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Editorial: Bush administration proposes to settle nothing
Friday, March 9, 2007
Filed Under: Cobell | Opinion

Here we go again. After delaying a response for more than a year, the Bush administration has finally offered to "settle" the Cobell trust fund case and resolve more than a century of mismanagement by pretending it never existed.

The March 1 letter from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not only a bad proposal, it's an insult. The two Cabinet members have the gall to say the administration "is willing to invest up to $7 billion" in Indian Country.

Excuse us, but it's not your money to "invest." It's money that belongs to Indian people and is owed to them for the federal government's failure to do the job properly.

Oh, did you catch that? Kempthorne and Gonzales say the administration will invest up to $7 billion over ten years.

They aren't even promising an actual dollar amount! What is this, deal or no deal? BITAM sounds like a well-thought out plan compared to this embarrassment contained in three pages of empty action. At least BITAM had charts.

And even without committing to a settlement figure, we have Jim Cason, the top non-Indian in charge of Indians, taking issue with Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), who called the offer an "admission" of a multi-billion dollar liability.

But no, Cason says the offer isn't an admission of anything. Talk about arrogance.

The proposal is even more laughable considering that Special Trustee Ross Swimmer loves to remind Indian Country every chance he gets that the Cobell lawsuit is only about an accounting. It's not about asset mismanagement, land mismanagement, rights-of-way or other issues, he has repeatedly said.

Then why does it seek to end more than 250 tribal trust cases, pay for trust reform, transfer all management duties to tribes and individual Indians and eliminate the government's liability? That's a lot of work just for an accounting.

"The Kempthorne-Gonzales letter is a license to steal from Indian people. And, while the Interior Department has a long and notorious history of cheating, swindling and robbing from Indian people, I in all my years have never heard of such a brazen attempt to rob us of our livelihood," said Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the case.

It sounds like Swimmer should stick to stuffing papers in that cave in Kansas, which is where this waste of space should end up too. Let's hope Sen. Dorgan and other members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee reject it and have the courage to pay Indian people what they are rightfully owed.

Settlement Letter:
Kempthorne-Gonzales to SCIA (March 1, 2007)

Elouise Cobell Statement:
NO THANKS, WE’LL TAKE THE ACCOUNTING, INDIAN PLAINTIFFS SAY (March 8, 2007)

Sen. Dorgan Statement:
DORGAN SAYS BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFERS $7 BILLION TO SETTLE SUIT OVER MISMANAGEMENT OF INDIAN TRUST FUNDS (March 6, 2007)

Other Documents:
Alberto Gonzales Testimony (March 1, 2005) | SCIA Views and Estimates (March 1, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

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Bush proposes $7B trust fund settlement (3/8)
Dorgan and Thomas disagree on Cobell settlement (1/22)
Jodi Rave: Cobell sees hope for case in new year (1/20)
NewStandard: Tribes turn to court over trust funds (01/08)
Jodi Rave: Interior mum on class action tribal suit (01/05)
Tribes file class action trust accounting lawsuit (01/04)
Cobell honored by AARP Magazine for trust work (12/19)
New Cobell judge knows Interior Department (12/13)
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Cobell wins Impact Award from AARP Magazine (12/7)
Editorial: No hope for a Cobell-only settlement (12/1)
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Editorial: Another good shot emerges for Cobell (11/10)
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Editorial: End federal management of trust (11/1)
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Cobell attorney criticizes Bush changes to bill (10/27)
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Cobell issues statement on settlement talks (7/25)
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Editorial: Lamberth too honest in trust fund case (7/17)
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Editorial: Give Kempthorne a chance on Cobell (6/15)
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Editorial: Dirk Kempthorne arrives in Washington (6/13)
Swimmer calls Cobell settlement 'reparations' (5/8)
Cobell: Settle Indian trust fund case for billions (4/20)
Cobell to appear on C-SPAN Washington Journal (4/12)
Cobell renews call for receiver as court hears case (4/12)
Cobell vows fight to resolve trust fund lawsuit (4/10)
Cobell plans big showing on day of court hearing (4/4)
Jodi Rave: Tribes alarmed at trust reform initiative (4/3)
Cobell addresses trust fund mismanagement (3/30)
Ross Swimmer: Indian trust not about mismanagement (3/29)
Norton denies fraud or major problem with trust (3/29)
GAO report warns of billions in lost oil, gas royalties (3/29)
Witness list for hearing on Indian Trust Reform Act (3/28)
DOI trust reform meeting set for Portland, Oregon (3/24)
Kempthorne faces hot issues at Interior Department (3/21)
DOI pressed for more clarity on trust initiative (3/3)
Congress urged to settle Cobell lawsuit for billions (03/02)
Listening Lounge: Joint hearing on Cobell v. Norton (03/01)
Interior hits the road with new trust reform initiative (02/08)
Jodi Rave: Garcia calls for settlement of Cobell (2/3)
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