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NACA Responds to Criticisms of Native Corporations

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Recently Native firms, specifically ANCs, have come under harsh scrutiny for funneling money to outside contractors, allegedly at the expense of native communities, reported The Washington Post.

And reaffirming those criticisms in the media, a controversial report by ProPublica that analyzes government stimulus spending through its Recovery Tracker cites that ANCs collaborate with subcontractors twice as often as other federal contractors and substantially more than other small minority-owned firms. The Native American Contractors Association (NACA), after communicating for weeks with ProPublica bloggers Michael Grabell and Jennifer LaFleur to make "every effort to verify the data," released a January 28 statement that the newsroom used "unverified data sources" and "flawed methodology" in its report.

“ProPublica based its conclusions on an isolated portion of an incomplete set of data,” Sarah Lukin, NACA executive director, concluded. “ProPublica’s continued zeal to disparage ANCs misinforms the public about these hard working businesses that are providing real value to the U.S. government and their respective Native communities.”

Both Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., introduced bills last year to strip ANCs of their unlimited contracting privileges and reinstate competitive bidding to match that of other small minority firms. McCaskill has argued that revenue generated by ANCs is intended to fuel the economy of tribal villages, not pump the banks of other firms like General Electric, Kiewit and Lockheed Martin--all companies that have partnered with an ANC, according to ProPublica. Those proposed changes struck a wrong chord with some people, like Winnebago tribal member Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc. and chairman of the NACA, who called McCaskill's proposal "the latest Washington assault on Native 8(a) contracting," in The Hill's Congress Blog.

In response to Sen. McCaskill's bill last fall, NACA released a statement that her proposal "to restrict Alaska Native Corporation (ANC) participation in a critical business development program would sever a long-standing Congressional promise to promote economic self-sufficiency for Alaska Native people."