Interest money

Ending “Dark Money” in the Cherokee Elections

Guest review. Black money corrupts. Democracy dies in the dark. But the Cherokee Nation’s sovereign reservation government is fighting back with recent elections law reforms that require transparency.

Let’s start with the facts: our long-standing election laws require transparency and accountability when it comes to campaign donations. Donation limits, mandatory disclosure, and prohibitions on “arm’s length spending” are all corruption protections enshrined in Cherokee law. I believe our campaign finance laws were among the strongest in the country even before the latest reforms.

But the 2019 elections revealed some weaknesses in our laws. It is true that a candidate in 2019 was disqualified for illegally coordinating with an illegal entity operated by non-Indians outside of Oklahoma City. Public hearings, including by our Supreme Court, revealed this attempt to cheat and steal an election by a group called “Cherokees for Change.” The law held a violator responsible. However, the law left many people involved in the illegal scheme unscayour elections. Perhaps others surround the Cherokee Nation with the same plans.

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The Council of the Cherokee Nation recently took action after literally years of scrutiny of our election code. I proposed, and the council enacted, the nation’s strictest ban on black money. The law passed 15-0, with two councilors absent. Vice President Victoria Vazquez said she sponsored the bill so that “people, not corporate interests, control our democracy.” She is there.

I proudly signed the legislative reforms earlier this month alongside Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. The law reinforces the prohibition of the kind of anonymous, unlimited stacks of money that were illegally poured into our 2019 election from Oklahoma City. But the law now punishes those who donate to these illegal entities with heavy criminal and civil penalties.

As Board Chair Mike Shambaugh said, “The message we’re sending today is that it’s not 2019; you won’t get away with corruption.

Banning black money is a true exercise of our tribal sovereignty and a victory for government transparency. While other nations may be content with unlimited, unregulated and anonymous campaign contributions, the Cherokee Nation is not. Sixteen of the 17 council members expressed support for this basic idea: the Cherokee people deserve to know who contributes to candidates for public office.

The law did not hold accountable those who funneled an unknown amount of money into the election. We may never know the full extent of the corruption, who donated and what they hoped to gain from their scheme. Maybe those same outside interests are banding together to try again to buy oAs I reflect on our nation’s bold stance against corruption, my thoughts turn to the ongoing election campaigns in Oklahoma. Recently, I pushed back against Oklahoma politicians who claim that Cherokee sovereignty is “the biggest threat” and that our reservations should be “lifted.” A number of powerful politicians seem to fear that the Cherokee Nation is enacting its own laws and protecting the public interest.

Cherokee NationChuck Hoskin, Jr.

From the perspective of anti-Indian politicians, perhaps our sovereignty is a threat. It is certainly a threat to the corrupt influence of those who would try to secretly buy our elections.

I firmly believe that some of the same anti-Indian interests that want to destroy our reservation

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The ions are busy hatching a “plan B” to try to control the tribal governments. The Cherokee people and their representatives will not tolerate it. No wonder some of these anti-sovereignty politicians are scared.

We are sovereign. The Cherokee people demand transparency. The days of corrupt black money in Cherokee politics are over.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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About the Author

Author: Chuck Hoskin Jr.E-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.