Roundtable: Money -- in politics, business and Indian tribes
February 3, 2012 1:28 p.m.
James Riffel, metro reporter, City News Service
Michael Smolens, politics & government editor, U-T San Diego
Edward Sifuentes, reporter, North County Times
Related Story: Roundtable: Money In Politics, Petco Park & Indian Tribes
CAVANAUGH: And my guests, Michael Smollens, politics editor at UT San Diego. Welcome back.
SMOLLENS: Thanks for inviting me again.
CAVANAUGH: Edward Sifuentes is a reporter with the New York Times, welcome.
SIFUENTES: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And James Riffel with city news service. Welcome to the program.
RIFFEL: Nice to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Our first story is a plan to increase activity at Petco Park during the Padres' off-season. James, where is this plan to increase activity at Petco Park coming from?
RIH2: Well, it's basically coming from the mayor's office. However, the actual push is coming from both the Padres and from the actual neighborhood itself, the people who live around there and the businesses. The people who live there, they're there because they like the action downtown. And it stops in their area around the east village when the Padres are no longer playing. And so they want to see some more activity. And the business owners, they see their business dropping off in that period from October to, say, the end of February and March. And in a lot of cases, quite significantly. And the recent city staff report said that a couple of the businesses that had opened up with Petco Park had since closed because they struggled during the off-season.
CAVANAUGH: So they really do attribute this to the off-season and not perhaps the recent economic downturn?
RIFFEL: Right. Although I would bet if a lot of people would say that's a major factor as well. Obviously the economic conditions in general really play into not just that, but a lot of things.
CAVANAUGH: How many games do the Padres play at Petco Park?
RIFFEL: They'll play 81 home games at Petco Park. Sometimes you will have a couple preseason games there. Maybe the weekend right before the home schedule starts. And we're all hoping. You never know. They might get some playoff games in October.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, the quality of play lately may have attributed to all this as well. I'm wondering, are there other activities that the stadium does host at this time?
RIFFEL: Well, traditionally, off-season, they have had a couple of events. They have had some concerts. And their biggest draw, apparently, has been the rugby tournament. The sevens rugby tournament which came around for a few years, and that's now left town. And that happened two years ago. And since then, the revenue from off-season events to both the Padres and the city has really nosedived.
CAVANAUGH: I remember some big events at Petco Park. The Rolling Stones came, right?
RIFFEL: I was there.
CAVANAUGH: And who else there was?
RIFFEL: Madonna. And in fact, are the one year that they really made out like gangbusters was, let me say, I believe it was the winter of 2008, 2009, they had the rugby tournament and they had madonna. And they haven't had anything like that since.
CAVANAUGH: The plan the City Council is considering or is being presented to the City Council, it would change the financial arrangement the city has with the Padres in regards to these other non-baseball activities. How would that change?
RIFFEL: During the season, if they have an event at Petco Park, well, say the Padres are on a road trip, and they have a concert or something, the basic arrangement is the Padres get 70% of the revenue, and 30% goes to the city. Now, as the Padres staff people, say, 70%, it doesn't quite work out that way because they have certain overhead costs in order to put the event on. So it is closer to 53/47 in favor of the Padres. During the off-season, it's 70% to the city, and 30% to the Padres. And because of these overhead costs that the Padres are responsible for, it really provides a disincentive for them to stage events. So the proposal is to change that around and give the Padres that 70% share year-round, so that disincentive to stage events is actually gone.
CAVANAUGH: But that would mean the city would wind up getting less money from these events, right?
RIFFEL: Well, it depends on how you look at it. What the Padres say is since they will have more events, then the city the actually generate more revenue. And what they're saying is by the 2014/15 off-season that the city would be projected to receive $637,000, where in that one bad year, not the madonna year, but the year after, when the revenue nosedived, the city's share was 94,000.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see.
RIFFEL: So it would be a major increase. And they also are guaranteeing the city 300,000.
SMOLLENS: I think one of the things is when they built Petco, when they put it on the ballot, part of the incentive for voters was to upgrade east village. They knew they had the baseball and sports fans, and what they really sold was improving that area. So the impact on businesses is a very sensitive thing I think to this city, and they're very concerned about that. And while they want to make money, and as Jim pointed out that, you know, if they get more events even with this smaller cut, they will make money. But I think it sounds like one of the real priorities to make sure that the business environment keeps going, and there's that activity down there. And it's tough because we've run into this debate with particularly football stadiums. During the off-season, how do we generate more revenue? I know that when the Boston Red Sox made a push to utilize Fenway park more, it was sort of this castle to baseball, but now they have a lot more things trying to generate more revenue. That was a particularly down year, I think that was an anomaly. But I think they do need to step it up.
