The election season is upon us, and the Cherokee Phoenix is tasked to provide fair and open coverage of the election process and campaigns. We intend to analyze election campaign statements, political advertisements, as well as statements made during our upcoming debate. The only reason is to verify the accuracy, and where necessary, provide valuable context and background. We encourage you to look for this report and refer to it if you have any questions about statements made by elected or campaign officials. If you are aware of any political claims or statements that haven’t appeared in this report, please contact us and we will attempt to include them in a future issue.Claims by Chuck Hoskin Jr.
• In a campaign flier, Chuck Hoskin Jr. claims that one of his principal chief opponents, David Walkingstick, was forced to resign from Muskogee Public Schools for missing from work and lying about his whereabouts during that time. Walkingstick’s resignation as director of Indian Education at Muskogee Public Schools was accepted during a Jan. 23, 2018, school board meeting. Walkingstick’s resignation followed the news story stating he claimed work time at MPS while attending Cherokee Nation functions. On January 24, 2018, another news outlet reported that between August 2017 and December 2017, Walkingstick was absent from MPS eleven times for portions of or most of the school day. He was observed working as a tribal councilor while being paid to work for MPS. According to the story, one example included Aug. 14, the day on which he was sworn in as Dist. 3 representative, but school records show him at the school all day. CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that Walkingstick was in fact given the option of either being terminated or resigning. After it was stated he would “appeal termination unless the district agreed to pay out on the remaining months of his contract” after which he chose to resign. Thus the statements on the Hoskin flier are factually accurate.
• In the same flier, Hoskin claims Walkingstick was “missing” 69 percent of the time during his time on Tribal Council. It claims Walkingstick had been late, absent or chose not to participate on 127 of the 184 legislative days, including 91.6 percent in 2016.
According to the Hoskin campaign, the percentages do not stem from individual meeting attendance. For example, according to the spreadsheet the campaign used to tally Walkingstick’s attendance percentages, on Sept. 12, 2011, Walkingstick attended five committee meetings and the Tribal Council meeting. For five of those meetings Walkingstick was present during roll call. For the Health Committee meeting, he came in after roll call was taken and was considered late, according to the spreadsheet. Because he was considered late for that meeting the whole day is considered as one of the 127 legislative days Walkingstick was “missing.”
Council officials said when attendance records are pulled from the legislative body’s website, they are pulled by meeting, not by day. Council officials also said when attendance is taken, councilors who come in late are marked late, but present, if they come in after roll call. If they come in during announcements or adjournment then they are considered absent. If they are absent for the entire meeting, they are considered absent. Council officials also said that all councilors are expected to attend full council meetings as well as meetings for the Rules and Executive & Finance committees. Participation in all other committees and sub-committees is voluntary.
However, according to the spreadsheet, any committee meeting in which Walkingstick did not participate, despite not being a committee member, he was listed as “chose not to participate.” For example, on Dec. 14, 2017, Walkingstick attended the Rules and Executive & Finance meetings, but not the Culture Committee meeting, which he is not a part of. According to the spreadsheet, he is listed as absent with the note “Chose not to participate in this subcommittee” for the Culture meeting.
According to a 2015 Cherokee Phoenix story regarding attendance, between Aug. 14, 2011, and April 13, 2015, Walkingstick had a perfect attendance record for full council meetings and committee meetings in which he was a member. According to a 2017 Cherokee Phoenix story, from Aug. 14, 2015, to March 21, 2017, Walkingstick attended meetings 91.5 percent of the time. And according to Tribal Council records, he attended 95 percent of committee meetings and 96 percent of council meetings from April 10, 2017, to March 11, 2019. CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that the allegations made on the Hoskin flier, that Walkingstick was “late, absent or chose not to participate on 127 of the 184 legislative days, including 91.6 percent in 2016” is statistically correct. However, the fact that Walkingstick was late on numerous occasions and chose not to participate in certain committees, like Culture and Public Health, skews the numbers to indicate that Walkingstick was “absent” more than he was.Claims by David Walkingstick
• In a video on his campaign Facebook page, David Walkingstick claims that Cherokee Nation money was spent to help one of his principal chief opponents, Chuck Hoskin Jr., campaign while at At-Large events.CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that there is no evidence that the Cherokee Nation spent any money to promote the Hoskin campaign, as no evidence or claims have been brought forth to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission.
• In two campaign videos, Walkingstick claims Cherokees have the lowest life expectancy in the country, showing an Associated Press story headlined “Stilwell, Oklahoma, tops troubling list: shortest life spans in nation.” That story was written from a 2018 study by the Centers of Disease Control. The study states Stilwell residents in Adair County are expected to live an average of 56.3 years, which is 22.5 years lower than the national average. The study reflects Stilwell’s Cherokee and non-Cherokee population, not the Cherokee population as a whole. And CN health officials also question the study’s accuracy.
