Friday, May 3, 2013

David Hayes Departure from Interior Leaves a Mixed Legacy. More Negatives Than Positive?

Indian Country today has the story on David Hayes, who leaves the Department of Interior.

But when questioned on the negative part of Hayes’s Indian affairs legacy, the White House is mum. The negatives include a controversial relationship with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. A National Congress of American Indians draft memo from 2011 said it is “well known” that Feinstein worked with Hayes “in a secret drafting process” for legislation that would limit gaming, especially off reservation gaming, for some tribes. That work was later tied to theCarcieri legislative fix tribal recognition issue that stalled in Congress because some members see an opportunity to limit tribal sovereignty.
Hayes defends his work with Feinstein, telling ICTMN in December 2010 that under administrative policy he was required to respond to Feinstein’s request for drafting services. When asked if his friendship with Feinstein influenced his work, he said, “I think I have a reputation at this department and in Indian country that speaks for itself.”
Intended or not, Hayes’s work with the senator helped muddy a Carcierifix that would allow all federally recognized tribes to be treated equally under the law. “Senator Feinstein's fixation with the ‘off reservation’ tribal land has created an issue that has had at least two political outcomes: one, the perceived creation of political disagreement that blocks consensus and stymies the formation of policy on Indian land issues in Congress, and two, stops the common sense fixes forCarcieriand [the related case known as] Patchak,” says Joe Valandra, a tribal consultant. “I am not saying Hayes was monolithic on these issues, but his relationship with Sen. Feinstein and his very visible and influential position clearly had an impact.”
While Hayes was its Indian affairs guru, the Obama administration also missed a couple of key reporting deadlines—one on tribal employment and economic development and another on the number of federally recognized tribes. Experts from the department also failed to show up to a congressional hearing on tribal federal recognition. And the Cobell settlement—one of the administration’s jewels—is seen by many in Indian country as flawed because it gives so little to Indian beneficiaries and the separate tribal trust settlements are unequal in their treatment of tribes’ lawyers’ fees, so some less wealthy (and less savvy) tribes have paid a disproportionate share of the costs.  Plus, there are new revelations in Inspector General reports about questionable hiring and promotion practices under Echo Hawk and Hayes.


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