Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thank You For Smoking, Part Tali: Follow the Money

We got some feedback about our blog regarding the mysterious smoke shop subsidy, which puts money in the pockets of people who sell cancer sticks in our communities.  Seems pretty stupid, but it passed the Tribal Council unanimously, and Baker’s treasurer was there to support it.  So someone said we should follow the money.  As in, whose pockets does that $725,000 land in?  And lo and behold, the mystery became much clearer.

First, remember that the money helps two classes of people:  1) the people who lease their land to smoke shop owners, who now have most of their rent guaranteed, and 2) the smoke shop owners themselves, who now don’t actually have to pay their own rent. 

So a closer look shows that one of the proponents of giving Cherokee money to cancer peddlers instead of senior citizens was Chuck Hoskin, Jr.  And it turns out that his dad, Chuck Hoskin, Sr. owns land that is leased to a smoke shop.  Cha-ching!  What a great deal!  Chuck Jr. didn’t even recuse himself, he just voted to have the Cherokee Nation send money to his dad.  Pretty sweet.  It must be tough for Chuck Sr., making ends meet.  He’s already having to work two full-time jobs (State Rep and Chief of Staff).  The Nation was only paying Chuck Senior $130,000 this year, and the State of Oklahoma was chipping in a mere $38,400. 

While that’s not bad for a guy who lives in Vinita but whose offices at both of these “full-time” jobs are in Tahlequah and OKC, he did manage to find a way to squeeze another few extra bucks out of the Nation.  Well played.

Who else?  Well, who else is close to Baker?  No one is closer, literally, to Baker than the guy whose job is to drive him around.  Billy Bob Dougherty was a campaign donor Baker hired to be his driver/special projects guy.

But guess what?  Dougherty also owns a smoke shop and apparently needs a second check from the Cherokee Nation. Thanks to his boss/co-pilot, he doesn’t have to pay rent at his store anymore, according to the Cherokee Phoenix. 

So, he can continue selling low-tax tobacco, because of course it is in the Nation’s best interest to do so.  And the idea of giving the Cherokee people’s money away to people who sell tobacco, instead of say, that elder stipend we’ve be waiting by the mailbox for, is not just a stupid idea.  It’s starting to look like a corrupt one.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thanks For Smoking

Last month, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted unanimously to pass a law that subsidizes the sale of tobacco.  So, the Nation is now in the position of buying billboards that say “Tobacco Stops With Me,” while at the same time paying people to sell you tobacco at below-market prices.

Here’s the deal: The Cherokee Nation is going to take $725,000 of the Cherokee people’s money and give it to the people who own the land that the smoke shops sit on.  Which means that the people who run the smokeshops don’t actually have to pay their rent anymore, the Cherokee Nation is picking up the tab.

Which is actually good news, because if the Cherokee Nation has close to a million bucks to subsidize the people who sell us cancer sticks, we’re sure that means they’ve already fully-funded health care and college scholarships, and of course, eyeglasses and dentures.   

We’re glad there are no longer any social problems that need to be addressed in the Cherokee Nation, and we anxiously await the roll-out of subsidies for folks at liquor stores and perhaps the fine folks at Hostess because the price of Ding-Dongs is getting just a little too high for our diabetes-riddled communities.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kinship v. Kin. Who wins?

People keep emailing us more info on Bill John Baker and how he’s made his personal love for “the best President ever” B. Obama into Cherokee Nation’s official stance.  And of course, his defense of not-quite-Cherokee Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.  Someone sent us a link of Baker ‘splainin’ his affection for a woman who, as one blogger put it: …has usurped Indigenous identity, just as her ancestors stole the land and resources. It's a hostile act of genocide and it is not okay.”
Baker’s justification for backing faux-Cherokee Warren: “I wish every Congressman and Senator in the U.S. had a kinship, felt a kinship to the Cherokee Nation.” Check out Baker on camera in his own words:

