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Panel debates tribes and election campaign act

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Oversight hearing on Indian Tribes and the Federal Election Campaign Act, February 8, 2006.
Introduction - 3:43 - 872kb
Panel I - 23:18 - 5.3MB | Q&A - 31:03 - 7.1MB
Panel II - 20:59 - 4.8MB | Q&A - 27:58 - 6.4MB
Witness List | Webcast
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to examine tribes and the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Tribes aren't specifically mentioned in the law, witnesses from the Federal Election Commission said. So the FEC has had to interpret the law in light of the unique status of tribes as sovereigns with the ability to make political contributions.

That has led some to consider whether changes in the law are needed. While the FEC witnesses said they weren't coming to Congress with a specific proposal or endorsing one, they said they were open to clarification on the status of tribes under the campaign finance act.

Phil Hogen, the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, said more accountability is needed on the tribal side. He said tribal members are often the last to know about the political activities being undertaken on their behalf.

Ron Allen, the treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians, said tribes should not be singled out in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. "We feel there's nothing wrong with the system," he told the committee.

The panel also heard from James Thurber, a professor of lobbying and campaign studies at American University; and Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the committee chairman, indicated he had some problems with the existing system but he didn't say what types of changes might need to be made. He was a co-sponsor of the recent Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.

On the House side, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), who is calling for a moratorium on Indian gaming, introduced H.R.4696 to close the "loophole" on tribal political donations.

Get the Story:
McCain, Witnesses Weigh 'Indian Loophole' Fix (Roll Call 2/9)
Tribes defend exemption (The Las Vegas Review-Journal 2/9)
Congress considers curbs to Indian political donations (The Shreveport Times 2/9)
Tribes face tighter rules on political donations (The Arizona Republic 2/9)
POLITICS: Senators consider restricting Indian campaign donations (AP 2/9)

FEC Advisory:
Indian Tribes (February 2, 2006)

Federal Elections Commission Opinions:
Advisory Opinion 1999-32 (January 28, 2000) | Advisory Opinion 2000-05 (May 15, 2000) | Advisory Opinion 2005-01 (March 14, 2005)

More Advisory Opinion 2005-01 Documents:
Advisory Opinion Draft A and Draft B | Tribe's Request for Advisory Opinion

Relevant Links:
Federal Election Commission -
PoliticalMoneyLine -
Center for Responsive Politics -

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