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Kickapoo, continued from page 9 Martinthe very men accused of doling out $30,000 in casino money to state district judges. One reported $1,000 donor, Eddie Moreno, said he told the grand jury that he never contributed a dime to the campaign of Judge Abascal, who did not return calls seeking comment. If Kickapoo leaders surreptitiously moved $15,000 to Judge Abascal’s campaign in this way, they may have broken several state and federal laws. In addition, this scheme would only account for half of the $30,000 in Kickapoo funds that the indictment charges went to state district judges. Eagle Pass’s two state district courts handle a steady stream of Kickapoo cases. The town’s other state district judge, Cynthia Mufiiz, did not report receiving any money from casino employees for her 2002 campaign. Judge Muiliz did not return calls seeking comment. In another judge-related charge, the grand jury alleges that Timo and another defendant moved $45,000 in casino funds to “the Zavala County Judge” during the 2002 campaign. Although the casino booked this money as “legal fees,” the indictment says that the unnamed judge used it to pay Timo’s campaign workers. A clerk at the Zavala County Courthouse said her office has no contact information for then-County Judge Pablo Avila. Even Avila’s brother, a local jail administrator, said he does not have a number for his sibling. “All I know is he’s not here in Crystal City,” Roger Avila said. The indictments suggest that the Lucky Eagle’s masters also sought control over local governmental fiefdoms. The San Antonio Express-News reported that Garza threatened local businessowners in 2002 with losing the tribe’s business if they supported incumbent Tracy King. Prosecutors allege that the defendants diverted a total of almost $46,000 in tribal funds to an unnamed school board candidate, as well as an incumbent city council member and justice of peace. Apart from Isidro Garza once serving as Eagle Pass’s city manager, the local school district has employed Timo’s wife as a speech pathologist. Prosecutors allege that the defendants moved another $8,200 in tribal funds to the mayor of Pearsall for “services rendered” to Timo’s 2002 campaign. Then-Mayor Roland Segovia had a reputation for not paying his bills and flipping off critics, according to the Express-News. Police arrested him on two occasions, only to drop charges that he had threatened a deputy and his own sister. Segovia resigned under pressure in late 2004 after violating city rules prohibiting sitting council members from running for another office. Segovia, who could not be reached for comment, previously attributed his ouster to racism and politics. The Garza-run Kickapoo regime sought to influence a staggering array of politicians stretching from the local school board and courthouse all the way to Congress. That this empire eventually collapsed is perhaps less surprising than the fact that a handful of casino politicos in Eagle Pass managed to erect it in the first place. Such a feat is unimaginable absent a mountain of casino cash. From the time it opened, the Lucky Eagle has been thoroughly dependent upon .the state and federal government. This is why Kickapoo leaders moved so much casino cashlegal or otherwise to politicians. In the end, however, Kickapoo leaders lost the one political contest upon which their whole empire was built: the tribal vote. When new tribal leaders took over in October 2002, they said that their predecessors left them with $60,000 in the bank to cover $20 million in debts. Although the new Kickapoo leaders pledged to end graft, the only game in town is the casino. The tribe spent $15 million on a new gaming establishment and has considered building a 400-room hotel nearby. Yet these investments are still political gambles. Kickapoo representatives say that their business would be wiped out if Texas approves proposals to legalize slot machines for other tribes and at racetracks around the state. Governor Rick Perry, who promoted this controversial plan in 2004, backpedaled in January, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the idea was “on life support at best.” Capitol insiders are not yet writing off the well-funded lobby that has been hired to push slot machines this session. When Timo entered the Legislature in 2003, he faced suspicion from many Democratic colleagues. After narrowly beating an incumbent he received financial support from the tort reform lobby that was allied with the new Republican speaker. Some of these former colleagues privately say they were struck by how Timo acted as if he was still in his father’s house. “It was almost a joke that whenever there was a tough vote where [Speaker Tom] Craddick needed Timo, his father would show up,” recalls one member of the House Democratic caucus. In particular, Democrats remember the fight over a 2003 constitutional amendment that now authorizes state lawmakers to cap the damages that juries can award in lawsuits. Timo joined the Republican leadership in supporting the amendment, as his father looked down from the gallerywhere he sat with business supporters of the legal caps. In his 2004 reelection campaign, Timo ran with an incumbent’s advantage but his father no longer controlled a casino that could supplement his son’s personal and political finances. For some in his district, the time had come for pay back. Now listing his occupation as “real estate agent,” no-casino Timo crapped out. Former Representative Tracy King, who suspected that the casino subsidized his opponent’s first campaign, returned in 2004 to capitalize on the Kickapoo coup. This time King, who did not return calls seeking comment, beat Timofirst at fundraising and then in the Democratic primary. Perhaps the most telling contribution in King’s war chest was $1,000 from the new Kickapoo regime. Today the Garza family is passing the hat againthis time for the Garza Legal Defense Fund. Elizabeth Guillot of Spring, Texas helped organize the fund shortly after the first indictments came down. She says fundraising is “going well,” but declined to elaborate on what has been raisedor who the top supporters are of the Garza family’s latest campaign. Andrew Wheat is research director of Austin-based Texans for Public Justice. Jake Bernstein provided additional reporting for this column. FEBRUARY 4, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13