Cherokee leaders meet with President Obama
BY CHASE COOK World Staff Writer
Friday, July 20, 2012
7/20/12 at 4:00 AM
Read the court’s opinion on Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter.
Cherokee Nation leaders went to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby the president and U.S. Senate Democrats regarding issues facing the tribe.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Attorney General Todd Hembree visited with President Barack Obama one-on-one Wednesday during a Native American Roundtable discussion. The discussion revolved around the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, he said.
The court determined in a 5-4 vote the United States must pay back money owed to the tribes after both governments created a contract that asked the tribes to provide government services to their people in return for financial assistance from the federal government, according to the court opinion.
The Cherokee Nation stands to gain about $40 million to $50 million from this decision; the visit was about making sure the government pays quickly and how the tribe will be allowed to use the money, Hembree said.
The tribe plans to use the money to pay for housing, health and education funding, he said.
"What we wanted to do is to convey to the president is to make good on that judgment as good as possible," he said. "It went very well."
Baker's other lobbying efforts were focused on Senate Democrats during the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's retreat at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, said Jim Gray, the Cherokee Nation's communications and government relations director.
Attending the event cost the Cherokee Nation $30,400 in political contributions to the committee, according to the event's invitation.
It was an opportunity for Baker to speak with senators about issues facing Cherokees, such as water control and Internet gaming, Gray said.
It is typical for Cherokee leaders to meet with officials - especially during their first year - and lobby on these issues, he said.
Attending the bigger events such as the one at Martha's Vineyard isn't typical for Cherokee Nation leaders, Hembree said. This year an exception was made because of the number of issues facing Cherokee people, he said.
"The donations made weren't out of the ordinary," Hembree said.
The money for the invitation was approved May 31 by the Tribal Council's PAC subcommittee, which routinely deals with political contributions. About $180,000 was approved for contributions and split between Republicans and Democrats; that value includes $30,800 given to the Senate committee associated with the visit to Martha's Vineyard, according to Tribal Council minutes.
Original Print Headline: Cherokee leaders visit Obama, Senate Dems
Chase Cook 918-581-8386