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Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development – Indian Affairs

Gavin Clarkson was the “Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development – Indian Affairs within the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs” from June 11, 2017 until he resigned on November 13, 2017.  This is a “supervisory position for the Offices of Indian Energy and Economic Development, Indian Gaming, and Self-Governance.”

Gavin Clarkson is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and has a “background in academia focused largely on tribal economic policy and development.” He has held numerous professorships at universities and law schools including Rice University, the University of Michigan, University of Houston Law Center, and most recently, New Mexico State University. In 2007, Clarkson was appointed a managing director of Native American Capital LLC, which is a “Native American business advisory services firm” that “targets business opportunities throughout Indian Country,” focusing on “infrastructure, real estate, the environment, health care, education, and commerce.” Clarkson was also “previously considered for the Special Trustee position at Interior during the early Obama administration.”

Sources: [Department of the Interior, Press Release, 07/06/17, Rob Capriccioso, “Republican Native Americans Jockey for Trump Administration Posts,” Indian Country Today, 01/23/17, “Gavin Clarkson Appointed Native American Capital, LLC (NAC) Managing Director,” Native American Capital, 05/01/17, and Juliet Eilperin, “Trump appointee to Bureau of Indian Affairs resigns after Interior’s IG slams the loan program he oversaw,” Washington Post, 11/14/17]

Other Information

Gavin Clarkson resigned from his position at the Department of the Interior in November 2017, “after the department’s inspector general issued a scathing report on the loan program” that Clarkson oversaw, which “guarantees loans for tribal businesses.”

At the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Clarkson supervised a program that “guarantees loans for tribal businesses.” The inspector general “said the loan program lacked ‘adequate controls'” and found that, “on at least two occasions, the acting DCI chief approved loan-guarantee applications over the objections of the program’s credit committee without providing any written justification for the move.”

[Juliet Eilperin, “Trump appointee to Bureau of Indian Affairs resigns after Interior’s IG slams the loan program he oversaw,” The Washington Post, 11/14/17, and Isaac Arnsdorf, “Trump Appointee Resigns After ProPublica Report,” ProPublica, 11/14/17]

Prior to joining the Department of Interior, Gavin Clarkson worked “as a consultant for tribes that received loans under the program” flagged by the inspector general, “including a controversial $22.5 million loan for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe that helped finance the purchase of a brokerage firm that eventually went under.”

The “inspector general found that the loan guarantee Clarkson arranged ‘departed from’ guidelines and raised several red flags that made it ‘particularly risky.'” Clarkson claimed “that he received ‘no compensation whatsoever’ for his work on the loan, though New York court filings in a suit related to the deal state that Clarkson and his firm received $366,764 in fees and other payments.” The Interior Department is now facing a lawsuit over the loan Clarkson arranged.

[Juliet Eilperin, “Trump appointee to Bureau of Indian Affairs resigns after Interior’s IG slams the loan program he oversaw,” The Washington Post, 11/14/17, and Isaac Arnsdorf, “Trump Appointee Resigns After ProPublica Report,” ProPublica, 11/14/17]

Gavin Clarkson has argued that “title to trust land can and should be returned to tribes.”

Gavin Clarkson, in 2014, co-wrote a law review article that argued that “a primary cause for the lack of on-reservation consumer options [was] the cumbersome and onerous policy of the United States government holding tribal land in trust.” Clarkson further argued that “title to trust land can and should be returned to tribes and individuals in fee under a new tribal status that confers permanent jurisdiction to the tribe.”

[Gavin Clarkson and Alisha Murphy, “Tribal Leakage: How the Curse of Trust Land Impedes Tribal Economic Self-Sustainability,” 05/07/14]

Gavin Clarkson, after attending one of Donald Trump’s Native American Listening Sessions, said he was “incredibly pleased with the receptiveness of the transition team.”

Gavin Clarkson, in December 2016, wrote that he was “incredibly pleased with the receptiveness of the transition team” after attending a Native American Listening Session with then President-elect Donald Trump. Clarkson also praised Trump’s choice of Ryan Zinke to run the Interior Department.

[Gavin Clarkson, “Gavin Clarkson: A tribal economic contract with President Donald Trump,” Indianz.com, 12/20/16]

In 2016, Gavin Clarkson and his girlfriend took donations to protestors protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Gavin Clarkson and his girlfriend, Alisha Murphy, in 2016, “haul[ed] much needed donations” to protestors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Murphy started a GoFundMe page to raise money for “gas money, food, and enough to rent a trailer.” Murphy said that any “excess funds [would] be donated as cash to the Sacred Stone Camp.”

[Alisha Murphy, “#NoDAPL Donation Drive,” GoFundMe, accessed 07/21/17]