Well, that sounds good.  But what if there were an actual Cherokee citizen who really had a kinship with the Nation?  Baker would really, really love that person, right? Right??
What if there was a Cherokee citizen from Westville running for Congress, who’s already won his party’s nomination in a district that encompasses almost all of the Cherokee Nation, including Bill John Baker’s house?  Well there is, and his name is Markwayne Mullin.
So how does Baker and the Cherokee Nation support this Cherokee (who happens to be a Republican, rather than Baker’s preferred brand)?  Well, Baker tells the Daily Oklahoman in an article published September 4 that the Cherokee Nation will “stay out of it,”-- "IT" being the race between Mullin and the Democrat Rob Wallace, who is not Cherokee. 
Which is all well and good, except that Wallace, the non-Cherokee candidate, had already cashed a $2500 check from the Cherokee Nation back on July 19th, about six weeks before Baker told the world that we weren’t going to take sides. 
Whoops! Whether that was a lie or a simple mistake, the Nation has officially taken sides AGAINST the Cherokee.  So, a non-Cherokee Democrat gets Baker’s undying support while a card-carrying Cherokee Republican gets thrown under the bus.  By the way, Mullin’s reports show no donation from his own tribe, even though his non-Cherokee opponent has already been to the bank.
Then, in September the Democrat, Wallace, attacked Mullin for taking money from the Cherokee Nation on stimulus projects while Mullin simultaneously denounced the stimulus.  A week later, the Cherokee Nation produced documents that helped Wallace’s cause and slammed the Cherokee citizen, Mullin. 
So, let's go back to that video and take a look at what is really going on here. What it boils down to is that Baker supports Elizabeth Warren not because she has a “kinship” to the Cherokee Nation, like he says, but because she is a Democrat.
And Baker goes out of his way to go against Markwayne Mullin, EVEN THOUGH he is Cherokee, because he is a Republican.
No matter what your political affiliation: if you judge by actions, you might think being Democrat was more important to Baker than being Cherokee.  And it puts the Cherokee Nation in the position that if a tribal citizen gets elected to the U.S. Congress, his own nation will have fought him every step of the way.  
And if Mullin’s elected, every member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation will be a Republican and the Cherokee Nation will be on the record as having pointedly backed Obama and all the Democrats our congressional delegation ran against.  That's not a great position to be in when most of the Nation’s budget comes from federal funds.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crossing the (Party) Line, Part Tali

Thanks to a Cherokee Truth reader for this video submission of Mr. Baker on camera at the Democratic National Convention.

When you watch this, for whom do you think Baker is speaking? Himself or for the entire Cherokee Nation? Regardless of your political affiliations, do you think this is appropriate behavior or good government to government relations for a sitting Chief who must deal with politicians on both sides of the political spectrum?

We'll be back on Monday.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Crossing the (Party) Line

Yesterday we talked about the quick response of Chief Baker to a disgusting stereotypical sports chant some Republican campaign staffers used to mock Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
What wasn’t clear is Baker’s involvement in the Democratic Party and what it means to the Cherokee Nation.  Thankfully, the Cherokee Phoenix, just 20 days after the closing of the Democratic National convention, has given us this update on what Baker was up to in North Carolina.  
Chief Baker at DNC
Baker was a delegate and got to speak on TV and to the entire convention.  Besides saying that Obama was the best president ever, Baker got to show off his awesome ribbon shirt and ability to read, in halting English, what was written on the card in front of him.  He said, “To stand on a national stage as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and cast my delegate vote for President Obama on behalf of the state of Oklahoma helped shine the national spotlight on the Cherokee Nation.”

Reading between the lines, what really happened here is that the national spotlight showed the Cherokee Nation endorsing Obama.  Who happens to be the least popular politician in Oklahoma right now.  In a state where our state house of representatives is overwhelmingly Republican, our state Senate is overwhelmingly Republican, our Governor is Republican, both our U.S. Senators are Republican and every Congressman is Republican except for the one who is retiring and who might be replaced by a Republican Cherokee Nation citizen who calls Obama a socialist. 

Well, Obama's BIA and Department of Interior leaders definitely respect the UKB’s sovereignty, letting them take land into trust inside Cherokee Nation's jurisdiction when every other president (Democrat & Republican) has preserved the Cherokee Nation’s territory.  And Obama definitely supports the Freedmen’s sovereignty, when every other president has agreed that the Cherokee Nation has the right to determine their own citizenship. 
So what is it that makes Mr. Baker say Obama is the best president ever?  Could it be that they gave Baker a microphone and a spotlight?  Because it doesn’t seem like the Cherokee Nation as a whole is getting much out of this deal.
So the Cherokee Nation is now officially taking sides in U.S. partisan politics, and Baker is actively and publicly choosing the side that has exactly zero power with our state or possibly ANY of our federal representatives.  But hey, it makes our Chief feel good. And it only cost us $10,000 worth of dentures and eyeglass money for him to go, so that’s a good thing. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cherokee Chief Sticks Nose in Massachusetts Senate race

In the last few months, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts has been in hot water for saying something every third person Oklahoma seems to say:  “I’m Cherokee but I can’t prove it.”  Only she left out the “I can’t prove it” part on her bio and law school applications.  The candidate, Elizabeth Warren, has been called out on it repeatedly by her opponent, incumbent U.S. Senator Scott Brown.  Then in the last couple of days, some of Brown’s staff made fun of Warren with the tired ol’ “Tomahawk Chop” song that has featured prominently at Florida State and Atlanta Braves games over the last few decades. Click here to see the idiots from the Brown campaign for yourself.

