News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 | Attorney continues legal battle in Meskwaki leadership dispute

Courier Staff Writer

TAMA --- An attorney for the Meskwaki tribal government deposed in 2003 plans to use investigations into a former lobbyist as ammunition in an ongoing appeal of the federal government's decision to recognize the tribe's current council.

Fred Dorr, who represents the losing side in the tribal dispute, also wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General's Office in Washington. In it, Dorr asks the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether there was criminal activity involved.

Dealings by larger Native American tribes with Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his former firm, Greenberg Traurig, have been investigated. The Meskwaki tribe and its association with the same lobbying firm, however, are not part of the investigation, said Tom Jochum, the Tama tribe's lobbyist in Des Moines.

Jochum called Dorr's efforts the sign of a "drowning man trying to save a dying client."

Dorr requested an oral argument in a case he filed in the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis. He filed a reply brief last week, mentioning the investigation of Abramoff. He also asked the court to take judicial notice of an Internet News report detailing a Meskwaki payment to a Republican environmental group.

Jochum noted both sides of the leadership dispute paid lobbyists and made donations to political officials during the power struggle on the tribe's settlement near Tama. The dispute began in March 2003.

Jochum said Abramoff, at best, had little to do with the leadership dispute.

The tribe did work with Michael Smith of Greenberg Traurig. When the contract with the firm expired, the Meskwaki tribe hired the Cornerstone Government Affairs lobby group. Smith took a job with that firm in June.

Jochum said the tribe also took Greenberg Traurig's advice and in June 2003 gave $50,000 to the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.

"That was something that was done at the recommendation of Greenberg Traurig and one that probably shouldn't have been done, though there was nothing illegal about it," Jochum said.

Dorr questions the donation because the advocacy group was formed in 1998 by Gale Norton before she became U.S. Secretary of the Interior, which oversees the government's relationship with American Indian Tribes.

Dorr added he finds it odd Aurene Martin, then acting assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of Interior, said she would take arguments on whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs acted properly in recognizing the current Meskwaki council. Martin affirmed the bureau's decision in December 2003 without his client's input, Dorr said.

Dorr is battling the government's decision to recognize the current council in federal courts. His reply brief states he represents Leo Dean Peters, chairman of the deposed council's election board.

Jochum said any claims the federal government acted less than honorably are false. The government simply allowed the Meskwaki people to vote for their leaders. Then the government recognized the tally of that vote. Martin's decision restored federal payments and allowed Meskwaki Bingo-Casino-Hotel to reopen.

"The fact is the federal government basically stepped aside," Jochum said.

The casino reopened under the current tribal government New Years Day 2004 after a seven-month shutdown. Since that time, the tribal government established a tribal court and broke ground on an addition that will double the size of the tribe's existing gaming operation and hotel.

Jochum said before the leadership dispute, the tribe never hired lobbyists but has since taken up the practice. The tribe has reaped federal payments, including appropriations of $5.5 million to help construct a Meskwaki high school and $390,000 to help fund a police force.

Contact Jessica Miller at (319) 291-1581 or


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