CAVANAUGH: Who's in charge of booking events at Petco on off-season?
RIFFEL: The Padres, their business staff.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see, so that's part of the overhead they're talking about when it comes to actually booking events after the season is over.
RIFFEL: Plus security, parking, etc.
CAVANAUGH: So -- and they say that the amount of money they're spending on these off-season events is not being comp -- I mean, they're not getting enough bang for their buck in other words.
RIFFEL: Basically, yes.
CAVANAUGH: Now, looking at the track record of off-season bookings at Petco, are the Padres themselves assuming a risk of guaranteeing $300,000 to the city a year, do you think?
RIFFEL: It's a calculated risk, absolutely. Any time you get into promoting events, you never know whether you will actually be able to attract any. And that's what they have to do is to attract some.
CAVANAUGH: I'd like to talk a little bit more about what you brought up, Michael, and that is the idea of stadiums themselves and their generative powers within neighborhoods for businesses and so forth. Here we have a Padres Petco Park with 80-something games per season, right?
CAVANAUGH: And the business owners around that area are complaining that this is not enough, that they need more activity. What would happen with the proposed Chargers stadium where you have, what? Eight games per year?
SMOLLENS: Well, yes, but I think as you look at Qualcomm stadium, there are a lot of uses there. Of people think that's still underutilized, but we've got the -- I've never been to one, but, like, the monster truck things are just huge. They may sellout more than the Chargers. So there are opportunities to do that. And I think that as they move into this next era of stadium, not just here, but elsewhere, they're trying to figure out how to make them into more multiuse purposes, to quarter portions off for convention uses. But it is always an issue. Because if a facility that costs, you know, hundreds of millions is only used a dozen times a year or so, that's just a nonstarter. But we do have the Aztecs football team, and so forth. But that's always a big issue. I think that there was a mindset of ball parks just being ball parks and football stadiums just being football stadiums back in the '60s and '70s, the big concert era came in. So they're looking at a lot of different things: But how do you go from these huge events to utilizing it for maybe some smaller ones? And I think Petco has that greater ability than perhaps a large stadium.
CAVANAUGH: Michael calls this this new era of stadiums. Do you think that we have found a way to make stadiums really pay, really generate that kind of economic activity in a particular area?
SIFUENTES: Well, apparently not if we're trying to talk about trying to attract more business to that stadium. The question for me is why didn't they think about this before? What's changed since they initially struck this deal that they want to change it now? We've all heard that concert attendance has gone down, that only some of the major acts can put on the kinds of big arena kind of concerts that we can see. And I'm wondering whether San Diego enough of a market for U2 or even some of the smaller bands.
CAVANAUGH: Did that come up at all in these hearings? Why didn't they think of this before?
RIFFEL: Not really.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SMOLLENS: I got the impression that it was kind of working, maybe not in an optimal way, but if you look at how there was a flurry of development in the east village, condos brought people to living there, and businesses did spur on. So it did have that effect. I think that we've been in this downturn, and I'm not suggesting they're downplaying that, but it's clearly had to have an effect. But San Diego has always been a tough market despite being what are we? The sixth largest city? Bruce Springstein often passes by here, U2. So it's unusual, having LA just up the road, they figure they can camp up there and play two or three dates rather than having to move again. So that's a challenge for San Diego and always will be, I think.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, Jim, the council rules committee, they approved this unanimously. Does it face any organized opposition that you can see at all?
RIFFEL: Not that was apparent at the meeting. They passed it unanimously up to the full council. But they did ask staff and the Padres to come back because they all had some concerns. Not over the concept itself, but over details. So that will come back to the full council at some unspecified date here in the future. But nothing organized at all. You would think the residents might want to come out and say we don't want these loud rock concerts on this stadium over by our condo. But the actual people who showed up to speak were very much for this, and this is a different type of person who might purchase a house, say, in the suburbs who wants peace and quiet.
CAVANAUGH: That's very true. But it also might be flying under the radar now.
