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Carl Artman, Oneida, named assistant secretary

A lawyer and former lobbyist with experience in tribal matters and connections to the Republican party was nominated as the assistant secretary for Indian affairs on Tuesday.

Carl J. Artman, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, already works at the Interior Department. For the past several months, he's been providing legal advice on Indian issues within the Office of the Solicitor.

More recently, Artman served as chief counsel to the Oneida Nation, where he dealt with land-into-trust, land claims, gaming, taxation and other hot issues. In the mid-1990s, he also represented the tribe as its lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

And like his predecessor, the famed entrepreneur Dave Anderson, the new nominee has a background in business. Since the 1990s, he has served as a top executive for companies in the telecommunications and technology fields.

"We're excited that another Oneida has been appointed to a top position in the nation," said Bobbi Webster, the director of public relations for the tribe. "It speaks to the high aspirations and the greatness of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin."

With a deep background in tribal issues on his side, Artman has ties to the Republican party and the Bush administration. In 2002, he was appointed by President Bush to serve on the White House Advisory Board on Tribal Colleges and Universities.

In 2004, he sat on the Wisconsin steering committee for the Bush-Cheney campaign. And in the 1990s, he served as legislative counsel to Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio), who is retiring after 25 years in Congress.

Artman now must fill the void that left the Bureau of Indian Affairs without a leader for nearly 18 months. Anderson, who was also from Wisconsin, resigned in February 2005 after his unconventional ideas to transform the agency failed to gain traction among senior aides.

A different, yet equally daunting, problem faces Artman. In just the past couple of years, the Jack Abramoff tribal lobbying scandal and controversies associated with the rapidly expanding $23 billion Indian gaming industry have dramatically altered the political atmosphere.

Artman was personally affected by the change in climate when Rep. Mark Green, a Republican from Wisconsin who is running for state governor, returned his $200 donation earlier this year. Green didn't want to be associated with gaming interests due to controversies surrounding tribal-state compacts in the state.

During the 1990s, Artman was tangentially involved with what was then the biggest Indian gaming scandal: an off-reservation casino in Wisconsin. As the Oneida Nation's lobbyist, Artman was mentioned in a Congressional investigation as working with other tribes to defeat the proposed gaming facility.

Pending Senate confirmation, Artman will land in the hot seat once again although his nomination presents a scheduling issue. Congress is about to break for a one-month recess, putting off consideration by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

"We look forward to a rapid confirmation and are anxious to get Carl on board," said Nedra Darling, a spokesperson for the BIA. "We look forward to working with him and working together for Indian Country."

White House News:
Personnel Announcement (August 1, 2006)