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
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
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.’