RIFFEL: Very much so.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you all very much. Let's move onto our next topic.
CAVANAUGH: This is it KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Today's guests at the Roundtable are Michael Smollens, politics editor at UT San Diego. Edward Sifuentes, reporter with the negotiation, and James Riffel with city news service.
San Diego political candidates have released their fundraising totals so far, and the money in the San Diego mayor's race is running way ahead of the 2008 election. Michael Smollens, here in San Diego, are the four major candidates for mayor have raised a combined total of $2.4 million so far. How does that figure compare with previous mayoral races?
SMOLLENS: Well, it seems like every cycle, records get broken. And this will as well. In the fundraising, the pure fundraising, it certainly will. They're ahead and will surpass. But as a foot note, in 2008, we had the unique situation of a very wealthy man running, Steve Francis, and he spent almost $5†million of his own money. Didn't raise much. Nobody's going to have that kind of purely self-financed campaign in this race. So it's an impressive amount of money that they're all raising.
CAVANAUGH: Now, the candidates that we're talking are Carl DeMaio, Bonnie Dumanis, bill Filner, and Nathan Fletcher. When you look at the founds raised by each of the four candidates, what do the figures tell you about who's ahead? Can you read that from the fundraising numbers?
SMOLLENS: Well, what fundraising does, it says who's a serious candidate, first and foremost. Then you start reading the tea leaves, are the first thing everybody jumps on is the overall number, and you mentioned Carl DeMaio, who's got almost a million dollars that he's raised. About $400,000 of that is his own money. Nathan Fletcher raised almost that much. He's out-raised everybody in terms of actual contributions from others. And Dumanis is about half a million dollars, and Bob Filner has about $213,000 or something like that. But the reality is that they're all high-profile politicians and money will mean a lot but it won't be the only thing that determines the race. As we saw with Jerry Sanders when he beat Steve Francis in 2008, he was outspent but he run pretty heavily.
RIFFEL: From what I see, Fletcher really had to raise his name recognition over the past year. And I think that what this disclosure shows is that he was successful in doing that, at least among the people who have the money. So people weren't sure at the beginning whether he was going to be a viable candidate after a poll came out in September, I think, that showed him trailing the pack fairly badly. Now he's up there federal close.
CAVANAUGH: What do candidates use money for? Well, it's not that early am any. It's four months out to the primary. But early in the campaign, do they use it to build up their war chest for those ads that come a month before the campaign?
SMOLLENS: Early on, you don't see as much of it used in the public, in terms of advertising or mailers. We will be bemoaning the fact that our mailboxes are stuffed as we get close to the election. It's mostly for organizing their campaign, paying the consultants, polling if they're doing that, which is very expensive, and those kinds of things which glide below the surface. And as is with all campaign, you have different levels of that little bureaucracy, depending on candidates' pred elections and their financial wherewithal to build that kind of operation. But a lot of it is voter outreach. Of right now, they're trying to build their base and move beyond there.
CAVANAUGH: As James points out, are Nathan Fletcher did have to build name recognition, and do these numbers show that he has?
SMOLLENS: I think what it shows is that he is adapt at raising money, he is sort of vying in most people's minds with Bonnie Dumanis for sort of the Republican business establishment. He was the favored one until she jumped in, and? Allegiance went to her. But in terms of the political dynamic, money aside, the view is that DeMaio and Filner sort of have a leg up, Filner being the only Democrat. And as we know, there's more registered democrats in the City of San Diego than Republicans. So there's a lot of competition between DeMaio and -- I'm sorry, Fletcher and Dumanis in that regard. Of but the question will be has Nathan Fletcher been able to raise his profile up to the levels of those, particularly Dumanis has very good name recognition. But he's done a lot of good in terms of -- politically in terms of getting a lot of important names that people take notice of, former mayor/Senator Pete Wilson being one of them.
CAVANAUGH: What do you make of the fact that Bob Filner being the only Democrat is pulling up the rear now?
