Mitt Romney

Romney Hosts Tribal Leader Fundraiser

Rob Capriccioso

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney’s campaign has confirmed that the Republican candidate for U.S. president met with a group of tribal leaders on August 17.

“[I]t was a private finance event, and we don’t comment beyond that,” said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the campaign. He did not respond to questions on important details of the event, including what tribes the leaders were from, and how much they donated.

The fundraiser follows one by President Barack Obama’s campaign in July during which $1.5 million was raised from tribal leaders. A similar January Obama campaign event took in $1 million from tribal leaders.

According to multiple sources who are familiar with the Romney event, it was held in Boston. Many tribal leaders were invited, and approximately 12 were in attendance. Attendees reportedly stressed government-to-government relations and self-reliance that is outgrowth of federal-Indian policies of tribal self-determination and self-governance.

"I thought the meeting was very positive," said John Tahsuda, a tribal lobbyist with Navigators Global, who is advising the Romney-Ryan campaign on Indian issues, as he did for the McCain-Palin camp in 2008. "Governor Romney spent quality time with the tribal leaders, engaging in a real give and take discussion. He expressed his understanding and support of tribes' inherent sovereignty. He also expressed his support for and desire to strengthen the federal policy of self-governance"

“It was great to see Governor Romney set aside time to sit down and listen to a small group of tribal leaders at the very moment his campaign hit the afterburners and shot toward the convention,” added Philip Baker-Shenk, a partner with the Holland & Knight law firm, who focuses on Indian and tribal issues. “It will take many more such events for the Romney-Ryan campaign to catch up to the unprecedented Obama-Biden reelection campaign outreach to Indian country, but every journey begins with a big first step.”

Eric Eberhard, a law professor at Seattle University who previously worked as a staff director on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, agrees that Romney has much to do to catch up with Obama on Indian issues. “The campaign website does not include any references to tribes or to issues that are important to the tribes,” he said. “I do not know of any plans by the campaign to hold events on any Indian reservations, or to try to organize anywhere in Indian country.”

The Romney-Ryan campaign has not responded to questions on whether those moves are in the works, with Tahsuda saying, "I am not sure what the campaign's plans are for visiting any geographic area of the country, or for releasing any policy statements. That will probably be dictated by how the fall campaign unfolds."

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-California, helped the Republican National Committee and Romney-Ryan campaign organize the meeting, and was said to be working on it for at least a month, according to those familiar with her effort.

The lone American Indian in U.S. Congress, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, was supportive of the meeting, and he is excited to see what comes from it, according to his office.

Rep Don. Young, R-Alaska, and chair of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, is confident that the Romney-Ryan campaign is developing a sound tribal affairs policy paper with self-determination as a guiding principle, according to his office.

“Rep. Young is pleased that Governor Romney is taking the time to meet with tribal leaders from across the nation,” said spokesman Luke Miller. “Congressman Young looks forward to what a Romney-Ryan administration would mean for tribal self-determination.”

Earlier in the month Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to be his running mate. Ryan’s record on Indian issues is respected by some in Indian country, while scrutinized by others. Most agree that his record on Indian issues is stronger than that of Romney. Ryan’s wife, Janna, has been reported in the press as having some Chickasaw heritage, although that has not been backed up by the campaign or those close to her yet, and she is not an enrolled citizen.

“Now that Representative Ryan has joined the ticket there may be some emphasis on the issues that are important to the tribes, but as far as I know that has not happened yet,” Eberhard said. “Ryan has only been on the ticket for [a short time] and may not have had time to focus on tribal issues, but with his familiarity with tribes in Wisconsin and Oklahoma, along with his voting record in the House, he probably has a better grasp of tribal issues than Governor Romney does and may be more receptive to working with the tribes.”

The Romney-Ryan ticket also has a lot of work to do in order to catch up with the Republican McCain-Palin ticket of 2008 in terms of its outreach to Indian country.

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rezzdog's picture
Submitted by rezzdog on
Has anyone been able to put their finger on the exact nature of Romney's interest in Indian country other than for money? I don't think I have heard anything yet. Would he, for example be in favor of resource rich tribe's being able to attract a more international money market for their resource developments? Would he allow Tribe's to sell minerals to international markets (markets that would pay more than the U.S. based companies do?).

unique's picture
Submitted by unique on
If the money isn't flowing From Romney TO the Tribes, then tell him to go away. If wasicu had a picture in the dictionary - his photo would be right beside the entry.

osiyo11's picture
Submitted by osiyo11 on
Have heard nothing. Was actually a little surprised he is making efforts to gain support from any tribal officials or leaders. I should not have been. He has the business savvy to talk well about money making on a business level. We need more than that. Also I am not aware of what the answers to your questions might be from the Obama administration. Really good points you made. Thanks

osiyo11's picture
Submitted by osiyo11 on
Yes------It seems obvious to me that his primary purpose is to gain power to give more to himself and wealthy friends. I have seen no indication that he has any interest in environmental issues other than deregulate industries that are already killing us. What does he care? I see no indication that he has any interest in understanding anything that does not advance his own status. In my opinion we have more than enough of his kind.

mikevandyke's picture
Submitted by mikevandyke on
Mormons have always been interested in Indians, Hawaiians and Mexicans. Where Catholics and other christians only cite the one true god and his son coming from the Middle East, Mormonism is more insidious because their scripture gives them first title to the land through inheritance. Indians and Whites were all one people, a lost tribe of Israel but one group went wild and turned their eyes from God and became dark skinned as punishment. Leaving the whites to build Cahokia, Hopewell, Poverty Point, Macchu Picchu, Tenochtitlan, and every other great American culture. That stuff is way more insidious and dangerous than any Catholic or Protestant mumbo jumbo (Magic Zombie protects you from a red guy with horns). They use that Lammanite and Nephite stuff to play into the brainwashing that already exists among Mexicans: To be white, although phenotype says otherwise. Giving credit to the whites (Tribes of Israel were not white but most christians don't make any sense) for building the Mounds of Cahokia, Hopewell and Poverty point as well as the Pyramids of Mexico and South America. Tieing it all up in a nice pretty bow by telling Mexicans they are not only white people who were turned brown by some past sin, but they are have a birthright to rule the world, are favored by God above all others and took part in building a New Jerusalem and holy land, one of the first and most successful civilizations on the planet (which they did anyway, but they don't wanna hear the Indian version). I also have read, Islam is making a huge push into Central and South America.... We have to revive the native traditions faster than we have been...that's all I got to say. We have fortunately been able to keep Mexico brown...but most Mexicans are like Eagles who have been convinced they are Penguins...they don't know they have the power to fly and hunt. Lately though...with the bad world economy, many immigrants from Asia and the Middle east have been moving in...not to speak of all the white American retirees and new agers.... Oh jeez...ain't it bad enough to be preyed upon by religious and skin color issues that make Mexicans kill each other over title, office and drug we gotta have a bunch of Invaders move in... I wish the Mexican people would WAKE the FLUCK UP!