Byrd files complaint alleging anonymous contribution

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
01/13/2012 10:43 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Council candidate Joe Byrd filed a complaint Jan. 11 with the Cherokee Nation Election Commission accusing opposing candidate Pam Iron of mailing election material that’s not reflected in her financial disclosure report.

Both individuals are running for Dist. 1, Seat 1. That election is set for Jan. 14.

According to the mailer, a third party called “No on Joe Byrd” sent the material. Byrd’s complaint states the postage stamp used is one that’s been used on mailers for Iron.

“On Jan. 9, hundreds of citizens throughout the Cherokee Nation received a mail piece from an organization calling themselves ‘No on Joe Byrd,’” states the complaint. “The mail piece is affixed with postage permit No. 2146. This mail piece was enclosed in an outer envelope which bears postage permit No. 849. The ‘Elect Pam Iron’ campaign has used postage permit No. 849.”

According to a letter sent to the EC, Attorney General Diane Hammons and Marshal Shannon Buhl, Byrd states CN law “does not allow anonymous contributions or expenditures in Cherokee elections. Printing, mailing and postage may have been paid for by a third party. Clearly, the entity or person sending out the mail piece went to great lengths to hide his or her identity.”

Byrd states that naming the organization “No on Byrd” and not listing a candidate who could be backing the effort is an anonymous contribution.

However, Iron said she did not know who mailed the material and her campaign had nothing to do with it. “I use a professional mailing service. That’s basically all that I know. I didn’t put the piece out and I didn’t get one in the mail myself. I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

EC Chairwoman Susan Chapman-Plumb said she didn’t think there were any election law violations, but that didn’t mean the commission wouldn’t take action.

“That just means we’re going to research it to determine if a law exists or if one was violated,” she said. “We’re getting ready after the District 1 election is over with to sit down and have a comprehensive review.”

The mailer resembles a four-page tabloid newspaper and cites controversies during Byrd’s principal chief term of 1995-99. The mailer also uses apparently copyrighted material from past newspaper articles, and does not indicate whether permission was granted to use it. Some of the mailer’s claims against Byrd include that he lobbied and supported former California Rep. Diane Watson’s attempt to cut the tribe’s federal funds and that he’s been a paid lobbyist for the United Keetoowah Band. Byrd said both statements are false.

It states that he has worked to get the UKB trust land. Byrd said he’s in economic development, not trust land matters, and he’s working on getting the UKB its federal 8A certification, which provides government contracting opportunities to disadvantaged ethnicities.

It states that his administration couldn’t audit financial records, jeopardized payrolls and laid off workers. Byrd said none of the allegations were completely true and that all audits done by federal agencies received their respective approvals.

The mailer also ties Byrd to Principal Chief Bill John Baker employing non-Cherokees to run CN offices. Baker said the “anonymous” campaign mailer “incorrectly smeared” his administration. With respect to his contracting of General Counsel Kalyn Free (Choctaw), Communications/Government Relations Executive Director Jim Gray (Osage) and consultant Mike Bailey (Choctaw), he said hiring citizens of neighboring tribes “should not reflect a broken campaign promise, but that he is assembling an independently qualified team that will have an immediate, positive impact.”

The mailer also makes claims regarding administration officials’ salaries. It claims Free stands to earn $1 million a year, Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr. will earn $158,000 a year and Senior Adviser Gina Blackfox will earn $128,000 a year. It also claims a James Admont will earn $468,000 annually.

According to CN documents, Free’s salary is capped at $150,000 per year, Hoskin has an annual contract for $130,000, and Blackfox will make nearly $125,000. There is no James Admont working for CN, but a Jason Aamodt is an attorney contracted at $200,000 a year to work on the Freedmen litigation.

jami-custer@cherokee.org
918-453-5560

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