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Acting Secretary/ Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

John Tahsuda III is the Interior Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, currently exercising the authority of the Assistant Secretary. In the position, Tahsuda oversees “the development and interpretation of policies affecting Indian Affairs bureaus, offices and programs.”

John Tahsuda III is “well known in Indian policy circles in Washington, D.C.” and has a long history of lobbying the federal government, including the Interior Department where he now works. A citizen of the Kiowa Tribe, Tahsuda received his Bachelors degree from Oklahoma State University in 1990 and his J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1993. From 1996 to 1999, Tahsuda worked as general counsel for the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, and from 1997 to 2001 he was an adjunct professor at Cornell Law School “where he taught courses on federal Indian law, policy and history.” From 1999 to 2001, Tahsuda, a longtime lobbyist, “served as general counsel and legislative director of the National Indian Gaming Association, the Indian gaming industry’s trade association, where he monitored legislation and policy issues affecting the organization’s 180 member tribes and assisted them in their lobbying efforts.”

Before working on Capitol Hill, Tahsuda “served as counsel at the American Indian law firm of Hobbs, Straus, Dean and Walker” and also did consulting and lobbying work through First Nations Strategies, LLC. From 2002 to 2007, Tahsuda worked on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, “first as senior counsel and later as staff director.” He worked “under Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado).” In 2007, “Tahsuda joined the Department from Washington, D.C.-based Navigators Global, LLC, where he was a principal.” Tahsuda led the company’s “tribal affairs policy issues at the state and federal level, including gaming, tax initiatives, tobacco sales, land-into-trust issues, health care, economic development, energy policy, federal recognition and self-governance.”

Sources: [Department of the Interior, Press Release, 09/13/17, LinkedIn Profile for John Tahsuda, accessed 12/01/17, Daphne Retter, “People on the Move,” Congressional Quarterly, 03/08/02, Search for John Tahsuda, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 12/04/17, “Kiowa citizen John Tahsuda set to join Bureau of Indian Affairs leadership team,” Indianz.com, 08/24/17, and Order No, 3345, Amendment 17, Department of the Interior, 03/31/18]

Special Interests

PG&E Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Tahsuda has lobbied the federal government on behalf of PG&E Corporation, an energy-based holding company that operates in the electricity and natural gas sectors and owns a public utility.

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also connected to:

BHP Billiton (Resource Development on Public Lands)

According to his 2017 financial disclosure form, Tahsuda was paid by BHP Billiton for "consulting on Indian tribes and natural resource development." BHP Billiton "engages in the exploration, development, production and processing of minerals, gas and oil."

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also connected to:

Background Information

Previous Employers

Navigators Global, LLC (formerly DC Navigators, LLC)

U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

National Indian Gaming Association

Oneida Indian Nation of New York

Hobbs, Straus, Dean and Walker

First Nations Strategies, LLC

Cornell Law School

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

John Tahsuda III was a registered federal lobbyist from 2001 to 2002 and from 2007 to 2017.

Tahdusa has lobbied the federal government on behalf of over 20 clients, including many Indian tribes and tribal organizations.

  • California Nations Indian Gaming Association (2001-2002)
  • San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (2001-2002)
  • United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (2001-2002)
  • Video Gaming Technologies (2007-2010)
  • Lytton Band of Pomo Indians (2007-2008)
  • Pala Band of Mission Indians (2007-2017)
  • United Auburn Indian Community (2007-2009)
  • Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (2008-2017)
  • Alabama Aircraft Industries, Inc. (2008-2010)
  • Intuit, Inc. (2008-2014)
  • Tascet Identity Network (2009)
  • Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) (2010)
  • Oneida Indian Nation (2010-2011)
  • Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (2011-2017)
  • Otoe-Missouria Development Authority (2011-2012)
  • National Public Radio (2012-2014)
  • San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority (2012-2013)
  • United Parcel Service (UPS) (2012-2014)
  • Arizonans for Tribal Government Gaming (2013)
  • Osage Casinos (2013-2017)
  • Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians (2015-2017)
  • PG&E Corporation (2015-2017)
  • Puerto Rico Statehood Council (2016-2017)
  • Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians (2017)

[Search for John Tahsuda, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 12/04/17]

According to his financial disclosure, Tahsuda has also done consulting work for tribal entities. 

