Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita Collected Cash From Casinos While Pushing Bill

Posted on: January 14, 2018, 11:06h. 

Last updated on: January 14, 2018, 11:08h.

An Indiana congressman and Senate candidate who has echoed President Donald Trump’s pledge to “Drain the Swamp” is finding himself mired in a potentially murky controversy over casino campaign contributions.

Rep. Todd Rokita
Congressman Todd Rokita accepted $163,000 from casino interests while sponsoring a bill that would benefit those donors, an Associated Press story found. (Image: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Associated Press reported last week that Rep. Todd Rokita (R- Brownsburg) accepted more than $163,000 from casino interests while sponsoring a bill that would benefit those donors.

The bill in question is the Tribal Sovereignty Act, which would end employee protections for tribal casino workers under the National Labor Relations Act. Rokita introduced the legislation in 2015 at the same time campaign contributions from special interest groups associated with casinos increased. Rokita has no tribal casinos in his district.

The Indiana House had passed the measure, but it didn’t get to the Senate floor. The House included it into a larger bill and approved it again. It now awaits a vote in the Senate.

Rokita had collected a small amount of money from casino groups in the past, but the figure increased dramatically when the tribal sovreignity bill was proposed three years ago. Last year he received the most donations of any House member from tribal casino organizations, according to Federal Election Commission data reviewed by the website

Appearance of Impropriety

Rokita has staunchly defended the legislation saying it was an anti-union law. His chief of staff Mark Cruz, who is a member of the Klamath Tribe said his boss goes against the establishment and fights for the common man.

Native Americans in Indiana and elsewhere support Todd because they know he fights for them including taking on union bosses hell-bent on exploiting poor Native American workers who historically haven’t had a voice before Congress,” Cruz said in a statement.

There is nothing illegal about accepting the contributions, but it could present the appearance of a conflict of interest. For someone who prides himself as a Washington outsider and an adversary of lobbyists and special interests, the story is potentially damaging.

Could Affect Senate Run

It is not what Rokita needs as he is embroiled in a costly GOP primary contest to see who will challenge incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly for his seat in November. The 48-year-old former Indiana Secretary of State is clashing with fellow House member Rep. Luke Messer and wealthy businessman Mike Braun.

The primary election is May 8 and none of the candidates can afford to give their opponents any ammunition. Purdue University political science professor James McCann told AP that Rokita is trying to court a group of voters he may be unintentionally alienating with the contributions.

“People who are maybe having to work two jobs, or are lower on the economic totem pole, tend to see everyday politics as more corrupt,” he said. “If Todd Rokita is seeking to differentiate himself based on sticking up for the little guy, or draining the swamp, that undercuts his messaging.”

It is not the first controversy that has tainted the congressman. In 2013 he was widely criticized for calling the Affordable Care Act “one of the most insidious laws ever created by man.”