Beltway pro alleges Indian group is discrediting him

WASHINGTON, DC: Jim McCarthy, a DC-based PR pro, is accusing the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs of initiating a campaign to discredit him.

WASHINGTON, DC: Jim McCarthy, a DC-based PR pro, is accusing the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs of initiating a campaign to discredit him.

WASHINGTON, DC: Jim McCarthy, a DC-based PR pro, is accusing the

Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs of initiating a

campaign to discredit him.



The situation, which has devolved into an exchange of accusations and

insults, has resulted in McCarthy being virtually driven out of

business.



McCarthy heads McCarthy Communications, a firm that specializes in

public policy issues for Indian tribes. In July, some members of

Michigan’s Saginaw-Chippewa tribe, one of the wealthiest in the nation,

hired him to help eliminate interference from the government and to

point out the failings of BIA head Kevin Gover. The campaign, according

to McCarthy, resulted in heightened press scrutiny of Gover.



The group’s complaint involved Gover’s replacement of all nine members

of the Saginaw-Chippewa tribal council, a governing body established by

the US Constitution that is monitored by BIA. Gover, a member of

Oklahoma’s Pawnee tribe, said he acted reluctantly when the tribe’s

council refused to step down after it had been voted out of office, and

the newly elected council asked him to intercede.



Phil Baker-Shenk, an attorney who represented the original tribal

council members, said Gover’s action is ’virtually unprecedented in

modern times.’ Gover acknowledges there may be legitimate legal

questions over his action but notes that it has been upheld by two

federal courts.



McCarthy said BIA initiated a smear campaign against him two days after

the new council members took office last month. He claims BIA

distributed copies of his contract with the Saginaw-Chippewa tribe to

the national media and other tribes in an effort to harm his reputation

among clients, an allegation Gover denies.



McCarthy knew that challenging Gover, a political appointee, had its

share of risks. His contract asked for an up-front retainer of dollars

100,000 and read, ’Broad risks exist, too, for the reputation and future

of our company. The strength and influence of the BIA leadership cannot

be underestimated and that can have a profound impact on ability to

conduct business in the Indian Country in the future.’



As a result of his confrontation with BIA, McCarthy said ’the phones

have stopped ringing,’ and he now has only two clients. In addition,

McCarthy said that ’almost overnight’ he had to vacate the office his

agency shared with another firm that also specializes in Indian affairs.

Several of the other firm’s clients insisted any continuing relationship

with McCarthy could result in a loss of business, an allegation which

McCarthy considers ludicrous.



Despite the ordeal, McCarthy will continue to bring scrutiny to the BIA

’as long as I have a breath left in me.’



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