SMOLLENS: That's what everybody is talking about. He doesn't seem to be nearly as active as the other ones, at least in a public sense. This may be just our journalists' frustration. But he's not engaging the way candidates have been. He's going to some forums, certainly, but he's not returning phone calls, not just to us, it's to our colleagues and competitors as well. It's a peculiar strategy. I keep reminding colleagues that it's still early, but now we're getting into February. And even some Democrats that really want him to get into the runoff in November are starting to get nervous. Dave Rolland just wrote a piece saying, kind of, step it up, Bob. He's only got $25,000 on hand, and that compares with, let me look at my cheat sheet, $75,000 for DeMaio, and over $500,000 for Nathan Fletcher in the bank. Again, Bob has a built-in advantage with being a democrat, and that's what he's hammering home. He expects Democrats and laborer come out and vote for him. He's the only one that opposes the pension initiative that would do away with pensions for city employees. Some are wondering is he taking that for granted? He's still going to need some money. Of one thing to keep in, those organizations, particularly laborer, and the Democratic Party, they do a lot of member communications and spend a lot of money that way. And they'll be doing that for Filner. I don't want people to get too deceived by his fundraising numbers. He still has a pretty good built-in advantage, and I think we'll see more public activity of him as a candidate when people are paying more attention.
CAVANAUGH: Edward, we spent a lot of time talking about the City of San Diego. I wonder what kind of monitoring is being done about the war chests, the fundraising going on with candidates in the North County.
SIFUENTES: We do try to keep up with that in the city. Obviously they don't generate the kind of interest that the City of San Diego does. Upon but we do try to keep up with it want.
CAVANAUGH: Sure. What do you think when you hear about the numbers being generated by this city race?
SIFUENTES: Pretty amazing. Particularly puzzled by Bob Filner's lagging so far behind. It makes me wonder whether he's all that serious about running for mayor.
>> Well, you hit it on the head. That's why even his supporters, some, are starting to get a little nervous, and would like to see more activity. Fundraising is one thing, but there's a notion that just in terms of the kind of campaigning others are doing, he's not as engaged. But nobody is suggesting that he's going to drop out or anything like that. But it is kind of an unusual strategy, I think. For a lot Democrats as they look and hope.
RIFFEL: It makes the next couple of months interesting to see how this dynamic is going to play out and see what Filner is actually going to do.
CAVANAUGH: Of course, you know, it's not just the mayoral candidates. We have congressional candidates raising money. The three top candidates for the 52nd congressional district is interesting, the way the money is prayed out for those candidate -- played out for those candidates. Brian Bilbray has raised by far the most. Do these stories tell us anything about who might win? We've heard about incumbent advantage all the time.
SMOLLENS: Are well, and I think you would expect Brian Bilbray to have the advantage financially.
CAVANAUGH: He has raised actually less money than Carl DeMaio, right?
SMOLLENS: Well, true. But you could argue that his district is smaller than the City of San Diego.
SMOLLENS: I don't recall the population comparisons. But San Diego is the sixth largest city in the country. I think we'll see him go over a million dollars in the congressional district. One of the key elements, he's got about a half million dollars in the bank. But his district shifted to the south a bit. So it's more democratic. The Republicans have a slim, almost negligible advantage in voter registration. So it's nationally become one that's everybody is watching among many others as ones that could be most competitive. Now, he's got a great financial advantage over his two competitors, Scott Peters, and Lori SaldaÒa. Scott Peters is about $250,000 total raised, and SaldaÒa is about 80,000, but she's gained a lot of grass-roots support from democratic groups and so forth. This as a primary appeal. While they're all on the same ballot, are we expect Bilbray to face off with one of those two, so the competition will be with SaldaÒa and Peters. And she's been out there, and she's hitched her wagon on the up movement to a degree. And I don't mean that in a derogatory way. That's her passion. But she is out there in the public a lot with that. And we'll see how that sells with the voters want.
CAVANAUGH: This open primary that's going to happen in June where anyone can vote for any candidate, no more whether a Republican or a Democrat, you can vote for -- if you're a Democrat, you can vote for Bilbray, if you're a Republican you can vote for Lori SaldaÒa, are and the two top vote-getters will face each other in November. That has thrown a sort of a wrench into fundraising, I would imagine, because as incumbent Brian Bilbray, if he were just running against his Republican challengers in the primary wouldn't have to run for hard perhaps.
