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Politics
Lobbying Report: The revolving door in Washington


Thanks to Indian gaming, tribes have emerged as major players in Washington, D.C. In the past two election cycles alone, tribes poured $13.8 million into Republican and Democrat interests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But this figure doesn't include the money tribes and tribal organizations spend to lobby Congress and the executive branch. So to find out more about this area, Indianz.Com is taking a look at who's spending Indian money in Washington, who's getting it and what they're spending it on. Today we're looking at a lobbying practice by tribes that has generated controversy.

What Is It?
Lobbying by former government and elected officials is nothing new in Washington. After leaving the Clintion administration in January 2001, Bruce Babbitt joined a law firm to work on environmental matters, an area he covered as head of the Interior Department. Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana) left Congress in 2004 to head the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry affected by his chairmanship of a key committee.

This "revolving door" practice normally hasn't been issue in Indian Country. Congress recognized that tribes needed the specialized expertise of ex-employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and exempted them from the cooling-off period imposed on other lobbyists. Tauzin, for example, can't lobby his colleagues for a year.

But the $18.5 billion Indian gaming industry and the millions tribes are using to hire lawyers and lobbyists has changed the landscape. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who is investigating tribal lobbying practices, has cited "abuses" of the exemption and the Interior Department's Inspector General says it's no longer needed.

Who's Doing It?
Exhibit A in the new controversy has been Kevin Gover, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma who ran the agency during the last three years of the Clinton administration. He left in January 2001 to work for the Indian law practice of Steptoe & Johnson (http://www.steptoe.com), a large Washington firm. Although he worked at the firm for less than two years and was barred from lobbying on issues that he played a direct role in, critics of the BIA cite him as the chief example of the revolving door issue.

Senate records show Gover lobbied the House, the Senate and his former agency on gaming and tribal issues during 2001 and 2002 [Registrant Records]. He has since left the firm to become a professor at the Arizona State University law school. He still works as a consultant to tribes, including one he placed back on the federally recognized list in one of his last actions at the BIA.

Gover's top aides also went to work in the lobbying business. Michael Anderson, his deputy, and Loretta Tuell, an assistant, are both employed by Monteau & Peebles (http://www.ndnlaw.com), a firm started by a former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Clients include gaming and non-gaming tribes and Anderson and Tuell lobby on a wide variety of tribal issues [Registrant Records and Reports].

The practice has continued into the Bush administration. Former principal deputy assistant secretary Aurene Martin quit in September 2004 and immediately went to work for Holland & Knight, (http://www.hklaw.com) a large Washington firm with a significant Indian law practice. In 2004 alone, the firm took in upwards of $1.3 million from tribal clients [Indianz.Com Lobbying Report].

Martin is already lobbying her former agency on issues like energy policy and sovereignty for tribes in Wyoming and Nevada. She's even working for the Lower Lake Rancheria of California, the tribe that Gover helped, on the "Issuance of the list of federally recognized tribes." The small tribe needs BIA approval to obtain land for a casino and to engage in Class III gaming

Martin also has been hired by the National Indian Gaming Association, which spent over $400,000 in 2004 to lobby the House, Senate and the NIGC in 2004 [Indianz.Com Lobbying Report]. Martin is one of 13 Holland & Knight lobbyists hired by the organization. [Senate Records].

The firm recently picked up retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana who has promised to lobby on a wide range of tribal issues, including education, health, energy and gaming. He is barred from lobbying colleagues for a year after leaving Congress.

For More Information
To find out more about tribal lobbying in Washington, visit the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records (http://sopr.senate.gov). The office maintains the most recent information for lobbying expenditures reported to the Senate. Information for this story was obtained by utilizing the "Registrant Name" and "Lobbyist Name" fields in the database.

Other lobbying information can be found at the U.S. House of Representaties, Office of the Clerk (http://clerk.house.gov/pd).

Relevant Links:
Senate Office of Public Records - http://sopr.senate.gov