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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. McCAIN:

S. 1312. A bill to amend a provision relating to employees of the United States assigned to, or employed by, and Indian tribe, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, today I am introducing legislation to address conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts involving former Federal officers and employees who represent Indian tribes.

The legislation amends the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEA), 25 US.C. 450i(j), by limiting the exemption from Federal conflicts of interest laws. Current law exempts from the conflicts laws former Federal officers and employees who ``are employed by Indian tribes'', thus permitting these former Federal employees immediately to lobby the departments they just left and act as agents and attorneys for the tribes. The legislation limits this exemption only to those former Federal employees who are employees of Indian tribes pursuant to self-determination contracts or self-governance compacts.

The bill clarifies what I believe was the intent of the Congress, as evidenced by House Report No. 93-4600 that accompanies the ISDEA, that Federal employees who work in an area that is contracted or compacted to a tribe be able to continue performing their jobs if they become employees of the Indian tribe for purposes of working in the contracted or compacted area. The exception that was made to the conflict laws appeared to have been made in response to the recognition that when Indian tribes took on the responsibility of operating programs traditionally fulfilled by the Federal Government, they would need experienced individuals to fulfill contracted or compacted functions.

Former Federal employees who leave the Federal Government and go to work as outside lawyers or lobbyists for Indian tribes, however, would, under the legislation I am introducing today, be subject to the same conflicts of interest restraints that apply to other former Federal employees who work for other entities. The bill takes effect one year after enactment to allow time for people to familiarize themselves with the new law and for tribes to seek alternative representation if necessary.

Limiting the waiver of conflicts laws in this manner proposed in this bill will address a problem identified by the Inspector General of the Department of Interior. In a report dated February 2002, entitled ``Allegations Involving Irregularities in the Tribal Recognition Process and Concerns Relating to Indian Gaming, the IG laid out a number of contacts by former BIA and DOI officials, who left Federal employment to represent tribes at law firms, to the BIA regarding recognition matters that, but for the exemption from the conflicts rules, they would be barred from making. The IG suggested that these contacts were improper, but not illegal. These contacts were all made by former Federal employees who worked as outside lawyers and lobbyists for tribes. In his testimony before the Senator Committee on Indian Affairs earlier this year, the Inspector General again raised the issue of conflicts of interest and referred to a problem of a ``revolving door'' involving former Department of Interior officials. This legislation seeks to address that problem. I urge my colleagues to support it. I also ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 1312

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