HELENA, MT – Late last month, Indian Country Today reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Alaskan Native Corporations ineligible for federal coronavirus relief money. President Trump’s Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney is under investigation for allegedly leaking tribal nation government data and attempting to divert CARES Act relief funding to Alaska Native Corporations. Congress allocated the relief funds to help federally recognized tribal nations, but the Trump administration instead tried to award Alaska Native Corporations — one of which Sweeney used to work for and still has financial interest in and one represented by her husband.
“It’s abundantly clear that corruption and the Trump administration go hand in hand — and Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney looking out for her and her husband’s own special interests instead of people’s well-being is case in point. Months into a deadly pandemic that is affecting the livelihood of millions and has disproportionately impacted Native American communities, Sweeney was more concerned with how her own interests could benefit”, said Western Values Project Director Jayson O’Neill. “This investigation into Sweeney’s shady dealings needs to be resolved as her actions may have very well been illegal. But until there is real accountability within Trump’s Interior Department, the culture of corruption will continue to cost communities.”
Last year, the top three Alaska Native Corporations (ANC) — two of which are either a former employer or a current client of the Sweeneys — have gross revenues in the billions. In just the past year, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation took in $3.7 billion in gross revenues, Bristol Bay Regional Corporation grossed $1.7 billion, and NANA took in $1.6 billion according to new reporting by Indian News Today.
Many of the same ANCs that the Trump administration tried to deem eligible for tribal nation government funds received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding.
Read more about Tara Sweeney’s corruption below:
Sweeney and Interior Secretary Bernhardt were among a small group of Interior officials that advised the Treasury Department to make Alaska Native Corporations eligible for the tribal government rescue funding. After tribes were forced to file suit over the eligibility determination, sensitive tribal government data was leaked by Trump officials.
View the full Western Values Project research report here.