Working that Skirt: A $500 Challenge for Okiciyap

“What skirt,” you say?

Yesterday, volunteers for Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community, put the skirt on the trailer.

AND…we have a $500 challenge grant, good to tomorrow at midnight,

This donor is asking all the small donors to get together now….can you pitch in $5, $10, $15? It adds up quickly, believe me.

Right now, by my estimates we only have about $120 toward that challenge (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong). We have until midnight on Monday to qualify for the match. Can we do it drop by drop?

And when that challenge is up, another Kossack stepped forward with another challenge for next week…..

Here’s a photo update so you can see what your money is doing. Yesterday volunteers installed the skirt on the trailer.

Here they are:

Yes, everyone wants to help!

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Cutting the wood to size:

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There they go, working that skirt:

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Okiciyap is truly on the brink of success!

Won’t you help us get over this last hump, or forward this diary to someone who can?

(If you are financially pinched right now – which was me until a month ago –  please don’t feel guilty for not being able to send funds. You can help us by spreading the word and posting this story on your Facebook pages etc. We greatly appreciate ALL help here!)

We’re almost there. There is SUCH need on this reservation – 90% unemployment in winter, high youth suicide rates, and federal cuts in food stamps have further pinched the population.  A grassroots community group has come together to confront these issues – lets help them help themselves.

YOUR DONATION IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair

Okiciyap

PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

So, here’s what YOU have helped Okiciyap do so far:

1. Host a Christmas dinner, where the members provided a healthy dinner and a safe and sober place to gather and open presents they had bought for the children, who otherwise had none. They even bought a Christmas tree with the funds:

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2. Move the trailer 30 miles to Isabel. Here’s moving day:

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3. And JUST YESTERDAY, the community CAME TOGETHER to help get the building into place. While they had to pay a professional plumber to install new pipes and hook them to the sewer line and an electrician to install electric boxes and get it going, the community came out to build the stairs and install new doors. So, this isn’t just a group of determined women, they have gotten the community involved. SUCCESS!!!

Group of volunteers

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The stairs

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Electric box

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Supplies for outside work

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Volunteer Ted installing the door

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Missing toilet in the bathroom

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Lights are on!

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Kitchen Faucet installed

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Look at all the room in there:

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These kids thank you

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P.S. Georgia is working through  severe, and chronic, back pain right now, exacerbated by abhorrent IHS health care. I figure if she can do all that in such pain, I can write this little diary and help this project succeed.

Georgia at Netroots Nation Austin

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(We help)

( – promoted by navajo)

I don’t know about you, but I had parents who would pull the “starving children in Africa” thing if I was going to leave food on my plate.

Then one day I came up with something that made them quit. I held out my plate full of leftovers and said,

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“well, here, send it to them.”

That shut them both up.  Never again did I hear that stupid expression.

And that brings up Thanksgiving.

Many of us have a lot of leftovers in the fridge. We should be thankful for that.  But  like my parents, you can’t really send your extra food to hungry people.

But you can take out your credit card or checkbook and donate to a food pantry on the Cheyenne River Reservation, where, like on many Indian reservations, hunger is rampant during the winter.

 

The pantry is being run by an organization called Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel community, founded by Georgia Little Shield, the former director of Pretty Bird Woman House. She was the reason that shelter was so successful, but she couldn’t remain in that stressful position due to poor health.

However, just because she had to stop working full time didn’t mean she stopped trying to help her community. Now she and a group of women have formed a 501 c3 (official nonprofit) to run a food pantry and youth programs.

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The winters on many Indian reservations are terrible, not just because of the cold, but because of 80-95% unemployment. Here’s what Georgia has said about the situation:

The families around our reservations are on fixed incomes of 260.00 to 460.00 per month. This is per month. The people on the reservation fight to survive each month and the winters are so brutal that this is when we would need the food pantry more then at any other time of the year.

The food pantry has already started working on an ad hoc basis. Right now they are working out of a trailer lent them by a board member, and have obtained some food donations.  

Recently, a 30×60 building was donated but it is currently 30 miles from Isabel, where the project is located.  They have to bring it back to Isabel, and hook it up to utility services.