SMOLLENS: It is a new dynamic. There are a couple Republicans running to -- suggesting they're running to the right of Brian Bilbray. So he's got to watch both flanks in that regard. I mentioned that this has the sort of dynamic, seemingly of a more traditional primary where you will get the top Democrat versus the top Republican. However, in the 51st district, the district that Bob Filner is leaving, there is the real potential for two Democrats just to advance from the primary and have a rematch in the general election am you've got Juan Vargas, and Denise Ducheny. It's a heavily democratic district. There's no real name Republican in yet. But that would be one of the anomalies of this top-two thing, the idea was to get this push to moderate candidates. But in certain districts that have a heavy voter registration favoring one party or another, you could get almost a rematch in November.
CAVANAUGH: That's very interesting. You know, Michael, you mentioned Steve Francis with his very self-financed campaign for mayor last time around. This time, we have a tea party candidate, John stall, who's loaning himself $300,000 to run in that race. And Carl DeMaio who is self-financing at least partially his own race. What's the track record on candidates who spend a lot of their own money to maintain their races for political office in California?
SMOLLENS: Well, I don't have a score card. But we do know there's some notable failures. Steve Francis being one of them. Meg Whitman spent her money and lost to Jerry Brown. Bill Simon, he was a wealthy man and spent a lot of his own money. On the flip side, you've got Michael Bloomberg who spent tons of money. I think what it means that there's gotta be more than just money. A message, a good candidate. DeMaio has a certain message. He's a fiscal hawk. And he has raised like I said, about half his money has been raised. So it's not totally self-financed. Of and he appeals to a very fiscal conservative crowd, and some business folks who are all over the map among the Republicans there. What's interesting about DeMaio's fundraising, about half or more of his contributions are less than a hundred dollars. So that means it's a little bit more of a grass-roots approach than, say, Nathan Fletcher who has a lot of donors, but he's got more contributions from people that have donated a maximum of $500. So for DeMaio, he can make an argument that I've got a broader base of support, but also he can go back to those people and continue to raise money from them because they haven't maxed out.
RIFFEL: Well, it basically comes down to the message. You know, the money can get you the visibility, but you still have to have a message that resonates with the voters.
RIFFEL: And a lot of these high-profile failures that we've talked about, they can throw all kinds of money, but if it doesn't resonate with the voters or your opponent has a better message, then what does it get you?
CAVANAUGH: Now, can't congressional candidates have Super PACs?
SMOLLENS: Well, they can't have them because Super PACs technically are independent. But we know that's a fallacy for some time. Independent campaigns through osmosis or otherwise do have a coordination, they'll deny it left on and right. But in this era of Super PACs you've got former staffers from the presidential campaigns going to the Super PAC. They know how each other breathe. What we will is these national packs getting more involved in congressional level races, and the ones that are really contested like Bilbray's could see a lot of contested actions. We probably will see those packs because as we all know now, that -- there's no limitations on the unions and the corporations and other organizations. And the money is just, you know, exploded in terms of the amounts being raised on these separate -- I won't tell them independent campaigns, that at the presidential level are clearing backing candidates or more specifically opposing certain candidates and being tough on them.
CAVANAUGH: With the Supreme Court are decision last year about -- excuse me, citizens united. That changed the concept of packs into Super PACs in a number of different ways. One of the things that people are concerned about is that there's no disclosure rule. People don't necessarily have to say who's giving all this money, right?
SMOLLENS: Well, they do in -- it gets complicated. I'm not sure I fully understand it. Certain Super PACs do have to disclose, just recently the fundraising from last year was disclosed. But they also can have nonprofit affiliates which they don't have to disclose. And I don't quite understand the distinction. There are more rules and regulations for the nonprofits, but you mentioned, I think citizens united has a nonprofit affiliate and so forth. The key thing is that an individual can come in and really change the dynamic. I think we had the case with Newt Gingrich, and the casino owner, are Sheldon Alderson -- I'm sorry, adder son.
CAVANAUGH: In Las Vegas.
SMOLLENS: Who dumped in ten medicine in a Super PAC, and people suggest that changed the dynamic in South Carolina. Now, Newt Gingrich's debate performances were good and so forth. But a lot of people thought he was dead and buried after Iowa and New Hampshire. But that money came in. That's an example of what a change in dynamic the Super PACs can have.
CAVANAUGH: Well, are there's a lot of confusion, I think about Super PACs, but I think there's a focused confusion about the fact how much this kind of change in campaign finance structure could affect us locally here in San Diego. Our San Diego campaign finance rules are still holding; is that right, Michael?
