Thanks to the U.S. Congress and the Trump Administration, Montana was awarded 1.25 billion dollars to assist state residents with COVID-19 recovery. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan support and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. This money was disbursed to each of the 50 states and territories to help vulnerable people and industries and was entrusted to each state governor to determine how to best spend it. But a recent legislative report shows that Montana Governor Steve Bullock is withholding these funds to the only Indian Tribe who endorsed Republicans in the last election.
Bullock has been busy fighting accusations of nepotism and fraud in recent weeks, as it’s been revealed that the Bullock Administration steered more than 14 million dollars to his brother’s company and more than 6.6 million dollars to his wife’s company. On top of these claims, a video recently surfaced that shows Bullock offering Montana’s natural resources to the Chinese government, leaving many to wonder exactly how far the governor would go to use public resources to personally benefit him and his loved ones.
Usually, Democrats can count on the various Indigenous Tribes in Montana to support them by significant margins. But the Crow Tribe – which currently is trying their hardest to save the state’s coal industry and keep Montana jobs – is a recent exception. Their chairman, A.J. Not Afraid, endorsed Donald J. Trump in the 2016 election cycle. The endorsement proved well-placed, as Trump soon established the Taskforce for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and started Operation Lady Justice to ignite a reinterest in cold-cases in missing Indigenous women who have been routinely overlooked and neglected by previous administrations. Trump is also a friend to coal, which maintains the Crow economy (Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, promised to “put a lot of coal companies and miners out of work”). Along with Trump, Not Afraid also endorsed Matt Rosendale in 2018, who was then running for U.S. Senate against Jon Tester.
It is certainly curious then that the Legislative Audit Division of the Montana Legislature released figures yesterday showing that Steve Bullock has given generously of CARE Funds to every other Indigenous group in Montana including Chippewa Cree, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Fort Belknap Indian Tribes, the Assiniboine and Sioux at Ft. Peck, the Littleshell Tribe of the Chippewa, the Blackfeet, and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.
One tribe received no funds. That tribe is the only one whose leaders endorsed Republicans in the last election (see below).
You can see a pdf of the statement from the Legislative Audit Division here.
It is absolutely inexcusable that Bullock would withhold funds given by the federal government to support Montanans from the Crow. The only discernible reason – as Bullock has been handing out the relief funds like candy at his various campaign stops and coordinating fund disbursements like they were campaign announcements – is that it is payback for not staying on the political Reservation.
But what do the Crow think of this? Pierre Ramos, an official advisor to the Crow Tribe of Indians, spoke at a public comment period at the Legislative Audit Committee on behalf of Chairman Not Afraid. The committee chaired by Senator Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse). The room was reportedly taken by surprise that Bullock had excluded the Crow from their disbursements with the other tribes.
A copy of Ramos’ remarks in pdf can be found here.
Ramos called out the governor on not giving the Tribe their pro-rata share of CARES act money which, as fellow Montanans, they are entitled to. According to Ramos, Bullock promised to release the funds but after a period of much waiting with no action, eventually went back on his word. Reportedly, their pro-rata share should be somewhere around 16 million dollars. Montana got this pro-rata money by their population, which includes the Crow. Common sense would dictate, they should receive their fair share (as all other tribes in Montana have).
It is certainly unacceptable that Governor Bullock would leave out any Tribe from receiving COVID-19 recovery help. But it is especially grievous that it is – by all appearances – politically motivated. Just how severe does Bullock really believe COVID-19 to be, if who receives or doesn’t receive his help is based upon politics?