Here’s the breakout of what that’s going to cost:

Moving the Building      

Transport 30 miles                            $7000.00

Building forms to set building down       $2500.00

Skirting of building and new ramp         $2500.00

Total                                             $12,000.00  

This will be done by a contractor that knows how to transport the building and is a professional and will set and put the building together when it gets to Isabel. The build of the forms will be done by a cement contractor, Jackson’s cement out of Timer Lake SD. The skirting and ramps will be done by volunteers with the SD specification of disability Ramps.

Utilities:

One year Electricity                           $3000.00

One year water and sewer                   $780.00

One year Propane and Tank set up        $1800.00

Hook up to the to Town sewer and

Water pipes                               $2000.00

Total                                               $7580.00

We are requesting a one year utility for the building and when this year is up we should be able to have funds raised and applied for grants to run the building.  We will need to get hooked into the city sewer and water so we will have this done by the city.

Total amount requested  $19,580.00

Notice how they left out a computer and internet service? I rounded the figure to $20,000.

Here’s the group at work already:

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Here’s their website Okiciyap, where you can go to get more information.

To donate by credit card, just click on this ChipIn:

YOUR DONATION IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair

Okiciyap

PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

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You can also send clothing donations to that address.

They’re starting from scratch from the grassroots. Lets give them a hand.

No dough, but willingness to help? Write some diaries on this with us!

Also, don’t forget that propane fundraiser that Navajo started….if you can do a little of both that would be great, but we are thankful for any help you can give for either one.

Nobody in the richest country in the world should be hungry or cold. These are small projects yes, but the services they provide makes a big difference in the lives of the people receiving them…and that means that even $5 makes a difference.

Here’s information on donating money for propane and/or propane heaters. The easiest way is to pick up the phone and call the company Navajo is working with, but there are other ways too:


Telephone:

Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2

11 AM – 6 PM MST EVERY DAY

Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations to a minimum order. Credit Cards welcome and they are the only Native owned fuel company on Rosebud.  Rosebud is next to Pine Ridge Reservation and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you’d like to mail a check: [make check payable to: St. Francis Energy Co.]

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible

http://sfec.yolasite.com/

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We’re grateful for any assistance you can provide this holiday season, whether writing diaries on this or donating. Thank you to Dr. Erich Bloodaxe for starting this up again at DKos on Thanksgiving.

This is a community of helpers, so let’s help (we help).

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Dakotas Snow Emergency: Charity and Beyond

Thanks to navajo and a robust crew of volunteers and diarists, the snow emergency on the Indian Reservations in the Dakotas found its way to the TV (thanks, Keith!) and more donations have started to flow.  (Navajo’s excellent compilation of donation contact info and links here.)  My intention is to add a little background to the story, because it’s annoying as all get-out that this has ever become a situation for charity.

In the early days of the United States, Indian Affairs was an agency under the War (later Defense) Department.  Not unlike the private contractors in Iraq, the Indian agents in the field typically did much better than the people they were charged with protecting and assisting.  Often much better.

With much bloodshed and ruthless, duplicitous behavior, the indigenous population of the US was driven from its homelands, and confined to reservations.  (Except for the tribes, like the Mandans on the Plains, that died off completely.)  Tactics included wanton slaughter of the buffalo to deprive the natives of their means of material survival, thus forcing them into submission and opening up their territories for white settlers.  Public debate back in the 1800s centered on questions like whether or not the Indians were human possessing souls, and whether the nations first peoples should be “civilized” or simply killed off by genocide.

Private Allotments

The latter option was only partially accomplished (via bounties for Indian scalps, and other atrocities), and the former eventually became policy.  In the 1880s, the Dawes Act was passed, dividing much reservation land into individually owned allotments, meant to be developed as family farms.  In short order, most Indian land ended up in non-Indian ownership.  This is not so surprising, if one considers that the Indians had non-written languages, and concepts like foreclosure and executed contracts and arguing cases before judges in courtrooms were utterly and completely alien to them.  The very concept of individuals owning a piece of ground wasn’t how they’d ever thought about their relationship to Mother Earth.  Of course, this is grossly oversimplified, since there are a wide array of cultures amongst the hundreds of different tribes once native within the present U.S. boundaries.  But it applies pretty well to the nomadic Plains tribes with reservations on the High Plains.

