In The Hoop
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Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

Indian firm gets shout out
Just how big is Indian lobbying these days? Pretty big, if you go by a column published in today's issue of The Washington Post.

Judy Sarasohn, author of "Special Interests," reports on a "strategic alliance" formed between a "major" law and lobbying form and an Indian-owned consulting group. That high-powered firm is none other than Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Republican-friendly Washington, DC, group.

In 1999-2000 alone, for example, Akin and friends contributed a little over $200,000 in soft money to various Republican interests. In 2001 so far, the firm has contributed almost $60,000 to GOP lawmakers.

These contributions, according to Wilson Pipestem, a Democrat, make for "impeccable" Republican credentials. Pipestem, of course, is co-founder of Ietan Consulting, Akin's new partner.

The partnership, says Pipestem, will allow his firm to remain independent yet tap Akin's expertise for its clients, both new and old. Considering some of Ietan's customers -- the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, the Eastern Band of Cherokee of North Carolina, the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians of California and the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association -- the new alliance will probably pay off well.

Not that Pipestem and Co. need the help. On behalf of their clients, they were able to convince the National Indian Gaming Commission to stop trying to shut down various casinos for operating Class III games without a tribal-state compact. Pipestem's partner, Larry Rosenthal, is former chief of staff at the NIGC, by the way.

Not that the NIGC needed much convincing, though. Rebuffed by the court system, the $8 million agency in June issued some new regulations whose language is so curiously worded that it took Vice-Chair Liz Homer several minutes to explain to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee why they are being proposed over the objections of Chairman Montie Deer.

Did the explanation help? Not really. Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), committee chair and vice-chair respectively, were so astounded by Homer's legalese that they said they would have to "analyze" her lengthy statement. "There's a lot to get to," said Inouye, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Deer's explanation for his objection was equally unexplainable. Its a separation of power issue, he told Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Major alliance? Confusing regs? Baffled lawmakers?

It looks like the triple sevens are finally lining up for Pipestem, a Stanford University law graduate whose most recent claim to infamy was working for a law firm whose $600,000 bill to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma was the subject of a bitter intra-tribal dispute whose effects still linger today.

Still, there could be trouble ahead, since one of Ietan's other clients is Power Plant Entertainment. They are the folks behind the Seminole Tribe of Florida's heavily disputed (and under FBI investigation, if you believe the press) forays into Latin America. Under one of the alleged "deals," the tribe would only get 7 percent while Power Plant would get 73 percent of any profits of a Hard Rock Cafe in South America.

Ietan is also representing the Ewiaapaayp Tribe. (Who?) This tiny, 56-member (!) California tribe, also known as the Jamul Indian Village, wants to open a casino but Governor Gray Davis (D) last month asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs not to add 101 acres of land to their six-acre reservation.

The tribe says it needs the land to build support services for the casino, a $100 million partnership with Lakes-Kean Argovitz Resorts. That's about $18,000 per tribal member, according to In The Hoop's calculations.

"I remember when Indians used to be red," said a former BIA official of all the wheelings and dealings going on in Indian Country. "Now they are green."

Ietan, by the way, is named after an Otoe Chief, who, by the way, killed his brother. Or so historians say. Pipestem is a member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma.

Pipestem last month declined to talk to Indianz.Com about the NIGC rules.

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