A Dirty Trickster's Bush Bonanza

The man who stopped Miami recount makes gaming millions

While these talks were going on, a Philadelphia Inquirer clip materialized that spelled out Stone's transition role. The clip, dated December 22, 2000, and headlined "Veteran GOP Operative Named to Transition," said that Cheney had installed Stone as "Deputy Director of the working group charged with making recommendations for all Senate-confirmation level positions" at Interior, repeating virtually verbatim all of the Stone achievements cited in his prospectus bio. When a Voice check with the Inquirer established that the clip had never appeared in that paper and the Voice asked Stone about it, he said, "You can believe whatever you want to believe." Later, Stone e-mailed the Voice the identical clip with the Inquirer removed and the letterhead of an Atlantic City radio show superimposed, insisting that a developer had "incorrectly attributed" this script to the Inquirer "without my knowledge."

The Inquirer clip was concocted to advertise an insider role that Stone actually played but had no paper trail or coverage to cite. Asked if Stone might in fact have been deputy director, Sansonetti said, "I don't think they ever had titles, but I've heard everything from deputy director on down the line."


DOUBLE AGENT MAN

Each of these Stone deals pushes the envelope. In October 2001, for example, he brought an investor to H.K. Stanley, the Louisiana developer who had a deal to build a casino for the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians on Lake Charles in Louisiana. Stone and the investor, which was variously listed as Penn Gaming and the Fort Hill Group, made an unsuccessful $10 million bid. Stone and associates, including Louisiana lobbyist and friend Bill Rimes, signed noncompete and nondisclosure agreements with Stanley, acquiring all kinds of confidential information. Two months later, Louisiana's Republican governor approved a compact for Stanley's casino, sending it to BIA for final land-in-trust approvals.

Powerhouse lobbyists weighed in at BIA for and against the deal in one of the cosmic gaming battles of the Bush era. One opponent, Pinnacle Entertainment, which was planning to construct its own $325 million casino on the lake, put Rimes on retainer. Stone also introduced Pinnacle to another close business associate and former BIA official, Phil Thompson, and he, too, was retained to oppose Jena. In addition, Rimes worked for two companies whose Louisiana casino interests had just been acquired by Penn Gaming—a deal that resulted in a substantial finder's fee for Stone. Penn, too, was potentially affected by the Jena casino plans, though its riverboats were 120 miles away. Rimes told the Voice he was "constantly advised" by Stone on how to get BIA to block Jena, the project Stone had just tried to acquire. BIA rejected Stanley's deal in March 2002.

Similarly, Pratt says he was "flabbergasted" to discover last year that "right smack dab in the middle of the period" when Stone was paid to represent Buena Vista, he was working with the next-door Ione, "the very same people he was supposed to be fighting." While Stone contends he ended his ties to Ione before signing on with Buena Vista in January 2002, the prospectus matches him with Ione throughout 2002 and into 2003. Confronted with this evidence, Stone argued that there was no conflict because his contract with Buena Vista did not contain a "radius clause" restraining him from repre- senting a nearby casino.

When Reed's efforts to get Wayne Smith to reverse a regional BIA decision against Buena Vista failed, Stone led a media campaign that, by his own account, prompted Smith's ouster. Smith's best friend, Phil Bersinger, handed Stone the ammunition he needed—letters seeking tribal consulting business that invoked his close relationship with Smith. Stone claims he persuaded Buena Vista and another tribe, California Valley, to ask Bersinger to put his business solicitation in writing, then "faxed the letters to certain members" of the press. A Time story forced McCaleb to fire Smith, though, as McCaleb told the Voice, "there was no reason to believe that Wayne had some complicity in Bersinger's activity." With the friendlier Aurene Martin running the shop, appeals stymied at BIA, and Bush's signing of Senator Campbell's corrections bill last month, the BIA ruling against Buena Vista has effectively been repudiated. That positions Stone's allies to get whatever they want—the settlement or their own casino.

Stone's pending Enterprise Rancheria deal, as well as his uncertain claim on the Buena Vista gold mine, are mere examples of his million-dollar incentive to maintain his Bush clout. His double-agent role in gaming mirrors his seemingly bizarre orchestration of the Sharpton scam. Both are just the latest sagas in Stone's exotic career of self-serving misdirection.


Research Assistance:Catrinel Bartolomeu, Molly Bloom, Andrew Burtless, Tommy Hallissey, Adam Hutton, Catherine Shu, Jessie Singer, Jennifer Suh, and Andrea Toochin

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