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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida Checks Out Gambling Stakes; Late-Term Supreme Court Appointments

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Part of the Seminole Tribe's TV advertisement

Does the proposed compact with the Seminole Tribe to expand gambling in Florida give the state the largest guaranteed cut of any state in the country? And do presidents stop nominating judges in their last year in office?  WUSF's Steve Newborn poses these questions to Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

There's been a lot of bluffing and holding of cards when it comes to re-negotiating the agreement the state has with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow gambling on their reservations. But now their hands have been revealed, the Tribe is making some claims on TV ads:

The claim that $3 billion in guaranteed revenue for the state is "the largest share for any state in history," is something that is checked out by PolitiFact Florida:


Comparing compacts Dozens of Indian tribes have gaming compacts in 26 states, and the details differ not only among states, but among tribes in a given state. While tribes can reach agreements to share revenue with local governments and pay regulatory costs, we’re just looking at how much states get. Comparing these compacts is a tall order. Given the nature of the industry, casinos are always opening and closing, contract terms are being updated or changed, and the terms of the payments tribes give differ depending on the compact. That’s especially true when considering states like Connecticut, which receives a lot of money but bases compact payments on a percentage of casino earnings, or Washington, which negotiated compacts so money goes to local governments instead of the state. The Seminoles currently pay the state quite a bit for a single tribe, which we can illustrate with overall earnings and revenue-sharing figures. In California, for example, tribal casinos make about $7 billion per year, highest in the nation. Of that, they give about $241 million to the state in 2014. (The state had compacts with 73 tribes in 2014, but only 11 of those tribes paid into the general revenue fund.) Tribes in Oklahoma, which generated $3.8 billion in gaming revenues from 124 casinos, paid the state about $125 million in 2013. Our ruling The tribe's point about guaranteed compensation over seven years holds up when focused on total dollars. But there's no easy way to make apples-to-apples comparisons of the details between various states and their gaming compacts. Some states have compacts with many other tribes. Some deals call for tribes to split a portion of revenues only with local governments. The takeaway from the ad is Florida is getting the best financial deal of any state in the country, but the finer points aren't clear. We're going to hedge our bets and rate the statement Mostly True.

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has sparked a heated discussion over his replacement. Both Republicans in Congress and those running for president - like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, say there’s no need for President Barack Obama to even try making a nomination.


"Because actually, it's not just for the Supreme Court, even for appellate courts, both parties have followed this precedent," Rubio said on NBC's Meet the Press. "There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating, or you stop the advice and consent process."

But is it true that presidents "stop nominating" both Supreme Court and appellate court judges in their last year in office? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:


Confusion over judicial confirmations in the election years stems from the "myth of the so-called ‘Thurmond Rule,’ " said Wheeler. Named for former Sen. Strom Thurmond, who opposed Johnson’s 1968 Supreme Court nominations, the informal rule suggests that judicial nominations shouldn’t be confirmed in the months leading up to a president election. Though Wheeler and all the other experts we spoke with agreed that it becomes increasingly difficult to push through a nominee as the end of a presidency nears, the Thurmond Rule doesn’t actually hold up. For example, George W. Bush forwarded nominees to the Court of Appeals "as late as September of his last year in office," said Lisa Holmes, a University of Vermont professor who specializes in judicial politics. And that month, the Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee "shepherded through" many of Bush’s nominations even though "it did look very promising for President Obama" at the time, said Sheldon Goldman, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor who specializes in the politics of judicial selection. The evidence against Rubio’s claim also multiplies if we expand the criteria to beyond lame-duck presidents. From 1947 to 2014, there have been 79 appellate court nominations and 416 District Court nominations in presidential election years, according to Sarah Binder, a George Washington University professor who studies the federal judiciary. In fact, there’s an example sitting on the Supreme Court right now that contradicts Rubio, pointed out Goldman. Justice Stephen Breyer was nominated by Jimmy Carter to the Court of Appeals in November of 1980, after Ronald Reagan won the White House. Our ruling Rubio said, "There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating" both Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges. Rubio suggested that point is now. The chance for an outgoing president to make a Supreme Court nomination in his last year in office has only happened once in the past century, in 1968. But presidents do continue to nominate appellate judges in their final year. Out of the last four presidents who served two terms, all of them made nominations to the Court of Appeals (as well as the District Courts) in their last year. We rate Rubio’s claim False.


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