Aside from watching white people act stupid and yell at each other (which is always entertaining), why do we care what happens when Bostonians sneak some Indian-mockery into the middle of their “Yankees suck” chants?

A very quick response, but not surprising considering Baker’s declared affiliation with the Democratic Party.  To some, it appears the chief is using the Cherokee Nation’s credibility to back his preferred Democratic candidate.  For instance, the blogger Polly’s Granddaughter says:

“Because Chief Baker was a Democratic National Delegate this year, I believe his statement was politically motivated and meant to give the Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Warren, a boost.  But what Elizabeth Warren has done is much worse, in my humble opinion, than any tomahawk chop Brown's people have done. By taking a Cherokee identity she has no right to, she has committed an act of colonization. She has usurped Indigenous identity, just as her ancestors stole the land and resources. It's a hostile act of genocide and it is not okay.
But Baker is willing to overlook that. He said, "I will not be silent when individuals mock and insult our people and our great nation." I think what he meant was he will not be silent when Republican individuals mock and insult our people and our great nation. At least that is what his actions say.”

To the point, Baker has been Chief since last October, during which there have been at least half a dozen Florida State University football games where 70,000 plus fans go to great lengths to do exactly what a couple of Brown supporters half-heartedly attempt: they “mock and insult” en masse. 
So Baker’s not really against that behavior, he’s against Republicans-- but he’s using hollow cries of racism and the credibility of the Cherokee Nation to help a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts.  

If Baker wants to take a stand we suggest he build up some street cred by taking on Florida State first.  Otherwise, Cherokees should consider that Baker is putting out news releases based on what the National Democratic Party wants him to say, rather than what is best for the Cherokee people who elected him.

It's OK--he's a Democrat.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Would You Trust this Man with $600 Million Part 2

Yesterday we talked about Bill John Baker’s new pick to assist the best CPA in Vian, Lacey Horn. The Cherokee Nation now has some help from another Sequoyah County CPA, Jody Reece-- who just happened to be in charge of either the finance department & grants administration in the 1990s when the Nation got busted for not auditing its own books, for using federal program funds illegally, and using tens of millions of dollars improperly. The details are in yesterday’s blog, and you will find the list is very long and very embarrassing for the Nation.

How embarrassing? Well, the result way back when of all the financial shenanigans during the Byrd/Baker/Reece era was that the Cherokee Nation wasn’t trusted with its own money and had to be put on an allowance, like a third grader.

According to the Tulsa World, because the Nation was in such bad financial shape and the feds had “substantial concerns about the tribe’s financial systems” so they gave the money to the nation “month-by-month until the tribe restores its financial credibility…”

That made Cherokee Nation officials upset at the time.  The Tulsa World quotes one as saying: “While it’s embarrassing and uncomfortable for us to have lost credibility by having weaknesses pointed out everywhere, we’ve got a plan in hand,” said the tribe’s executive director of finance and administration in a November 6, 1998 interview with the paper.

So who said that he was so embarrassed about what happened either under his own watch as the top finance guy or the controller, Jody Reece, who moved over to administer grants, which then somehow got used for purposes they weren’t supposed to be?

None other than Charles Head. Remember him? He was recently appointed by Baker to be the new Secretary of State for the Cherokee Nation.  Head and Reese were in charge of the Cherokee Nation’s finances during the worst financial crisis in the history of the Cherokee Nation.  And now Baker has brought them both back.

Justice Darrell Dowty (left) administers the oath of office to the newly confirmed Secretary of State Charles Head while Frances Head looks on.
Photo Courtesy Cherokee Nation

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Would You Trust this Man with $600 Million?

Jody Reece (Photo Courtesy Indian Country Today)
According to a news release on the Cherokee Nation's web site, "the Cherokee Nation has a new controller to manage its finances.  Jody Reece, of Muldrow, took on the job in late February."

Part of Reece's credentials are that, according to the news release, he worked at the Cherokee Nation from "1991 to 1997, starting as an accountant and eventually being promoted to controller, and again from 1998 to 1999 as director of grants administration and land management."