In time, the ability to transfer title of Indian land to non-Indian owners was curtailed.  (Except when the Congress declares an emergency – like in World War II, when large tracts of Lakota and Washington state’s Nisqually lands got annexed to military facilities, never to be returned.  But I digress.)

Legally, to this day, the federal government has a trust responsibility towards the tribes.  Tribes exist, legally, as dependent sovereign entities, with all the ambiguity and confusion that oxymoronic phrase suggests.  There are treaty obligations the U.S. government owes the tribes, in exchange for giving up most of the country.  For laying down their arms, and not contesting (i.e. killing) settlers taking over most all of what was once theirs.  Those obligations include health care, education and various general welfare items such as roads.

Too often, uninformed people tend to think of those obligations as some kind of welfare.  I think of it is as if there were an “interest-only” mortgage on the entire country, and the U.S. owes, in perpetuity, to make good on the deal.  

The Cobell Case

There’s another frequently overlooked angle on the impoverished state of the reservations.  The federal government, via the Bureau of Indian affairs (long since transferred from War to Interior Dept.), acts as a trustee for both the tribes and the owners of the individual land allotments.  Remembering that the allotments were first carved up back in the 1800s, and that the owners typically died without written wills or even file change of title (much less have a survey done) when a piece of land was sold or given away, keeping track of the ownership of these tracts is a non-trivial problem.

The feds, as trustees, have leased out lands for various purposes over the decades – purposes such as logging, mining, grazing, farming (where non-Indians could get soil bank payments for not planting crops, but Indians could not) and oil and gas drilling.  As trustees, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was supposed to account for those payments, and disburse them to the land owners.

The records were bad, and back in the 1990s, a Blackfeet woman from Montana called Eloise Cobell, a banker, started getting serious about getting those records accounted for, and proper payments made to landowners for said leases.  Let me restate the problem: For well over a century, the US government had been taking in lease payments, but couldn’t account for something in excess of $100 billion dollars dating back to the 1880s.  A trustee in any other context would have had their ass tossed in jail long since for such sloppy work.  To be clear, payments were made over, but there weren’t records to account for it all.

And so was born the Cobell class action lawsuit, filed in 1996:

On June 10, 1996, Indian plaintiffs including Elouise P. Cobell, Mildred Cleghorn, Thomas Maulson and James Louis Larose, filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to properly manage Indian trust assets on behalf of all present and past individual Indian trust beneficiaries, including over 300,000 current Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders. The assets at issue are the monies that belong to the individual Indians. The named defendants are the Secretaries of the Interior and Treasury and the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs

The case moved along slowly under a Reagan-appointed federal judge, until the Bush-Cheney years.  Gale Norton and her minions got declared in contempt of court by Judge Lambeth, who had strong language about their lack of good faith action in the matter.  So strong that the Bush Justice Department successfully moved to have him removed, nearly a decade into the case.  John McCain, Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee while the Republicans were in the majority in the Senate insisted that $25 million was too large a sum to settle on the case.  So it went nowhere.

On June 10, 1996, Indian plaintiffs including Elouise P. Cobell, Mildred Cleghorn, Thomas Maulson and James Louis Larose, filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to properly manage Indian trust assets on behalf of all present and past individual Indian trust beneficiaries, including over 300,000 current Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders. The assets at issue are the monies that belong to the individual Indians. The named defendants are the Secretaries of the Interior and Treasury and the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs.



also in 2008, the District Court granted equitable restitution to the plaintiff class based on the unproven shortfall of the trust’s actual value as compared with its statistically likely value. It stressed that breaching the duty to account did not generate the government’s financial liability. Rather, it said the government’s failure properly to allocate and pay trust funds to beneficiaries gave rise to restitution or disgorgement of the very money that had been withheld. The plaintiff class was awarded $455,600,000 (although this figure did not include interest).

A settlement was announced two months ago on December 8, 2009 – a specific case where the Democrats are different from (and better than) the Republicans:

Yes. The federal government has agreed to create a $1.412 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund. The Settlement also creates a federal Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indian youth.

Needless to say, it’s too soon for this all to have been implemented, but it’s a step in the right direction.  And, too, remember that none of this is welfare or charity.  It’s what’s due – long past due.

