NY State - Seneca Indians against U.S. Senator Gillibrand's support of bill to ban mailing of cigarettes..

January 28, 2010 - The Seneca Nation of Indians is threatening to spend $250,000 against Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand this year because of her support for legislation that would ban the mailing of cigarettes. The Seneca Nation Foreign Relations Committee last week unanimously passed a resolution recommending that the Tribal Council set aside that money for “voter education and outreach.” The council will consider the request February 13, 2010.

Directly related news brief: NY State - Seneca Indians - lobbying against the PACT act..

The move came on the recommendation of J. C. Seneca, a leading tobacco entrepreneur and co-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I propose that $250,000 be appropriated for a ‘get out the vote’ effort to educate and mobilize the thousands of workers, contractors, vendors and their families who are tied to the Nation’s $1.1 billion economy as to why Senator Gillibrand is harmful to the Seneca Nation and all of Western New York,” Seneca wrote in a Jan. 14 letter to the committee.

The Senecas are threatening to target Gillibrand, D-N. Y.,because of her support of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, a bill that the Senate could consider that would ban the U. S. Postal Service from mailing cigarettes.

The Senecas depend on the U. S. mail to deliver about two-thirds of the cigarettes they sell, and in an interview, Seneca said the tribe was ready to fight to protect that business. “The more we can do to educate people, the better,” he said, adding that the money could be spent on advertising or on campaign donations to Gillibrand’s opponents.

The $250,000 would be in addition to the $1 million the tribe earlier set aside to target state lawmakers seeking to collect taxes on the tribe’s cigarette sales.

Asked why the tribe was thinking of targeting Gillibrand, Seneca said: “Sen. Gillibrand has made no effort at all to listen or to be willing to help.”

Told of the Senecas’ plans to target the freshman senator, her spokeswoman, Bethany Lesser, said: “Sen. Gillibrand’s No. 1 priority is economic development and the Seneca Nation is a partner to our efforts to create jobs and grow our economy. However, Sen. Gillibrand remains committed to preventing the illegal trafficking of cigarettes to children.”

The potential boost in Seneca political funding comes weeks after the tribe targeted both Gillibrand and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N. Y., in a billboard campaign. Asked why Schumer was no longer the target of the tribe’s ire, Seneca pointed to a recent interview with YNN Buffalo in which Schumer said: “If the Senecas have a really good and transparent way to prevent sales to minors — not using the PACT Act — I’d welcome it.” That comment “did kind of break the ice” between Schumer and the tribe, Seneca said.

But the relationship between the Senecas and Gillibrand remains icy.

Reference: Senecas threaten to target Gillibrand Stance on mailing cigarettes draws ire by Jerry Zremski (jzremski@buffnews.com), Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief, 1/25/2010.