Political Corruption, Alaska-Style: Provision in NDAA Benefits Native Corp Instrumental in Murkowski's Write-In Campaign

Credit - AP

Credit – AP

By Edwin Mora. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) negotiated the inclusion of a land entitlement provision in the “must-pass” National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for a Sealaska, an Alaska Native Regional Corporation that helped fund her re-election in 2010 as a write-in candidate.

The NDAA, which includes a public lands package that has been lambasted by conservative lawmakers as unrelated to defense operations, passed the House last week. It is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week.

The public lands package includes the conveyance of tens of thousands of acres in the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corp. It would allow the corporation to handpick lands outside the boundaries set by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

In the past, “opponents have accused the Native corporation of choosing some of the best and most valuable lands in the national forest for their own private, moneymaking enterprises,” reported The Associated Press in June 2010.

A Dec. 3 press release acknowledged that Murkowski helped negotiate the Sealaska measure into the NDAA.

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NDAA Passes, Authorizes Transfer of Large Tracts of Land to Fed Govt.

Credit: Reuters - Jonathan Ernst

Credit: Reuters – Jonathan Ernst

By Donna Casata

Congress on Friday sent President Barack Obama a massive defense policy bill that endorses his stepped-up military campaign of air strikes and training of Iraqis and moderate Syrian rebels in the war against Islamic State militants.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that authorizes funds for basic military operations, including construction of new ships, aircraft, and weapons as well as a 1 percent pay raise for the troops. The vote was 89-11.

A coalition of defense hawks and Western state Republicans overcame objections by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and several other GOP senators, who were furious that unrelated provisions to designate 250,000 acres of new, federally protected wilderness were added to the popular legislation dedicated to military operations.

The measure would authorize the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels battling the extremists, a mandate that lasts for two years. It also would provide $5 billion to train Iraqis to counter the militants who brutally rule large sections of Iraq and Syria.

“American air power had changed the momentum on the ground somewhat and given moderates in the region an opportunity to regroup, but ISIS cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it on the ground,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “To do that, our Arab and Muslim partners must be in the lead because the fight with ISIS is primarily a struggle within Islam for the hearts and minds of Muslims.”

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Cruz Votes Against NDAA

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, today voted against the National Defense Authorization Act citing several concerns, including an extreme land grab provision and ongoing assistance to Syrian rebels.

“The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act includes a number of problematic provisions, including an extension through 2016 of the program to arm Syrian rebels and an extreme land grab that restricts more than a half-million new acres of property from productive use,” said Sen. Cruz. “This is yet another example of Majority Leader Reid’s legacy of obstruction by not allowing any amendments to be called on this bill.

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