The Current Situation

What I’ve written above isn’t immediately germane to the acute crisis currently unfolding on the reservations.  That’s the consequence of other kinds of neglect and malfeasance than just that covered in the Cobell suit, which litigation only covers accounting for leases of individually-owned land allotments.

Basic welfare issues on the Reservations are the responsibility of the federal government.  State jurisdiction is limited, and rightly so, owing to disputes like those of salmon fishing rights of Coast Salish tribes in western Washington.  As it happens, I was in the courtroom when the 1974 Boldt decision was delivered, and the wiki description comports with my own understanding of the case:

The decision was the culmination of years of State of Washington limitation of treaty fishing by the Tribes, resulting in the United States suing the State of Washington to force the state to comply with the treaties. It was immediately met with shock and outrage by non-Native fishermen, but the ruling has held for more than 30 years.

The Boldt decision also upheld that U.S. federal treaties signed with the Native Americans continue to be in effect as are all International Treaties agreed to with the U.S. government.

So, the donations are good, as a humanitarian effort to rescue people in trouble in an emergency situation.  Navajo’s diary from yesterday is full of contact information and links for donations, such as:

Thanks to Kossack Keith Olbermann, 3 major charities benefiting the South Dakota reservations will get some huge donations now.  Today, I want to call your attention to a faster and more direct way you can help.  The LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Home Assistance) programs ran out of winter funding in early December. Here’s the hard part; you will need to write a check because of no online presence for any tribe.

But Keith got it right in the bolded words below:

Transcript courtesy of Kimberley:
“And now tonight’s first Quick Comment, and you overwhelm me–as usual.  

“Last night, continuing our coverage of the humanitarian crisis on the ice storm and blizzard ravaged reservations of South Dakota, I mentioned a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief emergency assistance fund, and we linked to it. They were hoping, by the end of the month, to have raised $35,000.

In 24 hours, you donated approximately $185,000. They thank you and I thank you.  

“If anybody wants to go further, the chairman of the tribe tells us the consciousness of politicians is as important as donations right now. FEMA has yet to declare the region a disaster area, and there’s something else that could kill about 40 birds with one stone there: They’ve patched much of the water and power infrastructure back together but they really need an overhaul and something in the jobs bill, or some stimulus money, could not only protect power, heat and water there, it could also put some of the thousands of unemployed Native Americans to work in their own communities. So you could call, write, or e-mail your congressmen and or senator.

So this diary is a call for action that way – putting a little pressure on the political will.  Reminding our elected officials that the nation has a trust obligation to the tribes.  It’s not charity, and it’s not welfare, and there’s a lot of room for improvement.  Contacting any Senator or House member could help, but those serving on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee are particularly relevant, so here’s their contact information.  You know what to do from here:

Senate Indian Affairs Committee

Democrats:

Daniel Akaka (Hawaii) 202-224-6361

Maria Cantwell (Washington) 202-224-3441

Kent Conrad (North Dakota) 202-224-2043

Bryon Dorgan, chair (South Dakota) 202-224-2551

Al Franken (Minnesota) 202-224-5641

Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) 202-224-3934

Tim Johnson (South Dakota) 202-224-5842

Jon Tester, (Montana) 202-224-2644

Tom Udall (New Mexico) 202-224-6621

Republicans:  

John Barrasso, Vice Chairman (Wyoming) 202-224-6441

Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) 202-224-5754

Michael Crapo (Idaho) 202-224-6142

Mike Johanns (Nebraska) 202-224-4224

John McCain (Arizona) 202-224-2235

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) 202-224-6665

BACKGROUND

There are nine reservations In South Dakota. News reports are covering only two reservations, Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River.      

       

Full size photo

courtesy of South Dakota Office of Tribal Government Relations

We’ve also had a number of Kossacks volunteer to be a part of a new team (currently un-named) that will focus on a continuing diary series on the current conditions of our poorest reservations and discuss proactive and preventative measures that could be taken to prevent similar disasters next winter.  

Daily Kos volunteers for this effort currently are:

4Freedom, Aji, bablhous, Bill in MD, cacamp, Deep Harm, exmearden, KentuckyKat, Kimberley, Kitsap River, Land of Enchantment, Lexalou, No Way Lack of Brain, oke, ParkRanger, Richard Cranium, SarahLee, Soothsayer, swampus, TiaRachel, tlemon, translatorpro, Zenox

Many thanks to them for all their research and support.  

