indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Bush administration won't admit liability on Indian trust
Friday, March 30, 2007
Filed Under: Cobell | Politics | Trust

INDIANZ.COM LISTENING LOUNGE
Opening Statements

Kempthorne Testimony | Kempthorne Q&A

Panel 1 Testimony | Panel 1 Q&A

Panel 2 Testimony | Panel 2 Q&A
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales did not admit to a $200 billion-plus liability for tribal trust lawsuits, a top aide said on Thursday.

In March 2005, Gonzales asked Congress for more money to defend the federal government against lawsuits alleging mismanagement of tribal trust assets. "The United States' potential exposure in these cases is more than $200 billion," he testified.

But in testimony to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee yesterday, the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice downplayed the remarks. William M. Mercer, the acting associate attorney general, said Gonzales never conceded such a huge liability.

"I believe that that text talks about the allegations that have been set forth in claims as part of the tribal trust litigation," Mercer told the Senate committee.

Mercer, who also serves as the U.S. Attorney for Montana, refused to admit to any sort of liability for the tribal trust. At the same time, he touted the dismissal of a tribal lawsuit that alleged $100 billion in asset mismanagement.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee, tried to get Mercer to acknowledge the federal government owes money "of some quantity" to tribes. But in response to a line of questioning about the inclusion of tribes in a $7 billion package to settle the Cobell lawsuit over individual Indian trust funds, the Bush administration official gave little ground.

"We believe that the ultimate value is much, much, much less than what the stated claims were by the tribes themselves," Mercer testified.

Despite Mercer's carefully worded responses, Dorgan was adamant about keeping tribes out of a potential Cobell settlement. "We don't even know the extent of the tribal claims," he said.

Dorgan's stance was supported by a panel of Indian witnesses. Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the case, said the proposal to join her lawsuit with more than 100 tribal ones was "a slap in the face of every Indian trust beneficiary."

John Echohawk, the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, agreed. He urged Congress to spend billions to resolve the Cobell case and for some tribes that are willing to settle their trust lawsuits.

"I think we need a bailout here," Echohawk told the committee. NARF recently filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all tribes who seek an accounting of their trust property.

William Martin, the vice chairman of the InterTribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds, compared the Bush administration's proposal to termination. "ITMA does not believe the administration can honorably and reasonably address all the Indian trust-related issues contemplated by this latest proposal in a single package," he said.

John Bickerman, a professional mediator who was brought in by Congress to try and resolve the Cobell case, recommended a settlement between $7 billion to $9 billion. But that only applies to the Cobell case and not the tribal ones, which he hasn't examined, he said.

When asked about the figure, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne would not comment directly. He only said he would like to see how Bickerman arrived at his figure even though that analysis was presented to the committee a year ago at a March 2006 hearing.

On March 1, Kempthorne and Gonzales offered to spend "up to" $7 billion to resolve Cobell, all tribal cases and pay for trust reform. Since then, an Interior Department official said about half of the money would be used to pay for Cobell. The other half would apparently go to the tribal cases and for trust reform, although Echohawk pointed out that the proposal remains "sketchy."

During the 109th Congress, Dorgan co-sponsored legislation to settle Cobell for $8 billion. But the bill never advanced due to the failure of the Bush administration to respond.

When a response finally came, the administration did not provide an actual dollar amount to settle the case. It was at this point that the idea to include tribes in the package and to eliminate all future liability came into play, a move that effectively killed the bill last year.

Dorgan said he would continue to try and resolve the Cobell case but told Kempthorne the tribal suits "cannot be settled under those circumstances." Kempthorne, however, never stated whether the administration would oppose legislation that didn't include a tribal component.

Committee Notice:
OVERSIGHT HEARING on Indian trust fund litigation (March 29, 2007)

Settlement Letter:
Kempthorne-Gonzales to SCIA (March 1, 2007)

Relevant Documents:
Alberto Gonzales Testimony (March 1, 2005) | SCIA Views and Estimates (March 1, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

