Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | Politics

Rep. Dicks announces retirement after 36 years on Capitol Hill





Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Washington), who played a key role in funding for Indian programs, announced his retirement after 36 years on Capitol Hill.

Dicks is a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee. He served as ranking Democrat on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, where he advocated for more funding for Indian health, education and law enforcement programs.

But Dicks also used his position to thwart the Cobell trust fund lawsuit. He repeatedly criticized the plaintiffs' attorneys for their handling of the case and he eagerly supported the Bush administration's efforts to curtail a court-ordered historical accounting of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

During the appropriations process, Dicks often embraced the views of former Interior deputy secretary J. Steven Griles, who was later convicted on corruption charges as part of the Jack Abramoff scandal. Dicks and other lawmakers reduced funding in a way that would prevent a full historical accounting of the IIM trust.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, citing appropriations riders inserted by Dicks, eventually ruled that the Interior Department could conduct a scaled-back historical accounting. The decision eroded the high-dollar figure that the Cobell plaintiffs' believed was rightfully owed to Indian beneficiaries.

President Barack Obama settled the case for $3.4 billion.

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Rep. Norm Dicks retiring after 36 years in Congress (The Seattle Times 3/2)