McCain/Heather Wilson tied to latest Abramoff Indictment

( – promoted by navajo)

Sandia Pueblo, near Albuquerque in NM-01, happens to have an excellent location for a casino.  They’ve come a long ways since their modest Bingo Room back in the 1990s.  Casino proceeds have built a variety of community facilities, placed a computer in every home, and plowed a lot back into additional economic development.  This is their newly-opened resort:

               

The mountains behind it are the Sandia Mountains, traditional spiritual place for the small Tiwa-speaking tribe.  That piece of turf was claimed by the US after the Mexican-American War and later incorporated into the National Forests.  The tribe was involved in ongoing efforts to protect their interests and traditional activities in the Sandias.  When the the money started coming in from gaming, they decided to hire a lobbyist.  Who did they hire?  To the tune of $1.7 million?  Jack Abramoff.  And who presided over the associated Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearings?  And sealed 98% of the hearing’s documents?  John McCain!

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Democracy for New Mexico.

McCAIN’s INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARINGS

This ties back to McCain.  Why?  Because of the Indian Affairs Subcommittee hearings on matters Abramoff during 2006.  Back then, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) chaired the committee, and presided over the hearings.  By the time the dust settled, Congressman Bob Ney (R) of Ohio went to jail, Richard Pombo (R, CA-11) and others got fired by the voters, and a bunch of other Republicans decided to retire.  That’s a big part of why the Democrats stand to move up in the legislative branch this year – prominent Republicans like Sens. John Warner (VA) and Pete Domenici(NM) are retiring (and a lot of not-quite-so-prominent ones, too.)

“Maverick” McCain points to these hearings as proof of bucking his party.  Let’s keep in mind that the hearings put all members of the House and Senate off-limits as part of the ground rules.  It did look into the Interior Department, and so touched upon the portion of the Abramoff operation relating to Indian gaming.  But the vast majority of the documents accumulated in the conduct of those hearings have been sealed.  Only about 2% of the documents were released for public scrutiny.

More on that to follow below.

It has been hypothesized that there’s some kind of a coverup going on.   The Bush justice department has pursued the matter.  Rep. Bob Ney from Ohio did go to jail.  Pombo and others were not re-elected.  John Doolittle (CA-04) and others decided not to run for another term.  This week there was a new arrest in the case:  One Kevin Ring, former Doolittle staffer, later a lobbyist working for Abramoff.  (The full 46-page indictment is available in PDF form.)

There’s a lot about Representative 5 in there, John Doolittle.  And some talk about a [New Mexico tribe].  Doolittle might end up in jail yet, and it would not be undeserved.  But a bit of a back burner story.  Not like Doolittle’s running for re-election or anything.  And no wonder – it’s his former Chief of Staff, after all.  From MSNBC:

At one point in 2000, Doolittle’s then-chief of staff told Ring in an e-mail that Doolittle had said he felt like a “subsidiary” of Abramoff’s firm, the indictment says.

Doolittle’s attorney, David Barger, defended the congressman in a  statement Monday. “It is clear that portions of the Kevin Ring indictment were designed to make gratuitous references to the congressman and his wife. This appears to have been done to titillate the public, with the foreseeable and therefore intended consequence of attempting to embarrass and pressure the congressman,” the statement said.

Turns out there’s a New Mexico angle in this indictment, too.

HEATHER WILSON

Sandia Pueblo is within the boundaries of NM-01, the district of Rep. Heather Wilson, the failed Senatorial candidate.  

2 – On or about December 20 , 2001 , defendant RING sent an email captioned ” [ New Mexico tribe] (sp?)” to Abramoff in which he wrote, “Need to talk to you about a potential new client. Would need Scanlon, too. ” A few months later, on or about February 14, 2002, Abramoff sent an email to Scanlon in which Abramoff informed Scanlon that “[0]ur Kevin Ring New Mexico Ship has just arrived!! We have a meeting 11 am Wednesday next week with the [New Mexico tribe] here in DC. They are desperate and rich. Kevin is desperate for some $ and a big client.

