House Dems launch ethics investigation of Tara Sweeney’s support for CARES Act money for Alaska Native Corporations

Tara Sweeney at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention in October 2017. Her nomination to be assistant interior secretary for Indian affairs has been held up for months.
Tara Sweeney at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention in October 2017. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

Democrats on the U.S. House Resources Committee are asking for an investigation into Assistant Interior Secretary Tara Sweeney. This is a skirmish in the fight over whether Alaska Native Corporations are eligible for some of the $8 billion Congress set aside for tribes in its coronavirus relief bill.

The CARES Act leaves it up to the Treasury Department to allocate the funds, but the Interior Department was to consult with tribes. Tribal leaders have alleged that Sweeney is trying to give an advantage to Alaska Native Corporations.

Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva of Arizona and other Democrats wrote a letter to Inspector General Mark Greenblatt asking that he investigate whether Sweeney violated any ethics rules relating to Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. Sweeney was an executive at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation before she was chosen to be assistant Interior secretary for Indian Affairs, and she remains a shareholder.

The Interior Department says Sweeney treated Alaska Native corporations as eligible because that’s how Congress wrote the CARES Act. That’s what Alaska’s congressional delegation says, too. But tribes and many Democrats in Congress dispute that corporations are included.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Treasury Department from distributing any of the $8 billion to Alaska Native corporations. Treasury has not yet announced how it intends to allocate the fund.

Alaska Public Media

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