Related Stories:
Senate hearing on Indian trust fund litigation (3/29)
Gonzales won't testify on trust fund (3/28)
Supreme Court refuses Cobell appeals (3/27)
Editorial: The billion-dollar question (3/26)
Senate hearing on trust fund litigation on Thursday (3/26)
The downfall of J. Steven Griles (3/26)
Blast from the Past: NBC segment on Cobell (3/21)
Opinion: US owes Indians billions for theft (3/14)
Bush aide linked to Special Trustee firing resigns (3/14)
BIA names new director for Navajo regional office (3/14)
Mother Jones: Pennies on the dollar for Cobell (3/12)
Bush proposes $7B trust fund settlement (3/8)
Dorgan and Thomas disagree on Cobell settlement (1/22)
Jodi Rave: Cobell sees hope for case in new year (1/20)
NewStandard: Tribes turn to court over trust funds (01/08)
Jodi Rave: Interior mum on class action tribal suit (01/05)
Tribes file class action trust accounting lawsuit (01/04)
Cobell honored by AARP Magazine for trust work (12/19)
New Cobell judge knows Interior Department (12/13)
Rahall outlines Indian agenda for 110th Congress (12/11)
New judge assigned to Cobell trust fund case (12/08)
Cobell wins Impact Award from AARP Magazine (12/7)
Editorial: No hope for a Cobell-only settlement (12/1)
McCain staffer: No 'hijinx' during lame-duck (11/24)
Editorial: Another good shot emerges for Cobell (11/10)
Cobell says Bush kills legislative settlement (11/9)
Tribal opposition to trust reform bill growing (11/2)
Editorial: End federal management of trust (11/1)
Tribes face trust challenges from Bush administration (10/31)
Cobell attorney criticizes Bush changes to bill (10/27)
Staff confirms Bush behind Cobell proposals (10/26)
Bush seeks major changes to Cobell bill (10/24)
Senate committee holds more Cobell meetings (10/23)
Time running out on Cobell settlement bill (10/23)
Cobell sees parallels in Aboriginal wage theft (10/16)
NCAI to consider resolution in support of Cobell bill (10/6)
Bush assailed for 'ambush' on Indian health care (10/5)
Latest delay in Cobell settlement tied to White House (10/3)
Cobell: Interior mishandles Indian money too (10/2)
Navajo woman fights for trust fund accountability (9/25)
Senate committee sends Cobell letter to Kempthorne (9/18)
Interior delays Cobell settlement legislation (9/15)
McCain firm on $8B settlement for Cobell (9/5)
Senate staff to discuss Cobell settlement in Tulsa (8/30)
Cobell shifts appeal strategy to keep judge on case (8/29)
Cobell fights for judge in trust fund case (8/25)
Senate committee to discuss Cobell settlement (8/24)
Human Rights Magazine: Cobell, Native issues (8/22)
Editorial: Justice for Indian account holders (8/18)
Professor: Removal of Judge Lamberth a tragedy (8/7)
Cobell eager to settle Indian trust fund lawsuit (8/7)
Letter: Nearly $1B wasted on Swimmer's trust reform (8/7)
Editorial: Stop delaying settlement to Cobell (8/4)
McCain puts twist in Cobell settlement bill (8/3)
Bush officials asked McCain to delay Cobell settlement (8/3)
Cobell settlement bill 'dead' in Congress (8/2)
Time running out on Cobell settlement bill (7/28)
Editorial: It's time for settlement on Cobell (7/28)
Ross Swimmer: Interior still 'working' on trust (7/28)
Cobell issues statement on settlement talks (7/25)
Cobell settlement awaited in Indian Country (7/25)
Jodi Rave: Cobell worried about settlement legislation (7/24)
Mark Trahant: It's time for the U.S. to keep its word (7/17)
Editorial: Lamberth too honest in trust fund case (7/17)
Cooler heads sought in Indian trust fund fight (7/14)
Lamberth removed from Cobell trust fund case (7/12)
Lamberth is third judge removed by D.C. Circuit (7/12)
Cobell settlement rumored to be in the billions (7/5)
Cobell rallies for support on trust fund lawsuit (06/19)
Editorial: Give Kempthorne a chance on Cobell (6/15)
Cobell files contempt charges against Kempthorne (6/13)
Editorial: Dirk Kempthorne arrives in Washington (6/13)
Swimmer calls Cobell settlement 'reparations' (5/8)
Cobell: Settle Indian trust fund case for billions (4/20)
Cobell to appear on C-SPAN Washington Journal (4/12)
Cobell renews call for receiver as court hears case (4/12)
Cobell vows fight to resolve trust fund lawsuit (4/10)
Cobell plans big showing on day of court hearing (4/4)
Jodi Rave: Tribes alarmed at trust reform initiative (4/3)
