Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Actress joins tribes in support of Prop 70

‘Hart to Hart’ star offers services free for ad in favor of 99-year tribal compact

PALM SPRINGS -- Long before the movie "Palm Springs Weekend" was branded by late-night TV watchers as a cinematic time machine back to a more innocent era in the desert, Stefania Zofia Federkiewicz was living it.

The girl who became Hollywood actress Stefanie Powers led an idyllic life, trekking to the desert to ride horses across Indian country.

She visited the desert frequently, and reportedly developed a bond with the canyons -- and their people -- some liken to a gentle wind passing through palm trees.

No wonder Powers, best known for her role in the 1980s television drama, "Hart to Hart," refused to take any pay for her 30-second spot in a "Proposition 70 Yes" campaign ad dubbed, "Share."

The TV ad, created by San Diego-based Woodenship Advertising & Public Affairs, began running over the weekend and is slated to run through Nov. 2. It promotes passage of a ballot initiative that would require casino-owning tribes to pay 8.84 percent of net profits from an unlimited number of slot machines and table games in exchange for a 99-year compact.

In it, Powers stands amid tribal members to tell viewers, that Proposition 70, which applies the standard corporate tax rate to Indian gaming is "fair for all Californians."

"After centuries of despair, some Indian tribes now have a chance to prosper,’’ she says. "Indian casinos would pay the same rates as other California businesses and be required by law to share their revenue with less fortunate tribes."

Where governor stands

But unlike the 1963 movie Powers filmed in Palm Springs which Variety described as a "hymn to spring and romance," Field Polls show passage of Proposition 70 may be no good-natured romp.

Detractors outweigh supporters by a margin of 10 percent, poll results show, with roughly 25 percent of the electorate undecided.

Proposition 70, and a second gambling initiative that would allow card rooms and racetracks to gain 30,000 slot machines, Proposition 68, continue to look "deader than a doornail," said Todd Harris, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Harris has likened the impact of Proposition 70 for Palm Springs, if it passes, to a Las Vegas on steroids, noting its passage will lead to a proliferation of casinos in the desert -- quite possibly on Section 14 in downtown Palm Springs, or within vast amounts of tribal-owned owned by the Agua Caliente.

Powers’ spot on the TV ads presents no alternative, he added.

"Apparently, Victoria Principal wasn’t available," Harris said.

Local views

But State Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, said he believes Powers’ emergence in support of Proposition 70 changes the equation in a political battle that has -- until now -- pitted Schwarzenegger against the tribal nations.

"She adds an objective opinion," Battin said.

"She does add a new element to this," agreed Richard Milanovich, chairman of the tribal council of the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, one of two Indian nations at the forefront of Proposition 70, the other being the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. "People who know Stefanie know she talks from the heart."

As for any inference that passage of Proposition 70 and Measure U could mean another casino will spring up in Section 14 is not correct, Milanovich said, "We have no intention to put another casino in Section 14." Milanovich said he thinks a 10-year-old master plan, written five years before The Spa Casino opened, is being held up as proof of this erroneous notion, and is meant to muddy the political waters.

"It looks like the governor is following a script that is not factual,’’ Milanovich said.

No script intended, according to Harris.

The governor believes that if Proposition 70 passes, Measure U will be the "least of the worries" for the people of Palm Springs, Harris said, as "the entire Coachella Valley will become one big casino."

Tribal lands inspired Powers

Powers, an animal rights activist, was reported to be in Kenya, so could not be reached to chat about her TV ad motives.

Bob Nelson, president of Woodenship Advertising, said Powers told him she personally knew no members of the Agua Caliente or Morongo tribe.

But her treks familiarized Powers with the land, and Indian people before casinos changed the economic equation for tribal nations in California.

"She came to us,’’ Nelson said, and even helped write the script, saying the days she rode horses through the Agua Caliente and Morongo reservations stand among her most enjoyable experiences as a youth.

"She feels a very strong kinship with Native American people," Nelson said.

Jamie Fisfis, 70 Yes spokesman, said he thinks the ad has brought debate over the Indian gaming initiatives back to point, away from racial overtones that characterized the last few weeks of the campaign.

Nelson agreed.

"The image that the tribes want to end with is one of a united state,’’ he said. "People who are Indian and not Indian -- together, working to help improve our state."

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