On Friday, February 5, 2021, The Hill newspaper reported that the office of US Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) is seeking to block the nomination of Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) for Interior Secretary. Sen. Daines was further quoted by The Hill: “I’m not convinced the Congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West. Unless my concerns are addressed, I will block her confirmation.” Let’s take a look at the backstory for each member of US Congress.
Steve Daines was first elected to the US Senate in 2014. According to OpenSecrets.org, the top contributors to his campaigns have been: pension funds, politically conservative election committees, real estate professionals and organizations, and securities and investment firms, aka hedge funds. The top Political Action Committee (PAC) contributors have been: Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, Votesane, Susan B. Anthony List (anti-abortion interests), and Langlas and Associates (a general contractor). Steve Daines is an owner and principal of a business services consultancy Genesis Partners based in Bozeman, MT. Daines and his business have long-standing business ties to current Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, who previously served as the sole congressman for MT (2017-2021).
The Club for Growth PAC has a singular purpose quoted as: “The Club for Growth is a national network of over 250,000 pro-growth, limited government Americans who share in the belief that prosperity and opportunity come from economic freedom. The leading free-enterprise advocacy group in the nation, we win tough battles and we have an enormous influence on economic policy. The Club for Growth is the only organization that is willing and able to take on any Member of Congress on policy who fails to uphold basic economic conservative principles.”
It can be fairly simple to surmise that Sen. Daines has business in mind as the focal point of his representation of the State of Montana while in Washington, DC. His personal net worth according to Federal Elections Commission filings is anywhere between $13.4 million and $52.2 million.
We now turn to Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM). During the 2018 election cycle, Congresswoman Haaland was one of the first two Native American women elected to US Congress in history, along with Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS). For the 2020 election cycle after 46th US President Joe Biden assumed office, he nominated Congresswoman Deb Haaland as the first Native American in history to the Secretary of Interior office, and again another first as the only woman ever nominated for the same position. Deb Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo federally recognized tribal government. She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law, and former chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. She is a single mother of one adult child.
In 2016, Deb Haaland participated in a majority Native American protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). DAPL was rushed through the mandated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, and also rushed through the mandated US Army Corps of Engineers Record of Decision (ROD) permitting process. The protest coalesced around the then proposed right-of-way that ran through a parcel of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe was not noticed of the proposed right-of-way, and when tribal officials learned of the crossing, protested the EIS and permitting process, to no avail.
Thousands of Native Americans and Alaska Natives from around the country and likely other Indigenous Peoples from around the world converged upon Sacred Stone Camp adjacent to the parcel in question for most of 2016 and early 2017. National Guard troops and other local law enforcement agencies were directed to “protect” the proposed pipeline right-of-way, and regularly clashed with Sacred Stone Camp protestors, to the point of using water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas often in the middle of the night, during sub-freezing temperatures against the unarmed, unprotected, and exposed protestors.
At the time, non-Native congressional members, governors, and state legislatures from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Illinois, and many other middle US and western states abhorred the Sacred Stone Camp protest as illegal, unnecessary, and “standing in the way of development.” Each state sent National Guard troops and local law enforcement agencies to the protest site, eventually costing tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars, of which the US Army Corps is still needing to pay in part to this day in early 2021.
So, the question stands: is Native American Congresswoman and US Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland really a radical for supporting tribal sovereignty over crude oil pipeline development? Who in all honesty needs a reality check: a non-Native US Senator worth tens of millions of dollars, or the single mother, first-elected Native American woman to Congress, and first-nominated Native American woman to the Department of Interior Secretary office? Who would the general US public be more proud of? How many non-Native, wealthy members of Congress are there compared to single mother Native American women in Congress?