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Spending bill keeps provisions affecting Cobell

Provisions targeting the Cobell trust fund lawsuit were approved by Congress on Thursday with the passage of the omnibus appropriations bill.

The provisions were inserted by Retired Rep. Joe Skeen (R-N.M.) and Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) with little public hearing. They require the Department of Interior to provide a summary of a sealed court report to appropriators, fire a group of Indian trust advisers and use taxpayer funds to pay for private attorneys whose actions have been called into question by a federal court.

Former Special Trustee Tom Slonaker opposed the first two provisions. He said it was not in the best interests of Indian beneficiaries to disclose private financial data to members of Congress. He also said his Advisory Board, which includes prominent Indian Country leaders like Sue Masten, chairwoman of the Yurok Tribe of California, and Ivan Makil, president of the Salt Rive Pima-Maricopa Tribe of Arizona, were a good sounding board. Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, chairs the panel.

Shortly after voicing his objections, Slonaker was forced to resign by Secretary of Interior Gale Norton.

Interior officials denied involvement with the bill but the White House embraced it wholeheartedly. The exception was the attorney fees provision, which Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason said the department supported.

The provisions were accompanied by language limiting a trust fund accounting from 1985 to 2000. The House last July voted 288 to 144 to strike the language.

Again, department officials denied involvement. Norton has since filed court papers attempting to limit the accounting from 1985 to 2000, citing a statute of limitations.

The Senate version of the appropriations bill did not include the anti-Cobell language. But Republicans this week carried the provisions over from the House version.

Get the Bill:
H.J.RES.2 | Full Report [See Section F-1]

Relevant Documents:
White House Statement of Administration Policy (7/16) | Rahall Letter (7/15) | Hayworth-Kildee Letter (7/12) | 8th Court Monitor Report (7/11) | House Committee Report (7/9) | Senate Committee Report (6/27)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://www.ncai.org/main/pages/

Related Stories:
White House embroiled in trust fund mess (07/31)
Slonaker doesn't want to fire advisers (07/26)
Trust debate centers on budget (7/19)
House clears DOI budget bill (7/18)
Rahall statement on trust fund (7/18)
House vote a victory on trust fund (7/18)
Debate rages on Interior bill (7/17)
White House approved DOI spending bill (7/17)
Objections on trust fund ignored (7/16)
House to debate DOI funding bill (7/16)
IIM project affects little in trust (7/16)
House trust fund bill opposed (7/15)
Full accounting said not 'cost effective' (7/15)
Griles slammed for ignorance (7/12)
DOI denies involvement in House bill (7/12)
Court monitor releases new report (7/11)
ABC program to focus on Indian trust fund (7/11)
Tribes express doubts on trust reform (7/11)
Norton delivers accounting plan (7/5)
Cobell kicks off Indian Country tour (7/3)
Trust fund monitor defended (7/2)
Historical accounting plan delayed (7/2)
Norton's accounting funds limited (6/28)
Griles can't explain trust standards (6/27)

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