Training: Tracking Tribal Cash, Influence to Washington

by July 15, 2014

NAJA-LogoThis training was originally held during the Native American Journalists Association’s (NAJA) annual conference in Santa Clara, Calif., July 10, 2014.

In Washington, money helps make just about every decision — every law that is passed, every regulation revised and every new or discarded agency policy.

From issues unique to Native Americans, such as tribal sovereignty and Bureau of Indian Affairs programs, to broader issues – natural resources management, environmental stewardship and immigration reform – that may have unique implications for Native communities, money is often the deciding factor.

Photo by Frank Swift

In the last two decades, tribes and Native communities have begun asserting themselves in Washington like never before. Dozens of tribes have made use of new economic prosperity to hire powerful lobbyists and write campaign checks that make lawmakers pay attention.

While many groups have been marginalized or shut out of the influence game by the rising cost, the Center for Responsive Politics data show that the pace of tribes’ and Native communities’ spending in Washington has only quickened. While much of the impetus for this new power in Washington is related to casino gaming, the conversation being driven by tribal money now goes far beyond that one issue.

This free training provided journalists with tips on how to tap into the world of money and influence in Washington, and how decisions affecting tribes and Native communities are being influenced — and who is trying to influence them.


Russ Choma is the money-in-politics reporter at the Center for Responsive Politics’

His series, “Blown Away: Tracking stimulus grants for renewable energy,” found that more than 80 percent of the first $1 billion in grants to wind-energy companies went to foreign firms, and many renewable-energy projects that received stimulus cash were built well before President Obama was even inaugurated.


Check out our resources below for tips, resources and best practices for covering the money trail from Native tribes to Washington.

PowerPoint presentation