A new non-profit political advocacy group called Poarch Creek Accountability Now has been formed to ‘bring attention’ to an unfair playing field between the Poarch Creek Band of Indians and the rest of the people of the state.  Former State Senator Gerald Dial is the most prominent and high profile member of the organization as the executive director of PCAN.  They make three basic arguments in their advertising and on their website.

Taxes

Their first argument is that the Poarch Creek Indians don’t pay taxes on their lands or their gambling revenues. They claim that the PCI isn’t ‘paying their fair share’ on millions of dollars on gambling revenue generated from Alabamians. “The Poarch Creek casino operation has said in court that it doesn’t think our laws apply to them,” Dial said. “And they’re spending big bucks in Montgomery to make sure they don’t,”

“It is time to let them know that our laws apply to everyone. It is time they paid their fair share in taxes, just like you and me. It is time they invest in Alabama – in our schools, in our roads, in our children. It is time to break their stranglehold on the Alabama Legislature. It is time the Poarch Creek casino operation was accountable to the people of Alabama.”

The Poarch Creek Indians obviously disagree with this position, and the U.S. Constitution and federal law are both on their side.  When the Constitution was written, it gave the sole authority of regulating and dealing with the Indians to the U.S. Congress through the treaty-making process. Because that authority is explicitly given to Congress in the Constitution, the Tenth Amendment recognizes that authority, therefore giving no state the authority to regulate Indian territory or operations on federally recognized Indian reservations, which the Poarch Creek Indians have in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka. In 1953, Congress passed Public Law 83-280 (67 Stat. 588) which allowed for certain matters to be handled by state courts and law enforcement but still didn’t give regulatory powers to the states.

Furthermore, the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows for states and Indian tribes to enter into gaming compacts that can allow for Indian tribes to make payments to states :in lieu of taxes, but these payments can only be made through federally approved compacts and can not considered a tax.

Even though federal law doesn’t allow for state and local governments to tax or regulate Indian tribes, they are still subject to other state and local taxes, like payroll taxes, which the Poarch Creek paid over $370 million in 2017 according to Robert McGhee, Creek Indians Tribal Council Vice Chariman.

Investments

The second issue the Poarch Creek Accountability Now group tries to point out is the fact that the for-profit investment corporation owned by the tribe has made several investments in several gaming operations in other states and in the Caribbean. Their claim is that not only do they pay taxes to the local and state governments of those locales, but they are using the money made off of their Alabama gambling operations to fund those investments.  The corporation owned by the tribe owns gambling operations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Mississippi, and a couple of Caribbean countries.

“They are sucking money out of the state of Alabama and investing in places like Nevada and Pennsylvania – even Aruba,” Dial said. “So money that should be going to educate our children and build our roads is building other people’s roads and educating other people’s children.”

On top of those investments, the Corporation also owns 20 different businesses in the State of Alabama including Mobile Greyhound Park and the OWA amusement park in Foley, Alabama.  Because these businesses are owned by the corporation that is owned by the tribe and not on Tribal Lands or Tribal operations, the Tribe pays all relevant taxes related to those businesses to federal, state and local governments for those businesses according to McGhee. Also, McGhee pointed out that the net profits from all of the tribes business in and out of the State of Alabama returns to the tribe in Alabama for reinvestment in the tribe and disbursement to tribal members.

Influence

The Poarch Creek Accountability Now group also claims that the Tribe uses their untaxed earnings from their Alabama gambling operations to gain undue influence in Alabama politics.

“We believe in good government,” says Dial. “And this is not good for our people or good for our government. One special interest group should never wield the amount of influence like the Poarch Creek casino operation without accountability. And we are here to hold them accountable.”

They claim that the Poarch Creek Indians have spent over $4 million dollars in contributions to state-level politicians and political action committees (PACs) and over $2.6 million with federal-level politicians.

Those numbers, however, wouldn’t compare to the $79 million that McGhee says the tribe spends in charitable contributions to a number of civic organizations around the state including Fire Departments, police departments, hospitals, Alabama Children First, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Gulf Coast Exploreum, Birmingham Zoo, Camp Smile, Women of Hope, Mitchell Cancer Institute, Montgomery County, Elmore County, Escambia County, various Chambers of Commerce, and YMCA’s.

Nor does the Poarch Creek Indians have any more or less influence than other major lobbying groups like ALFA, Alabama Power or the Business Council of Alabama, who successfully got the Rebuild Alabama Act passed last year.

So a political advocacy group has been set up to attack the Poarch Creek Indians over their gambling interests while ignoring the numerous contributions and success stories that they have contributed to the State of Alabama over the years.

David Preston
David is a small business owner and contributing columnist to BamaPolitics.com. He attended the University of South Alabama and studied political science. He ran for his first and only political office in the city of Daphne, Alabama for city council where he lost by less than 200 votes to a sitting incumbent. David has a passion for all levels of politics, aviation, business development and recruitment, history (his dad drug him to Civil War battlefield for Summer vacation instead of Disney world and six flags) and the Mobile region.