According to his 2017 financial disclosure form, Tahsuda was paid for “consulting/legal advice on gaming laws and regulations” by the Osage Nation Gaming Authority, and was paid for “government affairs consulting” by the Chuckchansi Tribe.

[John Tahsuda, OGE Form 278e, 2017]

Political Connections

John Tahsuda was an alternate Maryland delegate (District 4) for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Tahsuda had “known McCain since Tahsuda was staff director of the Indian Affairs Committee during the 104th Congress and McCain was the committee’s chairman.” Tahsuda was also co-chairman of American Indians for McCain. [“Maryland RNC delegates ready to start,” The Washington Examiner, 08/31/08]

John Tahsuda was an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign “on Indian issues.”  

[Rob Capriccioso, “American Indians make voices heard this election cycle,” Need to Know on PBS, 10/24/12]

John Tahsuda hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in April 2013; tickets to the reception were $1000.

[Reception for Lindsey Graham, Political Party Time, 04/16/13]

John Tahsuda hosted two fundraisers for Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), in February and March 2010; tickets for both events were $1000.

[Reception for Roy Blunt, Political Party Time, 02/11/10; Reception for Roy Blunt, Political Party Time, 03/10/10; Glenn Thrush, “GOP Memo: 66 Senate fundraisers in 54 days,” Politico, 02/05/10] 

John Tahsuda hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in February 2010; tickets to the fundraising breakfast were $500.

[Glenn Thrush, “GOP Memo: 66 Senate fundraisers in 54 days,” Politico, 02/05/10] 

John Tahsuda has donated $11,500 to political campaigns since 2007.

Of that, $2,250 went to Democratic candidates and $9,250 went to Republican candidates and PACs.

[Political Moneyline Search for John Tahsuda, accessed 12/04/17]

Current Activity

On January 22, 2018, the Bureau of Indian Affairs allowed nine tribal gaming compacts to take effect in California. While “allowing a compact to take effect is not an unusual event in and of itself,” the publication of the January 22, 2018 notice “increases the number of ‘deemed approved’ compacts in California by a significant amount.” Two tribes whose compacts were allowed to take effect, United Auburn Indian Community and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, were former lobbying clients of John Tahsuda.

On January 22, 2018, the Bureau of Indian Affairs published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that BIA had “allowed nine tribal gaming compacts to take effect in California.”

“The agreements are considered legal, but only to the extent their provisions are consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on Monday. The Secretary of the Interior otherwise did not outright approve or outright the nine compacts.”

“‘The Secretary took no action on the compacts within 45 days of their submission,’ the notice signed by John Tahsuda, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs for the Trump administration, read.”

Two of the compacts that were allowed to take effect were the United Auburn Indian Community and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Before John Tahsuda was the Acting Secretary of Indian Affairs, he lobbied the federal government on behalf of both the United Auburn Indian Community and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

While “allowing a compact to take effect is not an unusual event in and of itself,” the publication of the January 22, 2018 notice “increases the number of ‘deemed approved’ compacts in California by a significant amount. In all of 2016 and 2017, the BIA allowed nine compacts to take effect, so the number of ‘deemed approved’ compacts has doubled with the publication of just one notice.”

[“Bureau of Indian Affairs allows nine gaming compacts to take effect,” Indianz.com, 01/22/18, Search for John Tahsuda, U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 12/04/17; “Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compacts Taking Effect in the State of California, 3015-3016 [2018-01058],” Federal Register, 01/22/18]

Financials

Financial Disclosure

[Office of Government Ethics]

Department of the Interior Salary: $170,000

[John Tahsuda, ProPublica’s Trump Town, accessed 03/13/18]

Other Information

John Tahsuda was on the Tribal Board of Advisors for TFA Capital Partners, Inc., “a specialized investment bank, focused on the gaming and leisure industries.”

[“TFA Capital Partners Appoints Former Principal Chief Michell Hicks to Tribal Board of Advisors,” PR Newswire, 10/25/16, and TFA Capital Partners, accessed 12/04/17]