Editorial: No 'loophole' in Native contracts
"For the past several years there has been considerable congressional and public attention paid to government contracts. Democratic congressional committees investigated possible abuses of sole-source contracting largely because they considered that many large corporations were benefiting from special arrangements in government and, in particular, defense contracts. At the same time, sole-source contracting from tribal contractors also came under fire, and continues to draw attention.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is known for cleaning up government contract issues. She campaigned on these issues when seeking office while working for the Missouri State government. McCaskill chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Contracting Oversight to assess issues of government contract abuse and waste. The senator has revived attention to the sole-source contracting by tribal corporations and businesses, in particular the rapid increase in sole source contracting by Alaska Native Corporations.

One of the complaints of a recent Government Administration Office report was that ANCs are using a “loophole” to gain access to federal sole-source contracts. Since 2000 contracts by ANCs have increased from $265 million to $1.1 billion in 2004. The GAO report uses a strongly negative term to describe a process of inviting American Indian tribal businesses into the marketplace through limited time access to government contracting.

Other reports by the Washington Post also use the expression “loophole” when reporting the activities of McCaskill’s committee work. The discussion is compounded by the GAO report, which often does not show conclusive results, and only suggests that ANCs may have competitive advantages over privately-owned small businesses. The report suggests that many small business organizations have complained about the surge in ANC government contracting in recent years, and suggest, but do not show evidence, that ANCs have strong competitive advantages over small private enterprise.

There is some discussion that tribally-owned business may not belong in the SBA programs. Tribal enterprises owned and operated by tribal communities for their collective economic goals do not fit the mainstream definition of typical small businesses. Tribal businesses serve the needs of the most economically disadvantaged people in the United States, but they also serve the economic policy needs of sovereign Indian communities that want to engage in market enterprise in ways that conform to their history and culture."

Get the Story:
Editorial: No ‘loophole’ in Native business success (Indian Country Today 7/31)

Related Stories:
Murkowski seeks hearing on Native contracting (7/30)
Amendment to limit Native contracts dropped (7/24)
Opinion: Contracts help Alaska Native people (7/23)
NPR: Alaska Native contracts under scrutiny (7/20)
Senate hearing looks at Alaska Native contracts (7/17)
Senate hearing on Native corporation contracts (7/16)
Jobs stay local under Alaska Native ownership (7/16)
Tex Hall: Hunting Indians at Capitol Hill hearing (7/15)
Report cites unfair advantage for Native firms (7/15)
Alaska Native corporations prepare for hearing (7/14)
Interview: Ho-Chunk CEO on Native contracting (07/01)
Senate panel probes Alaska Native corporations (6/24)
Alaska Native corporation worried about probe (5/20)
Alaska Native corporations under more scrutiny (5/19)