SMOLLENS: Well, yeah, I think what you'll see is the political parties with a freer hand because there was a court ruling that lifted their campaign contribution limits to candidates in independent campaigns. So they will have a freer hand. And that's one thing we'll probably see a lot more of. There was a period where they could do that, and then they were ruled unconstitutional.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. My guests are Michael Smollens, politics editor at UT San Diego. Edward Sifuentes, reporter with the North County Times. And James Riffel with city news service. More than 150 people who thought they were members of the Pala band of mission Indians at the beginning of this week have now been officially excelled from the tribe. There are issues of both identity and big bucks riding on that decision.
Edward Sifuentes, what do tribal leaders say about why these people were excelled from the tribe?
SIFUENTES: Well, unfortunately not much. These are internal matters, they say. And we have the authority and the responsibility to decide who is in our tribe, and there is not much that was said beyond that. A lot of what we've been able to learn is and has been from those people that have been excelled showing us some of those documents that they have been going back and forth with on. And the key question it seem enforce this particular disenrollment is ancestry back many years ago.
CAVANAUGH: Well, let's break it down. And apparently, this action that happened this week is apparently connected to an action taken back in June; is that right?
SIFUENTES: Correct. Again, the key question is this ancestry, margarita Britain, who at one point, or in many documents show was a full-blooded Pala Indian. And the tribe is now saying she was not. And therefore, her descendants have become lesser -- their blood quantum has been reduced, and therefore this latest generation has been disenrolled because of that.
CAVANAUGH: Let's talk about the concept of blood quantum. Because I don't think that it's really familiar to a lot of people. What does -- how do you determine whether or not you are a qualified member of the Pala band of Indians? Because I understand this blood quantum is different for different bands of Indians.
SIFUENTES: Well, one thing to remember, and I think a lot of people don't really understand it is that each tribe is its own nation. And these are in effect their citizenship rules. And these blood quantum rules were to a large extent imposed on them back hundreds of years ago by the federal government, and more popularized in the 1930s when these reservations came into being. And in order to decide back then who was Indian and belonged in those tribes, they resorted to this system where depending on which tribe you belonged to and your parents, who your parents were, you were either a member or not a member. And so as the generations have gone, there has been obviously intermarriage with used people, and so the blood quantum as they call it has been reduced to the effect that many who are descendants of the original members of the tribes are now no longer eligible to be members of the tribe. And different tribes have different requirements. Some don't even have the blood quantum requirement at all. But some of them do go from -- anywhere from 1/8 to one 16th.
CAVANAUGH: Now, there is a lot of money riding on whether or not you're a qualified member of the Pala Indian tribe, isn't there?
SIFUENTES: Yes, and it is one of those tribes that has been very successful as Indian gambling. So they have a huge casino resort, hotel, restaurants and all that. And from what we've been able to gather, each of those members do get about $150,000 a year. And that raises the stakes, as it were, on who belongs. And going back to the point of who belongs, unfortunately as you go back into the decades and the centuries, recordkeeping has not always been the best. So therefore you can go to any one point in time and find different members being different blood quantums. And that's what's given rise to this dispute.
CAVANAUGH: I see. So would it be fair to say that before there was a lot of money involved, it wasn't so strictly enforced?
SIFUENTES: That is the point that many people raise. But certainly the tribal leaders will remind us that many of these disputes that did arise back in the '80s and even before when there was no money at stake. So there is -- and I think everybody is right. Everybody is does have a point. But it is curious that now that there is this much money at stake there has been a marked number of people that have been disenrolled, not just in Pala, but in other tribes across the country.
CAVANAUGH: I think Michael, it's startling to hear that -- to people who aren't familiar where the ways of the tribe, that you could go about and think yourself part of this band of Indians, and then basically be voted out.
SMOLLENS: Yeah, I mean -- on a personal level, it's got to be gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching. I'm sure it gets ugly, as I've been reading Edward's stories. And there's been feuds and disputes, and with money overlaid all of that, you've got politics and money, and if there's anything that can cause trouble it's those two things. Of the and for us outside of the tribes to understand is very difficult because as he said, they're pretty closed mouth about it. One thing I was curious about, some tribal leaders say this has been part of the process that was happening in the '80s before the casinos. Was it a case that people like us just weren't paying attention but now that there's money and casinos and we're all more focused on tribal coverage that it's just coming to light a lot more?
