WASHINGTON - In the Senate, former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell had
cachet even among lawmakers who didn't agree with him on fine points of
policy - they always called him, invariably with a show of feeling, a great
guy and a sure guide to Indian issues.
Now Campbell is taking the goodwill built up over 17 years on Capitol Hill,
in both chambers of Congress and in both political parties, to the Holland
& Knight law firm in Washington. The law firm announced on Jan. 6 that
he'll serve as a senior policy advisor. Campbell expects to work on tribal
issues familiar to him from his time in Congress, among them health care,
economic development, sovereignty and resource rights.
The decision was not altogether unexpected. Before retiring from the Senate
at the end of the 108th Congress last December, Campbell put an emphasis on
earning money in retirement. Former associates of his in the Senate,
following Republican gains in the November elections, speculated that the
warrior in Campbell might want another crack at failed legislation in a
more favorable political climate.
Campbell is a member and chief of the Northern Cheyenne. He retired as the
only American Indian in the Senate.
Like all congressional members and staff who return to the private sector
in a lobbying capacity, Campbell will have to observe a one-year moratorium
on contacting his former colleagues. Gerald Sikorski, himself a former
congressman in the House of Representatives, heads up Holland & Knight's
government section, where Campbell will work. He said the year goes
quickly. "Even after the year is up, you're really asked how things work
[on Capitol Hill], who would be the best person to talk to. It's not so
much who you know, but how much you know about how the process works."
Sikorski added that Campbell will not have to compromise on a reason he
gave for retiring - to spend more time in Indian country and on his
Colorado ranch. "We want him out in Indian country, as well as elsewhere.
He'll be like the Holy Spirit, everywhere at once... A lot of corporate
board rooms, a lot of pool halls, and a lot of international business
meetings as well ... We want him out on the pow wow circuit, talking to
people. He reflects well on us, and he's kind of beloved."