Quapaw Tribe paid $50,000 to senior Trump administration official for 'research'

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Quapaw Tribe hired a former Department of the Interior official who then joined the Trump administration, The Nation reports.

The tribe hired Jim Cason, who previously worked at the department during the George W. Bush era, as an "independent contractor," according to documents obtained by ProPublica. For his "consulting" work, he earned $50,000 in less than five months but didn't provide additional information about the extent of his "research" for the tribe.

In a series of posts on Twitter, ProPublica pointed out that the tribe filed a trust mismanagement lawsuit against Interior when Cason worked there and that he brought up the tribe during a breakout session at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference in June.

According to the documents obtained by ProPublica, Cason's work for the tribe began in the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign and ended after Donald Trump won the presidency. He was spotted back at the department in Washington, D.C., as early as January 24, four days after Trump took office, according to an employee who told Indianz.Com at the time.

Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior, is seen on the far right at the mid-year session of the National Congress American Indians in Uncasville, Connecticut, on June 13, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Cason began serving as the "acting" Deputy Secretary -- the second-in-command at the Interior -- but the new administration did not officially announce his employment until May 26, when it said his title was "Associate Deputy Secretary," a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Three weeks later, Cason was at NCAI's meeting in Connecticut, where he said Quapaw Chairman John Berrey was working with an group of fellow leaders about ways in which tribes could exercise more control of their own lands.

Though the group appears to be ad-hoc in nature, Cason urged others to contact Berrey with ideas and "help us figure out a way that we can be more responsive."

Indianz.Com has asked the tribe if it would like to comment further on the report, which first appeared online last month but is gaining renewed attention after the influential Turtle Talk blog posted the link to it on Friday. The story appears in the current issue of The Nation magazine and it focuses at Cason's influence at the department.

“From what I can tell, Jim Cason is running the show,” a former employee told The Nation. “I think he’s overseeing everything.”

David Bernhardt, who worked alongside Cason at Interior during the Bush years, is now serving as Deputy Secretary at Interior. He was confirmed by the Senate in July.

Read More on the Story:
The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness (The Nation December 4-11, 2017, Issue)

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