SIFUENTES: It is very possible that we just didn't pay any attention. And there are a lot of issues with investigations even here in our own backyard. That we never really thought about or really frankly cared about. And so that may have been going on, are and we just didn't really care that much about it. But now that there is these huge casinos we are paying more attention.
SMOLLENS: One of the things that I found intriguing is that there is an appeals process. If I could -- I realize I'm asking questions here, but if I could defer to the expert, do those ever come through? Is there any record -- have people been successful to any large degree?
SIFUENTES: Again, you have to remember were that each of these tribes has their own government, their own nation, and they do have their own constitutions. So each of those constitutions have very similar but slightly different rules on how these processes play out. For example, are the San Pasqual tribe which has a similar issue going on does have a process where the bureau of Indian affairs has filed an arbiter on these matters. Whereas in the Pala tribe, they can appeal to the burro of Indian affairs. But the bureau of Indian affairs can only make a recommendation as to what is determined. And the tribal council, which initially kicked them out in the first place, gets to decide whether they will make that advice or decision or not.
>> So in other words the odds aren't particularly good on an appeal I gather.
SIFUENTES: Yeah. And the Supreme Court has said that it is a tribal government matter. And it is up to the tribe to decide these things. Will only in some cases do they have that recourse to go beyond and appeal to the bureau of Indian affairs.
CAVANAUGH: Will is calling from Point Loma. Welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, you just basically answered my question, which was whether any internal law enforcement agency or anything else has the ability to come in and to take a look at these decisions and see frankly if they're legal, I guess. You know? I mean you answered it in terms of governments. But I'm wondering, if there was any suggestion, I'm not in any way suggesting that this is the case, but if there were suggestion that this is done to make sure that the people who are left get more money, that it was sort of a criminal action or something like that. In that instance do law enforcement have any sort of rights? Can they investigate? Are they allowed to subpoena records and things like this?
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Will.
SIFUENTES: No, not law enforcement. There has been some success though in taking these decisions into court. Again, the San Pasqual tribe which has family, about 60 members of them have been excelled from the San Pasqual -- well, they would argue that they haven't been excelled. But they took it to court, and they were given just recently an injunction against the tribal government taking any action to follow up on their decision to expel this family.
CAVANAUGH: If I may jump in, another side of this story is the fact that there are allegations that this whole expulsion has not necessarily been motivated by blood quantum concerns but rather a political grudge. Tell us about that.
SIFUENTES: Well, the argument has been made by a former chairman of the Pala tribe who apparently has this kind of grudge with the current Pala chairman. And the people who have been disenrolled happen to be family members of that former chairman. And he tells us it all has to do with this grudge match that he's had with the current chairman. To what extent that is the case is a good question.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, if indeed the membership in the tribe is determined by a lineage and there's intermarriage continues to take place, doesn't that eventually wipe out the tribe?
SIFUENTES: Yes, and some people have argued that, particularly among the smaller tribes where there are some that are as low as 208 people. These are very small groups. So there is a very real possibility that if you continue with these rules that you will go extinct. The thing is that most experts will say that eventually they will have to come to terms and decide -- make a decision on whether to either do away with these rules or expand them so that there is more membership in the tribes. But that hasn't been the case yet. In fact, it's been the opposite. It's been to shrink the tribes rather than try to make them larger.
CAVANAUGH: James, I haven't asked you about this.
RIFFEL: Well, I can actually join the ranks of the questioners. The whole situation makes you wonder whether it might spark an eventual move perhaps standardize the qualifications for membership in these tribes.
SIFUENTES: I doubt it. I don't think so. There is a lot of things that the tribes take very close and don't allow others to decide for them. And I think that in is one of those cases.
CAVANAUGH: You know, in addition to the fact of the people who are no longer part of the Pala band of Indians losing that substantial income each year, they may also lose where they live, right? Where they work?
SIFUENTES: And that has been the case in other disenrollments, going back again to the San Pasqual case, which I've covered pretty much since its beginning. There were members that lived on the reservation who have been removed. There were members who were -- who worked at the casino and in the tribal government and those people have been removed from their jobs. There were people who were in the government, being representatives, members of the tribal council, who were removed as well.
CAVANAUGH: We have to end it there. Kind of a sad story. But thank you very much.
RIFFEL: Thank you.
SMOLLENS: Thank you.