In a 2019 Cherokee Phoenix story, CN Public Health Medical Director Dr. David Gahn said the study covered the years 2010-15 and that, of 1,408 deaths in Adair County during that six-year period, 196 deaths were listed with no addresses or ages. Gahn said the national rate of unusable data was less than 1 percent, but for Adair County it was more than 10 percent. He added that 85 deaths had no records at all and 91 deaths were attributed to a single address. CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that the CDC study of Adair County is lacking in proper statistical analysis and verification. The information contained in the study was not specific to Cherokee citizens, and has been allegedly compiled from erroneous data.
• At a March 11 campaign event, Walkingstick claimed the tribe gave $350,000 to super political action committees. According to CN records, the tribe gave $5,000 to a super PAC during the 2018 election cycle for Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo citizen who is now a U.S. House member and the first American Indian woman elected to Congress.
CN or Cherokee Nation Businesses did contribute to certain campaign committees, which are not Super PACs. Those were to the Republican Governors Association ($250,000), Republican Attorneys General Association ($125,000) and Democratic Governors Association ($250,000). CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that the allegation made by Walkingstick about Super PACs is false, however, large donations were made to political entities. Sixty percent of these donations went to Republican entities while the remaining forty percent went to Democrat entities.
• At the same March 11 campaign event, Walkingstick said “millions” of CN dollars were “going to career politicians.” According to CN records, the Tribal Council’s Executive & Finance Committee approves all CN political contributions, and all CNB contributions exceeding $10,000 require Tribal Council notice. CN records show that since 2011, the Tribal Council has appropriated more than $1 million for political contributions. CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that, while the total contributions from CN to politicians over the course of the Baker administration do exceed $1 million, that $400,000 is the highest annual amount that has been appropriated by the Tribal Council and that every political donation has to be approved by the Tribal Council.
• At the same March 11 event, Walkingstick said the tribe set up a tent at the Democratic National Convention in South Carolina that cost $800,000.CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that this allegation is false and that the Cherokee Nation did not set up a tent at the DNC in South Carolina for any amount of money. However, CNB did pay for an event tent during the 2016 DNC Convention in Philadelphia with associated costs of $50,000. CN representatives also attended the Republican Nation Convention in 2016.
• At the same March 11 event, Walkingstick said the tribe gave Hillary Clinton almost a million dollars for her presidential run.CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that this allegation is false. However the based on publicly available information the Cherokee Nation did donate $3,000 to Hillary for America.
• At the same March 11 event, Walkingstick said the tribe gave Drew Edmondson $800,000 to run for Oklahoma governor.CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that this allegation is false. However based on publicly available information the CN did donate equal amounts of $2,700 to Kevin Stitt and Drew Edmondson for their gubernatorial campaigns.
• At the March 11 event, Walkingstick said the CN gave “$8 million to Arkansas for a gaming compact that we didn’t get anything from.” CN records show that no political contributions were made to that state. There is also no gaming compact in Arkansas as the state only legalized commercial gambling in November.
According to an AP story, in 2018 CNB gave $2.2 million to Drive Arkansas Forward, the group that helped get commercial gambling legalized. CNB officials said the donations were for campaigning and advertising to get the proposal on the ballot. The measure passed authorizing gaming expansions in areas that are expected to have minimal impact on CNB gaming markets, CNB officials said.
According to a Cherokee Phoenix story, CNB contributed more than $6 million in 2016 for advertising campaigns for a gaming initiative in Arkansas. After the measure was struck down, CNB was given back approximately $1.5 million. If the ballot had passed, CNB would have operated a casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County. At that time, CNB officials said the decision to support the ballot was based on what was best for the CN, CNB employees and the revenue stream that funds vital CN social services and programs.RESPONSE: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that Walkingstick’s allegation is false and that no gaming compact exists with the state of Arkansas. However, CNB did spend large sums of money in Arkansas to influence the outcome of the gaming initiatives in Arkansas.
• At a March 22 campaign event in Vinita, OK, Walkingstick made the statement “You know Hillary Clinton, in her race, it cost $8 million to be an elector to put your name on a ballot. Guess whose name was on that ballot? Bill John Baker.”CONCLUSION: The Cherokee Phoenix has determined that this allegation is false. The Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses nor Chief Baker did not donate or pay any money for Chief Baker to be a member of the electoral college. According to the Democratic Party of Oklahoma, there is no monetary expense to be a member of the Electoral College.