Drummond intercedes to represent State of Oklahoma in lawsuit
over unlawful tribal gaming compacts signed by Governor
OKLAHOMA CITY (July 25, 2023) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond has stepped in to represent the interests of Oklahoma in a three-year-old lawsuit that has drained state resources in defense of unlawful gaming compacts orchestrated by Governor Kevin Stitt.
Drummond informed Gov. Stitt in a personal phone call and delivered an official letter notifying the Governor of his plans.
“While Governor Stitt and I are both elected Republican leaders who agree on many issues, I have been highly critical of his dealings with our Native American Tribes,” Drummond said. “The Governor is free to make his own decisions regarding how he wants to interact with the tribes, but he is not free to violate Oklahoma law. I am taking this action in order to uphold the law and defend our constitution.”
Drummond’s action comes on the heels of recent correspondence with legislative leaders in which he sought their invitation to assume representation of the State’s interests. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall both responded with letters requesting the Attorney General enter his appearance in Cherokee Nation, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al.
In his letter to the Governor, Drummond said it was long past time to uphold the laws of the State.
“Oklahoma’s relationship with our tribal partners has suffered greatly as a result of your divisive rhetoric and refusal to follow the law,” he wrote. “The citizens you were elected to serve are the ones who suffer from this irresponsible approach. Instead of working in partnership with tribal leaders to enact compacts that benefit all four million Oklahomans, you insist on costly legal battles that only benefit the elite law firms you hire. Millions of dollars of state resources have been squandered on these futile efforts.”
To date, three private law firms have racked up nearly $600,000 defending the unlawful compacts in the litigation before the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. Millions more have been spent on other legal battles against tribes during the course of the Governor’s tenure.
“Fortunately, I am merely one of a broad coalition of state leaders who sincerely wish to repair the damage you have done to state-tribal relations,” Drummond wrote. “The first and most critical step in that process is simple: we must follow the law. As Oklahoma’s duly elected Attorney General, that is exactly what I intend to do.”
The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Citizen Potawatomi and Choctaw nations filed the federal lawsuit after the Governor proceeded with revised gaming compacts his office had reached with four other tribes – the Comanche Nation, the Otoe-Missouria, the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians – despite his lacking legislative authority to do so. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has twice ruled the compacts are invalid, but Gov. Stitt submitted them to the federal government for approval. They were effectively approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior when that agency failed to take any action.
The invalid gaming compacts were signed months after Stitt unsuccessfully railed against automatic renewal in 2020 of the Model Gaming Compact between the State of Oklahoma and the tribes.