U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, have written to the chairman of a Senate subcommittee expressing concern over the panel's investigation of Alaska Native Corporation participation in a federal contracting program.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, has scheduled a hearing July 16, 2009, on government contracts awarded to Alaska Native Corporations under the Native American 8(a) program administered by the Small Business Administration.
"Your request for information from a selected few of the Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) in our home State of Alaska is of great concern to us," the Alaska senators wrote. "While we welcome fair and just oversight of the Native American 8(a) program to ensure its integrity, transparency and accountability, we are also concerned that ANCs will be inadvertently harmed."
McCaskill has sent letters to 20 ANCs asking for information regarding their business practices. She gave the ANCs 13 business days to respond. Murkowski and Begich said that's not long enough and asked for a "more reasonable" deadline of 30 business days. The lawmakers also invited McCaskill and her staff to visit rural Alaska in the near future so that they could see how vital ANCs are to Alaska's Native peoples.
Alaska Native Corporations were created under the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA), to settle the land claims of the indigenous people of Alaska. ANCSA entitled Alaska Natives to more than 44 million acres of land and a $1 billion settlement. It created 13 regional for-profit corporations, and more than 200 for-profit village corporations, as the entities with title to the land. In furtherance of the policies of ANCSA, Congress enacted legislation to encourage the participation of ANCs in the SBA's Section 8(a) disadvantaged business development program.