We’z gonua be rich(er) …”

It’s kinda quaint, really.  How the names are all “disguised”.  The names of all the tribes involved have long been known.  The only one in New Mexico was Sandia Pueblo.  Similarly, covering up the names of the governmental officials is curious.  But such are the rules of the game we play by.  Turns out, deep in the 46-page indictment is a presumed reference to our own NM Rep. Heather Wilson.  Sandia’s in her district, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.  Looks like ol’ Nipplegate Heather follows basketball as well as football.  (Note that “Governor” is the title for the head of NM Pueblo tribes’ governments.)

155. On or about July 17, 2002, defendant RING emailed the New Mexico tribe’s governor and others to inform them that the executive branch official had called a U.S. Senator to support the settlement agreement.

156. On or about January 30, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B emailed a staffer for the New Mexico tribe’ s U.S. Representative, “Sorry I couldn’t hangout last night. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to han[g]out with the [New Mexico tribe]. It meant a lot to [K]evin and I [sic].  BTW, you should be all set for the [Los Angeles] Clippers [basketball] game.”

And in today’s Albuquerque Journal, Heather Wilson has felt moved to respond:

Mr. Kevin Ring hosted a fundraising lunch at Signatures Restaurant to benefit my campaign for re-election in May 2003 and contributed $1,000 to my campaign on June 2, 2003.  When we discovered that Mr. Ring had not submitted a bill for the cost of the fundraiser to my fundraising consultant, our consultant sought to pay the bill and, when unsuccessful because the restaurant was no longer in business, my campaign made an equivalent contribution to charity as required by Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules.

She did help the tribe get the land settlement, which she should have done anyhow, as Representative for a tribe supposedly covered by Federal Trust responsibilities.  She and her staff did get stuff of value from the tribe’s lobbyist.  Quid pro quo?  We’ll probably never know

At any rate:  Wilson’s name hadn’t been linked in with the Abramoff web before.  The Sandia part of the story was almost a sidebar.  The tribe didn’t spend much money, dropped the lobbyist, and managed to get a land-claim settlement they could live with.  At the time the Abramoff scandal busted open, the Albuquerque Journal reported (you have to watch an ad to follow the link for free):

Stuwart Paisano, who served as Sandia’s governor until last week, said Tuesday the pueblo was in legal settlement negotiations with the firms and could not talk about specifics of Sandia’s monetary arrangement. He said the pueblo paid more than $1 million to the two men.

   “Our council has no ill feelings,” he said. “We were able to get the mountain back, which was our only goal. Obviously we made some poor choices in who we hired.”



Presumably, this part of the story was in the Indian Affairs subcommittee’s millions of sealed documents.  And, one wonders, what other “dirt” on various Republicans got buried.  And before anyone gets wound up and says “What about corrupt Dems?”, it is probably good to remember that the Abramoff operation was part of the Republican plan for a “permanent majority”.  Democrats were completely shut out.  Abramoff only dealt with Republicans.

And that, my friends, is why this story matters.  Abramoff is in jail.  Ring is arrested.  Doolittle and Wilson aren’t standing for re-election.  But John McCain presided over burying a lot of evidence in the course of those hearings.  There were a coupla sacrificial animals:  Abramoff and some of his crew had to go; a few people left their jobs at Interior; and Bob Ney got snagged.  Plus Delay & Pombo and others were driven from office.  Is McCain sitting on favors in all those sealed documents?  (Favors bordering on extortion?)

In keeping Wilson’s name out of the news, he could be credited with her keeping her seat.  She won by a very narrow margin of 105,986-105,125.  A few headlines tying her to this scandal during 2006 could easily have made the difference.  

For all the good it did.  She’s OUT this year anyhow.  She had other help, too.  The US Attorney scandal, Albuquerque chapter, was all wrapped up in it, too.  She and Domenici were both damaged for their interference with David Iglesias.  Less often mentioned was the Bob Perry-funded ad campaign mounted in the weeks before the election attacking Wilson’s challengers NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid over the same case Iglesias got fired over – for not producing indictments as fast as would be helpful to the needs of the effort to re-elect Heather.

