to a gradual end.


STONE: FROM BAKER TO CHENEY

Despite Stone's sordid past, former secretary of state James Baker, who was coordinating the 2000 Bush recount operation in Florida, tapped him to run its street operations. Stone has been credited in television and book accounts with putting together the mixed mob of Cuban and congressional-aide protesters who prevented the count in Miami—universally seen as the turning point in the battle that made Bush president. Out of sight in both a Winnebago and the building across the street, Stone ordered the shutdown. "I said, yes, break the door down," Stone told the Voice. "It was only when the Democratic commissioners removed the ballots that you had a near riot." Stone now says that "after" this Miami performance, he was "asked if I wanted to serve on the transition."

The Stone prospectus, which is titled "Indian Gaming Opportunities," contains a bio that features Baker's "recruiting" of him for the Florida recount and discloses that he "subsequently served on the Presidential Transition" for Interior. It even contends that Stone "was involved in selecting appointees for that department for the present administration." A brief introduction makes five references to Interior's role and twice as many to "federal" powers in Indian gaming, concluding, "We believe that based on our superior political contacts we could win all necessary approvals in a time between 8 and 16 months."

In fact, Stone was not among the 38 members of the formal Interior transition committee, consisting of prominent lawyers and members of conservative environmental groups. But that committee never met, according to members contacted by the Voice, responding instead to phone calls and e-mail from a small "working group" whose names were never released. Tom Sansonetti, who was tapped by Vice President Dick Cheney to lead the working group, told the Voice, "We built a network of advisers that helped us put together the transition briefing books, and Roger was one of those." Currently the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department overseeing Interior and several other departments, Sansonetti says he "reached out to Roger for his thoughts on Indian gaming." Calling Stone "very helpful," Sansonetti said he "may have had some names" to recommend for key posts.

Told that Stone had boasted to gaming associates that Cheney himself called after Miami-Dade to ask what Stone wanted, Sansonetti, the former Republican National Committeeman from Cheney's home state of Wyoming, said: "It would not surprise me if Cheney contacted him separately. I'm sure he knows Roger and knew that he would have a lot to contribute to the transition in general." Stone says he doesn't remember who called him: "I filled out a form with the areas in which I wanted to serve. I checked the box for Interior and served with about 40 other people." He says he's "met Cheney" but is not a friend of his.

Stone sent notes on Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition Foundation letterhead to tribal leaders, asking them to support the appointment of Neal McCaleb as head of BIA. McCaleb, who was subsequently appointed, says that he never met Stone but that he did meet Reed "through mutual friends" he refused to identify, "fairly soon after coming to Washington" from Oklahoma. Stone says he set up a meeting for McCaleb with Specter and that Reed "coordinated" other "efforts to get McCaleb" through Senate confirmation, though McCaleb insisted that Reed did not formally "prepare" him for the hearing.

Stone also helped by submarining McCaleb's top competitor, an Indian leader named Tim Martin. A kiss-of-death letter endorsing Martin appeared "out of the blue," Martin remembers. It was signed by Donald Trump, a client of Stone for 20 years who was all over the media at the time for having funded an anti-Indian advertising campaign in New York while simultaneously trying to do Indian projects in California and Connecticut. "I don't know why Trump did that," says Martin, who'd never spoken to Trump. "I don't think he and I have ever been in the same city at the same time." Stone says he "most certainly did" the Trump letter, claiming he saved BIA from "even bigger scandals" because Martin was supported by the lobbyists who are the focus of the ongoing Washington Post stories and a future hearing by Senator John McCain.

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