6/14/2008California Bribes Indians for Toll Roads
Orange County, California toll road officials pay $350,000 in taxpayer funds to an Indian tribal faction to win support for a toll road.
The California officials will pay $350,000 to a small Indian tribal faction in return for its support of a new toll road. The Los Angeles Times reported that in return for the money, faction leader David Belardes agreed to drop his opposition to a proposed extension of the 241 toll road that would link Orange County to San Diego. The money would go towards creation of a museum for the Juaneno tribe which was native to the region. Transportation Corridor Agencies, an entity run by city and Orange County officials, approved the payment.
Ten years ago, Belardes lost a an election to head the Juaneno tribe, which has since splintered into four factions, each seeking federal recognition. The winner would receive not only a windfall in federal subsidies, but also the right to build a lucrative casino in Southern California.
Beyond agreeing to the state toll road plan, Belardes has done everything possible to increase his odds at winning the federal prize. The faction chief hired the powerful Barbour, Griffith and Rogers lobbying firm to represent his interests. Rival chief Anthony Rivera likewise retained the lobbying services of Drinker, Biddle and Reath which has strong ties to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
A number of anti-development groups have filed lawsuits to stop the development of any new road along the corridor.