OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond says he’s stepping in to represent the state in a lawsuit dating back to 2020 “that has drained state resources in defense of unlawful gaming compacts orchestrated by Governor Kevin Stitt.”
Drummond said he 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.”
Just last week, Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall requested the Attorney General take charge in the federal lawsuit.
“Once again, the legislative branch is compelled to intervene because of the actions of a Governor who refuses to respect Oklahoma law and the Constitutional restraints on his power. As a conservative, I believe that rights not specifically delegated to the federal government belong to the states. But it has become clear, once again, that the Governor disagrees with this bedrock principle as has spent thousands (if not millions) of Oklahoma taxpayer dollars to argue for the supremacy of a federal statute in direct opposition to Oklahoma law and two decisions of our Supreme Court,” wrote Senate President Pro Tempore, Greg Treat (R-OKC).
In bold print in the letter, Pro Tem Treat added, “It has thus become clear that the Governor has a conflict: he can either choose to represent the interests of the state or his own personal interests, and I believe he has made his decision clear.”
In 2020, Governor Kevin Stitt signed off on four tribal gaming compacts and had it approved through the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The compacts are meant to establish rules over all forms of gambling, including casino-style.
By the Governor going through the U.S. Dept. of Interior, he disregarded the mandatory legislative process, according to Pro Tem Treat.
Drummond says 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.
Pro Tem Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall filed two lawsuits on this, both in 2020.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court sided with lawmakers, calling the compacts “invalid under Oklahoma law.” The Supreme Court also stated the new compacts were in violation of the State-Tribal Gaming Act for authorizing gaming types such as sportsbook (online sports betting app).
A federal lawsuit was filed by the Cherokee Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation, and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in response to Gov. Stitt’s actions.
The case is pending in the U.S. District of Columbia District Court.
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.”
Drummond says 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 and millions more have been spent on other legal battles against tribes during the course of the Governor’s tenure.
News 4 has filed an Open Records Request with the Governor’s Office regarding the funding of tribal related lawsuits.
“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.”
KFOR reached out to the Governor’s Office last week following Treat and McCall’s requests for the AG’s assistance.
The Governor said, “Pro Tem Treat is entitled to his opinion about a lawsuit brought by four large tribes against me and four smaller tribes, but I can assure you, there is nothing political about this for me. I’m fighting for the four million Oklahomans that I am constitutionally obligated to defend.”
Following Tuesday’s announcement from the AG, Pro Tem Treat sent a letter to Drummond, which says, in part:
I appreciate Attorney General Drummond’s dedication to the rule of law and his willingness to intervene in this case. His involvement is our best and most expeditious path forward. The governor has wasted untold amounts of taxpayer money on these lawsuits that have been an abject failure. Continuing them does nothing but alienate our tribal partners and undermine the very goals that the governor says he’s trying to achieve. The McGirt and Hooper cases are deeply troubling but our actions to mitigate their potential negative impact need to be lawful, strategic, effective, and respectful of the tribal leaders that are also fellow Oklahomans. Heretofore, his actions fail on all four metrics. I am hopeful that with the attorney general warranted intervention and recent legislative action that Oklahoma can start to move down a more effective pathway.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has already ruled twice in favor of lawsuits filed by the legislature, determining the governor acted illegally. He then doubled down and has been trying to get a federal court to invalidate state sovereignty and the rule of law to get his way. It cannot continue, which is why the attorney general’s entry of appearance is a welcome development.
Nobody – not even the Governor – is above the law.
In short, the Governor has used the Federal Lawsuit to argue that Oklahoma law can be ignored because he believes federal law endows him with the singular authority to unilaterally bind the state to illegal gaming compacts— an argument that is in clear violation of the separation of powers and deeply at odds with the very notion of federalism. He clearly is in no position to represent the state’s interest in this matter. As a proud supporter and advocate of federalism, I can no longer stand by and watch Oklahoma taxpayer dollars be spent on high-dollar east coast law firms in pursuit of Governor Stitt’s personal agenda at the expense of the state’s interests.