BACK TO McCAIN

This new association of a sitting member of Congress with the Abramoff scandal brings the question of those sealed Indian Affairs Committee documents front and center.  What other stories and ties have been hidden from the public?  Who else did McCain spare from sunlight on Abramoff’s many tentacles into the Republican majority in Congress?  

It’s not clear to me why, now that there’s a Democratic majority, these materials all remain sealed.  I’ve called the new Chairman of Indian Affairs, Senator Dorgan’s (D-ND) office, was referred to the Committee.  But all the reception I was afforded was to have my query referred to voice mail.  I’ve heard nothing back.  It’s this kind of thing that disappoints me about the Democratic majority.  This kind of thing really should be seeing sunlight.

TIMELINE (background info)

Correction:  I got an email with a link to the first Washington Post story about the Abramoff scandal.  It was in 2004.  Sadly, the story didn’t get enough traction then to change the 2004 election outcome.

It’s probably good to keep the timeline of all this in mind.  The Abramoff scandal blew up with some Washington Post stories in December 2005.  McCain got his hearings up and down in 2006, and all the documents were sealed.  Republicans lost the House and the Senate in 2006, and the US Attorney scandal came to light in early 2007.  

From MSNBC again – some related summary:

To date, the ongoing Abramoff investigation has resulted in 13 guilty pleas by various lobbyists and public officials, including former lobbyist Michael Scanlon, who pleaded guilty in November 2005 to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud. Former lobbyist and congressional staffer Tony C. Rudy pleaded guilty in March 2006 to conspiring with Abramoff, Scanlon and others to commit honest services fraud, mail and wire fraud, and a violation of conflict of interest post-employment restrictions. In April 2007, Mark D. Zachares, a former high-ranking aide to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and in June 2008, John C. Albaugh, a former chief of staff to a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives pleaded guilty to the same charge. In April 2008, Robert Coughlin, a former Department of Justice employee, pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest. Scanlon, Rudy, Albaugh, Coughlin and Zachares are all cooperating and awaiting sentencing.

In addition, Ohio Congressman Robert Ney pleaded guilty in September 2006 to conspiracy to commit multiple offenses, including honest services fraud, making false statements in violation of his former chief of staff’s one-year lobbying ban, and making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Neil Volz, former lobbyist and chief of staff to Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to honest services fraud and violating the one-year lobbying ban and William Heaton, former chief of staff for Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty on February 26, 2007, to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Volz and Heaton cooperated in the government’s investigation and were each sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 and $5,000 fine, respectively.

McCain’s hearings were in 2006.  There was some flashy stuff, and names like Italia Federici (with ties to Gale Norton & Steven Griles at Interior) had their 15 minutes of fame.  It garnered, actually, many hours of coverage on C-SPAN, and a few bits on the cable channels.  And then the report came out, and the documents were sealed.  A few were punished, and many more were protected.

John McCain might like to brag about his corruption-fighting ways.  But it’s fair to say that he likely protected many more than were punished, even with a wrist slap.  Meanwhile, Wilson – who more likely than not benefited from McCain’s sealed documents – is busy supporting his campaign.”  From TPM muckraker:

Wilson has been a stalwart supporter and prominent surrogate for John McCain, painting him as a crusader against Washington corruption. Just last night, she appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball to make the case for him, and last week she told NPR: “John McCain has chosen a reformer … to be his running mate and I think that’s a perfect complement to who he is and what he’s done in his life.”

Ralph Reed, too, was tied up in the Abramoff imbroglio, and lost his bid to become Lt. Governor of Georgia because of it.  Even Garrison Keillor got in on the act!  Ralph Reed now, too, serves as a surrogate for the McCain campaign.  Plus whatever he’s pulling behind the scenes.

So much for rooting out corruption!  He’s got it right in his campaign.  And really, before McCain gets too much credit for those hearings, the 98% of the hearing documents that have been sealed need to see the light of day.  Doolittle, and now Wilson, have had their names tied to the scandal.  It’s likely John McCain’s sealed documents are the only reason we’ve not seen Wilson’s name publicly associated with the “permanent majority” machine before, even though she has benefited from it, and supported it like a good soldier.  I’m guessing that McCain will come out smelling not so sweet when all that content comes to light.

And who knows who else’s involvement has been buried in those sealed documents?

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