Supreme Court nominee dealt with tribal issues on tobacco
A slew of documents from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum show U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was closely involved in tribal issues in the late 1990s, when she worked on the multi-state tobacco settlement.

Kagan worked on domestic policy at the White House from 1997 to 1999. She was the Clinton administration's lead on legislation to implement the settlement and worked closely with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), right after he served as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee

One significant document shows that Kagan was asked to clear a letter to McCain that opposed an amendment from then-Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Washington), a noted tribal foe. The White House said forcing tribes to collect state tobacco taxes was an attack on their sovereignty.

Other documents show that Kagan helped shape the Clinton administration's views on provisions of the bill that would affect Indian Country. She reviewed and cleared memos and Congressional testimony regarding taxation, sovereignty and tobacco cessation programs at the Indian Health Service.

The settlement bill, however, did not pass amid Republican opposition. Some of the documents refer to controversies raised by GOP Senators, including one about IHS programs.

The tobacco industry eventually agreed to a different multi-state settlement that essentially left out tribes.

Incidentally, many of the White House documents regarding taxation were written by Mary Smith, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma who has been nominated to a top post at the Department of Justice. Republicans have held up her nomination over complaints that she lacks tax experience.

Get the Story:
Kagan tested by 1990s battles over tobacco legislation (The Washington Post 6/4)
In Supreme Court Work, Early Views of Kagan (The New York Times 6/4)

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