The White House has been tasked with disseminating trillions of dollars with virtually no oversight. Sure, the law Congress passed called for legislative oversight, but since when has Donald Trump been a strict rule servant? Now, a federal court has stepped into the argument.
The legislators ear-marked eight billion dollars from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package specifically for tribal governments. When the Alaska Native Corporations filled out the form, there was a line to write in the total tribal population or how many shareholders they had. The latter was clearly designed for corporations.
Even though Alaska Native Corporations has tribal members as shareholders, its profits typically do not go to tribal members. The business has extensive swaths of land and much of its profits comes from the sale of timber and oil.
Native Americans do own businesses. That is not unusual, but the stimulus package was supposed to be destined the Indian nations “so that they can continue essential government services.”
Representatives of the tribes have called for the Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney’s resignation and have filed lawsuits.
As an Alaska native and the former Vice President of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Sweeney might have been playing favorites. That company would have also been eligible for the stimulus package dollars as written in the law.
Fortunately, a federal court stepped in to block the White House from distributing stimulus funds to these two companies. Basically, they sided with the tribes.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said, according to The Buzzfeed News:
‘[Giving] dollars to for-profit corporations does not jibe [with the law’s] general purpose of funding the emergency needs of “governments.”‘
Senate Indian Affairs Committee vice chairman Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary David Bernhard. He said that the legislators meant the funds to only go to government entities not corporations:
‘[S]o that they can continue essential government service non-governmental tribal entities may well warrant relief under other CARES Act programs, but this funding in this title was intended for Tribal governments and should not be diverted.’
View the entire lawsuit here.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.
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