Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thank You For Smoking, Part Tali: Follow the Money

We got some feedback about our blog regarding the mysterious smoke shop subsidy, which puts money in the pockets of people who sell cancer sticks in our communities.  Seems pretty stupid, but it passed the Tribal Council unanimously, and Baker’s treasurer was there to support it.  So someone said we should follow the money.  As in, whose pockets does that $725,000 land in?  And lo and behold, the mystery became much clearer.

First, remember that the money helps two classes of people:  1) the people who lease their land to smoke shop owners, who now have most of their rent guaranteed, and 2) the smoke shop owners themselves, who now don’t actually have to pay their own rent. 

So a closer look shows that one of the proponents of giving Cherokee money to cancer peddlers instead of senior citizens was Chuck Hoskin, Jr.  And it turns out that his dad, Chuck Hoskin, Sr. owns land that is leased to a smoke shop.  Cha-ching!  What a great deal!  Chuck Jr. didn’t even recuse himself, he just voted to have the Cherokee Nation send money to his dad.  Pretty sweet.  It must be tough for Chuck Sr., making ends meet.  He’s already having to work two full-time jobs (State Rep and Chief of Staff).  The Nation was only paying Chuck Senior $130,000 this year, and the State of Oklahoma was chipping in a mere $38,400. 

While that’s not bad for a guy who lives in Vinita but whose offices at both of these “full-time” jobs are in Tahlequah and OKC, he did manage to find a way to squeeze another few extra bucks out of the Nation.  Well played.

Who else?  Well, who else is close to Baker?  No one is closer, literally, to Baker than the guy whose job is to drive him around.  Billy Bob Dougherty was a campaign donor Baker hired to be his driver/special projects guy.

But guess what?  Dougherty also owns a smoke shop and apparently needs a second check from the Cherokee Nation. Thanks to his boss/co-pilot, he doesn’t have to pay rent at his store anymore, according to the Cherokee Phoenix. 

So, he can continue selling low-tax tobacco, because of course it is in the Nation’s best interest to do so.  And the idea of giving the Cherokee people’s money away to people who sell tobacco, instead of say, that elder stipend we’ve be waiting by the mailbox for, is not just a stupid idea.  It’s starting to look like a corrupt one.