Well, those weren't exactly the glory years for the Cherokee Nation's accounting department and quite frankly-- those might be lines most people would leave off a resume!  Saying you were in charge of the Cherokee Nation finances during those years is a little like saying you were the guy in charge of the checkbook at Enron in 2000 or Worldcom in 2002.

But back to our point today: Mr. Reece (who is the second small town Sequoyah County CPA to be hired by Baker to run the Cherokee Nation's finances) has a pretty scary track record.

Mr. Reece was the financial boss during the years when Baker was chair of the executive and finance committee in the 1990s and Baker says "the Cherokee Nation will greatly benefit from his (Reece's) talents and expertise."

  • The Nation did not have "prepared financial statements for 1997 and 1998..." according to a federal audit conducted because the Nation didn't do any audits itself.  
  • An HHS audit of Reese's previous time concluded that the feds should have "substantial concerns about the tribe's financial accounting systems" and "used $1.9 million of IHS funds to cover deficits in other programs."

You should probably just read the articles in the Tulsa World yourself (after all, they were on the front page at the time and are hardly a secret), because they reveal too many financial screw-ups to list here, but we will provide some highlights during the Baker/Byrd/Reece financial era:
  • Incurring legal costs without contracts
  • Using taxpayers' dollars to fight the federal government
  • Improperly placing $16 million of federal funds in its general operating account
  • Improperly charging $88,000 to the (Interior) Department for legal services
  • Transferring federal funds of at least $16.1 million to the (tribe's) general operating fund without assurance that federal program expenditures had been incurred previously and were owed.
  • Inaccurate financial data in the financial status report submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Like we said, not exactly resume material, unless your next move was to Enron.   

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the consequences Cherokee Nation faced for the financial mismanagement that took place when Mr. Reece was in charge of the Cherokee Nation checkbook the first time.  Some of you might be surprised by one of the names that pops up - it's a guy who picked up right where Reece left off…

Monday, March 5, 2012

Severed CNB Head Speaks

David Stewart (Photo Courtesy KOTV)
When last we talked, on Friday, CNB’s board was in the process of putting their CEO on leave.  Turns out, this is a very busy board, because they had another meeting today and KOTV Channel 6 was there.

They got a confession from board chairman/funeral service guy Sam Hart saying that CNB “is in great shape, we’re making great strides, we’re in great shape.”

So if we’re in great shape, then why is the CEO taking a leave of absence?   Well, according to Channel 6, the CEO, David Stewart, says he was “placed on a 30 day leave of absence last Friday. He says he hasn't turned in his resignation, doesn't plan too, and he hasn't been asked to resign.”

So if he’s doing a good job and doesn’t want to go, and his boss, the chairman of the board says he’s doing a good job, what gives?

Channel 6 also says “In 2002, Cherokee Nation Businesses had around a thousand employees, this year it has more than 4,500."

"In 2002, CNB's revenue was close to $25-million, in 2012, it's more than $600-million. Stewart says if this is indeed the end of his time with Cherokee Nation Businesses that he's proud of how the company has grown.”

One person who can shed light on this personnel issue, and has, is the speaker of the council, Tina Glory-Jordan, who shared details of the agreement with the media.  She says that Stewart's situation is neither a “termination or resignation but is a ‘standstill agreement between mutual, voluntary partners…”

Friday, March 2, 2012

CNB Head Gets the Scythe

The Tulsa World is reporting that Baker’s new CNB board chairman/mortician is already taking on grim reaper status: Sam Hart announced today, a mere seven days after being named Chairman, that he and the rest of the board told David Stewart, who runs all of Cherokee Nation’s business operations, to leave his office on Wednesday and turned the keys over to Shawn Slaton, who has been with CNB for “more than a decade.”

The World quotes Hart as saying:  “CNB has established the Cherokee Nation as a strong economic engine in the region, and we look forward to continuing that legacy.”

They also point out that CNB made “record profits -- $87.54 million with nearly $600 million in operating revenues…” in 2010.

So if Stewart was in charge of establishing “the Cherokee Nation as a strong economic engine…” and is making “record profits,” why is he gone, exactly?

We've talked about Baker’s habit of replacing Cherokee citizens with a track record of success with his own folks, because, well, they are his own folks.  Among the highlights: having Hart step away from the embalming table to run all of Cherokee Nation’s businesses because he didn’t want the Cherokee who runs a $5 billion bank giving his advice, and replacing the treasurer of the Nation who won awards for excellence with someone who MIGHT be the best CPA in Vian.

It will be interesting to see where he pulls Stewart’s replacement from.