Cobell addresses trust fund mismanagement (3/30)
Ross Swimmer: Indian trust not about mismanagement (3/29)
Norton denies fraud or major problem with trust (3/29)
GAO report warns of billions in lost oil, gas royalties (3/29)
Witness list for hearing on Indian Trust Reform Act (3/28)
DOI trust reform meeting set for Portland, Oregon (3/24)
Kempthorne faces hot issues at Interior Department (3/21)
DOI pressed for more clarity on trust initiative (3/3)
Congress urged to settle Cobell lawsuit for billions (03/02)
Listening Lounge: Joint hearing on Cobell v. Norton (03/01)
Interior hits the road with new trust reform initiative (02/08)
Jodi Rave: Garcia calls for settlement of Cobell (2/3)
Cason slashes BIA budget and blames it on Cobell (2/3)
Tribes discuss trust reform bill, Cobell settlement (1/31)
Commentary: Swimmer still not telling the truth on trust (1/26)
Opinion: Indians want $12B of 'YOUR' money (01/10)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native American Council meets at Democratic National Convention (7/25)
Police officer cleared over fatal shooting of Navajo Nation woman (7/25)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Donald Trump and his campaign of hatred (7/25)
Native Sun News: Tribal advocate focuses on Great Plains efforts (7/25)
Lakota Country Times: Descendants of Pine Ridge legend gather (7/25)
Johnny Rustywire: Navajo mother works hard at motel for family (7/25)
Alex Jacobs: Nation finally admits problem with policing and race (7/25)
Dwaine Perry: Ramapough Lunaape Nation marching for justice (7/25)
Charges filed for assault on disabled member of Nisqually Tribe (7/25)
Man arrested for American Indian Movement flag settles lawsuit (7/25)
Interior Department consults tribes about new trust reform law (7/22)
Training sessions planned for final Indian Child Welfare Act rule (7/22)
Yurok Tribe shares sad news about salmon festival -- no salmon (7/22)
Mark Charles: An entire nation's big problem with Donald Trump (7/22)
Mark Trahant: Donald Trump promises a world with no treaties (7/22)
Native Sun News: Appeal delays release of Keepseagle checks (7/22)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe hosts walk for cancer (7/22)
James Giago Davies: Police officers get away with 'kill option' (7/22)
Andre Cramblit: Police officer shootings seem far too common (7/22)
Donald Trump closes convention that left out Indian Country (7/22)
New law in Oklahoma goes against Indian Arts and Crafts Act (7/22)
NMAI seeks input from tribes about veterans memorial in DC (7/22)
Blackfeet Nation swears in leaders and looks to a new future (7/22)
Coeur d'Alene Tribe kicks off popular powwow after absence (7/22)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe declares emergency over opioids (7/22)
Review: Hard look at drugs in Indian Country in 'Seventh Fire' (7/22)
State takes blame for sharing Tohono O'odham Nation minutes (7/22)
Pokagon Band debuts expansion of gaming facility in Michigan (7/22)
Karuk Tribe ready for groundbreaking on long-awaited casino (7/22)
California remains a battleground for Indian Child Welfare Act (7/21)
Yurok Tribe launches operation to rid reservation of marijuana (7/21)
Laguna Pueblo loses case linked to military contract kickbacks (7/21)
Cherokee player Koda Glover wins praise in major league debut (7/21)
Education Department hosts Native youth for roundtable in DC (7/21)
Navajo Nation lawmakers approve bill for travel plaza at casino (7/21)
Mark Trahant: Trump's Republican convention is one big failure (7/21)
Native Sun News: Five Rosebud tribal members killed in crash (7/21)
Lakota Country Times: Fire deals setback to Rosebud program (7/21)
Brandon Ecoffey: Carrying the voices of our people to masses (7/21)
Delphine Red Shirt: Our children need to be kept close to home (7/21)
Peter d'Errico: Celebrating the dark side of White 'civilization' (7/21)
Oglala Sioux Tribe confirms shooting death of 13-year-old girl (7/21)
Tribes in Connecticut sponsor cruise for Republican delegates (7/21)
Tribal lobbyist not buying Donald Trump's message of change (7/21)
Mechoopda Tribe aims to work with county on delayed casino (7/21)
Seminole Tribe helps with probe into robbery of casino patron (7/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.