UNCASVILLE, Conn. – “One Nation” the controversial new anti-sovereignty group based in Oklahoma, is quietly preparing a lobbying blitz on Congress Sept. 9 in support of the PACT bill banning Internet cigarette shipments, delegates at the fifth annual Intertribal Tax Conference were warned here Aug. 22.
Mark Van Norman, executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), added that the bill’s advocates were planning to use terrorism and national security as a rhetorical club.
NIGA and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) are jointly placing high priority on defeating S. 1177, the PACT bill, for Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act. The bill, which they say is beginning to move surprisingly quickly, would ostensibly prohibit the Internet sale of “contraband” cigarettes and ban them from the U.S. mail.
But the bill, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, includes what they see as a sneak attack on tribal sovereignty. It allows state attorneys general and even private persons with an Internal Revenue Service cigarette-manufacturing permit to bring action against alleged violators in federal court. This provision, said Van Norman, would be the first time in U.S. history that Congress has delegated its enforcement power over tribes to state officials.
“We can’t be regulated by the states,” he told the well-attended conference at the Mohegan Sun convention center.
The bill responds to the economic concerns of non-Indian convenience store and gas station operators, who have always complained about the price advantage reservation stores can offer on items that elsewhere carry heavy state taxes. The One Nation group lists the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, the Oklahoma Petroleum Marketers Association and the Oklahoma Grocers Association as some of its founders.
But this group, and other anti-Indian organizations, have gone beyond commercial interests to target the fundamental government status of Indian tribes. One Nation’s Web site calls it “the first and only advocacy-focused effort in Oklahoma and the U.S. created to ‘push back’ against the massive expansion of tribal authority and the various disruptions and inequities created by sovereignty-based policies.”
The anti-terrorism aspect, said Van Norman, referred to Palestinians with marriage ties to a member of the Seneca Nation who allegedly sold counterfeit cigarettes through her reservation and then, according to a federal complaint, might have sent profits to the Hezbollah group. “This is one tenth of one percent, or one one-hundredth of one percent of reservation sales,” he said, “but folks will pin that label on this bill.”
Eric Facer, an attorney with the Washington, D.C. firm of Facer & Stamoulas, added that the bill had not gone through hearings on its broad implications. “It undermines state-tribe tax compacts,” he said.
According to a fact sheet prepared by NCAI, “More than 200 tribal-state tax compacts in 18 states provide for revenue sharing and are working well.” The PACT bill, it said, would give states an incentive to change these compacts unilaterally.
Warning about the One Nation lobby day on Sept. 9, Facer told the delegates, “I urge you to read their material if for no other reason than to see what the enemy is thinking.””