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Dorgan promises to continue Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation
28 November 2005

BISMARCK (UTN) - U. S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) promised to continue the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation into the activities of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates.

      Dorgan told members of the press November 28 in Bismarck that he will not recuse himself from the process despite intimations in a recent news story that he supported legislation to receive tribal campaign donations. He called the suggestion "completely and demonstrably false."

Senator Byron Dorgan
U. S. Senator Byron L. Dorgan at a press conference November 28 in Bismarck, ND. United Tribes News photo.

      Dorgan said that an account carried by North Dakota newspapers over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend was inaccurate and misleading. The story was put together to make things appear in a way that they weren't. He came forward to correct the errors, he said.

      The Senate committee is investigating allegations that Abramoff and his associates bilked Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars.

      The Dorgan press conference, held at United Tribes Technical College, was attended by over 100 students and college staff members.

      "North Dakota's tribal leaders support Senator Dorgan and his leadership, particularly as he seeks the truth on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about such lobbyists as Jack Abramoff," said David M. Gipp, UTTC president. "It's the hope that this will lead to some reform of those who would take advantage of Indian Tribes."

      The full and complete text of the Dorgan November 28 statement follows:

TEXT OF STATEMENT BY U.S. SENATOR BYRON DORGAN (D-ND)

      Last Friday there was a sensational, but inaccurate front page news story that demands a response.

      The story suggested that Jack Abramoff, a high profile Washington Republican lobbyist -- a man I've never met -- had arranged for campaign contributions to be made to me in exchange for my signing a letter to Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to extend a program that his clients supported.

      That's completely and demonstrably false.

      Senator John McCain and I are investigating Mr. Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon (who recently pleaded guilty) of bilking Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars. And we have uncovered a disgusting tale of greed and outright fraud. It's not surprising that from the sleazy world of those who defrauded the Indian tribes, we have seen bogus charges against those of us who are doing the investigating. But our investigation will continue.

      The weekend headline story suggested I signed a letter in support of the "Cost Share Indian School Construction Program" as a favor to Abramoff, a man I had never met, in exchange for political contributions. The letter the reporter referred to was dated February 2002.

      In fact I had always supported that program. For example in August of 2001, six months earlier, I had already pledged my strong support for this program in a letter to the Chairman of the Wahpeton-Sisseton Indian Tribe. The Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota had also applied for school funding through that program in 2001. And I supported their efforts.

      So, if the written evidence shows that I supported the program the year before the letter this reporter used to justify his story, my support for this program clearly cannot be connected to this lobbyist, his client's interest in the Cost Share program, or campaign donations.

      The story also alleges that an employee of mine contacted the Interior Department to advance the program presumably on behalf of Abramoff. Not true. That person worked for the Chairman of the Interior Subcommittee, not me, and he contacted them to express reservations, not support.

      I've seen these types of inaccurate claims before and the Washington Post, where they were last printed, retracted them when they learned the truth.

      The fact is, I have never received a campaign contribution from Mr. Abramoff, but I have received reelection support from Indian tribes long before Mr. Abramoff got involved with Indian tribes. They supported me because I have worked hard in the Senate to address the crisis that exists in education, housing and health care on Indian reservations.

      Indian schools are in serious need of repair and rebuilding, and the Cost Share program allows tribes to get earlier funding if they agreed to pay 50% of the costs from Tribal funds. The Bush Administration wanted to shut the program down. I disagreed. The program saves the federal government money and gets results. That makes sense to me.

      I should note that we succeeded in getting funding from this program for the Three Affiliated Tribes BIA School in North Dakota this year.

      I'm not surprised that some will try to spin a web of deception to smear and discredit those of us who are investigating the wrongdoing of Abramoff and others in this scandal. But I'm not going to let it stand.

      The suggestion in the story that I may have supported that school construction program because of Jack Abramoff or because of campaign contributions from Indian tribes is clearly and despicably wrong.

      The investigation that Senator John McCain and I have been conducting shows that Abramoff and Scanlon with the help of some others created an almost unbelievable scheme to defraud Indian Tribes. We are determined to continue that investigation to its conclusion.

      North Dakotans who would like to view all of the documents and watch the hearings Senator McCain and I have conducted during this investigation can access all of that information at www.Indian.Senate.Gov.

 

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