The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is headquartered in Atmore, Alabama. Photo: Poarch Band of Creek Indians
Law | Politics | Trust

President Trump headed to Alabama to campaign for land-into-trust opponent

President Donald Trump is hoping his popularity will help a Senate candidate who fought the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on land-into-trust issues.

As Alabama's attorney general, Luther Strange tried to use the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar against the tribe. He claimed the tribe's lands weren't in trust because it was not "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934 -- its federal status wasn't formalized until 1984.

A federal judge and, later, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled against Strange. He waited too long to bring his challenge, the courts ruled.

Strange disagreed with the outcome. But even though he declined to appeal to the Supreme Court, his efforts emboldened other officials to try and impose taxes on the tribe's trust lands.

Although that endeavor was unsuccessful, the tribe remains concerns about attacks on its trust lands in the wake of Carcieri. The tribe has asked Congress to pass H.R.1532, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Land Reaffirmation Act, to protect its reservation from further encroachments, as well as a fix to the Supreme Court's decision.

As a result, the tribe has ramped up its lobbying expenditures in Washington, D.C., The Lagniappe Weekly reported. Based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the tribe went from spending $20,000 in 2007 to $400,000-plus in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in hopes of influencing lawmakers.

Strange has been temporarily serving in the Senate after Trump tapped Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General. He's now campaigning for the seat in hopes of securing a six-year term.

Strange's GOP rival is Roy Moore, a former chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court. He was removed from the post in 2003 and suspended in 2016 for defying court orders.

Moore doesn't have a great track record on tribal issues either. In a 2014 case involving the Poarch Band, he issued an unusual opinion in which he explained his views on sovereign immunity.

"The doctrine of tribal immunity, intended in part to shield Indian tribes from exploitation by outsiders, is not also a sword tribes may wield to victimize outsiders," Moore wrote in the 18-page writing.

Strange and Moore are facing off for the Republican nomination in a special election on Monday. The winner is expected to win the general election in December because of Alabama's strong Republican base.

"Will be in Alabama tonight. Luther Strange has gained mightily since my endorsement, but will be very close. He loves Alabama, and so do I!" President Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday morning.

Read More on the Story:
Trump, Though Not on Stage, Looms Large in Alabama G.O.P. Senate Debate (The New York Times September 21, 2017)
‘You’ve got to go’: How the GOP persuaded Trump to campaign in Alabama (The Washington Post September 20, 2017)
Poarch Band of Creek Indians continue efforts to clarify tribal status (The Lagniappe Weekly September 20, 2017)