Four tribes spent $45M on lobbying and PR firms
Monday, February 23, 2004

Four tribes spent more than $45 million on a lobbying firm and a public relations firm over a three-year period, The Washington Post reports. The amount was 10 to 20 times what other tribes spent and rivaled that of large corporations.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan (, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of California (, the Mississippi Band of Choctaws ( and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana ( hired Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist for the Greenberg Traurig firm who has close ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Abramoff then persuaded the tribes to hire Michael Scanlon's public relations firm. Scanlon is a a former press aide to DeLay.

According to The Post, the tribes spent $15.1 million on Abramoff on his firm. Scanlon received at least $31.1 million, the paper reported, based on contracts and documents provided by tribal members unhappy with the spending.

Audrey Falcon, the new chief for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, sent a letter ( to tribal members blasting the money her predecessors spent on Abramoff and Scanlon. "We have taken steps already to save our Tribe millions of dollars by replacing two lobbying firms that have charged our Tribe over $14 million!" she wrote. "That’s right: $14 million of your dollars was spent for lobbyists that yielded little or no results for our Tribe." The tribe has since fired its legislative director.

New leaders of the Coushatta Tribe are equally displeased. They say the chairman and one council member spent $14 million alone on lawyers and lobbyists. The Post cited an internal tribal memo that said the tribe spent $32 million on unspecified "lobbying" costs since 2001. Coushatta chairman Lovelin Poncho and council member William Worfel allegedly resigned earlier this month but both deny they stepped down.

There are no new leaders at the Agua Caliente and Mississippi Choctaw Tribe to question the spending. The Agua Caliente Tribe once donated $100,000 to the Republican Party to lobby Interior Secretary Gale Norton on land-into-trust regulations that she later rescinded. The Choctaw Tribe reportedly pays Abramoff $500 an hour.

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