ALBANY -– The Seneca Nation of Indians is expanding its lobbying and communications presence in an effort to block proposals at the state Capitol threatening to bring new casino competition to its gambling ventures in Western New York.
The tribe has added a lobbying firm whose partners include former Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello. Seneca officials declined to immediately provide Masiello’s retainer information. He was hired only a few weeks ago so his required financial disclosure reports with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics is not yet due. Masiello’s portfolio includes Kaleida Health, Niagara County and National Fuel Gas Co.
"From the early days in 2002 when the Senecas first entered into gaming, Tony Masiello has been there in support. He knows the issues with the state," said Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter.
The tribe, in a recent filing with the ethics agency, also reported paying in November and December a total of $350,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based Levick Strategic Communications. The firm was paid, the filing states, for help with grassroots organizing, advertising and website development.
Levick bills itself as representing companies and countries "facing the highest-stakes communication challenges." The company’s clients have included the Catholic Church in its priest sex case scandals, and it has done work on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and on behalf of Kuwati detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The Seneca Nation is battling with the Cuomo administration over what the tribe says is a breach of contract by New York over new gambling ventures allowed over the years in a 14-county Western New York area. The Senecas got the exclusivity deal in return for sharing part of its slot machine revenues; $400 million in tribal payments to Albany has been held up the past couple years. The tribe is also pushing back against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s call for a constitutional amendment to permit casinos on non-Indian lands; he has not specified where they could be located, but some lawmakers have said Western New York could be ripe for further casino gambling.