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Alternate Member, Chickasaw Nation, Royalty Policy Committee

Neal McCaleb was named as an alternate member of the Department of Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee. Members of the committee advise Secretary Zinke “on policy and strategies to improve management of the multi-billion dollar, federal and American Indian mineral revenue program.”

Neal McCaleb is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and a former George W. Bush administration official. Before getting involved in politics, McCaleb was “a civil engineer and businessman.” He “served on the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission from 1967 until 1972 when President Nixon appointed him to the National Council on Indian Opportunities.” He was also “a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1974 to 1982,” and later was “a presidential appointee on Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Indian Reservation Economics in the 1980s.” McCaleb ran for Governor of Oklahoma in 1982, but lost the Republican primary. He was appointed Oklahoma’s first Secretary of Transportation by in 1987, and from 1995 to 2001 he was the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. In 2001, George Bush tapped McCaleb to be the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. While running the Bureau Indian Affairs McCaleb became embroiled in the infamous Cobell trust fund lawsuit, and deleted “months of e-mail and computer records relating to the Indian trust fund,” an offense for which he was found in contempt of court. McCaleb left Interior “frustrated and disappointed” after serving for less than two years. After serving in the Bush administration, McNeal served as Ambassador at Large for the Chickasaw Nation.

Sources: [Department of Interior, Press Release, 09/01/17, “Indian Bureau Chief Announces His Retirement,” Associated Press, 11/22/02, Robert Gehrke, “Bush to nominate McCaleb as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Associated Press, 04/17/01, “Neil McCaleb – 2006,” Oklahoma Christian University, accessed 09/28/17, Faith Bremner, “Departing Indian Affairs official disappointed by trust fund dispute,” Gannett News Service, 12/30/02, and “Neal McCaleb,” The Chickasaw Nation, accessed 09/30/17]

Background Information

Previous Employers

Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission

Oklahoma House of Representatives

President’s Commission on Reservation Economics

State of Oklahoma

Department of the Interior

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

Neal McCaleb served on “Ronald Reagan’s Indian Reservation Economics Commission” that wanted to “end” the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Neal McCaleb served on Ronald Reagan’s Indian Reservation Economics Commission in the 1980s. The commission on which McCaleb served “wrote an unpopular report calling for limitations to tribal sovereign immunity, potentially opening tribes to certain lawsuits.” According to some critics, Reagan’s Indian Reservation Economics Commission “wanted to not only end the BIA, but change the status of sovereignty and other policies which would have finished the Indian extermination that began during the Andrew Jackson-era.”

Additionally, Ronald Reagan “cut funds for Native social programs by 40 percent in 1981.” At the time of McCaleb’s nomination to head George Bush’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, McCaleb’s “tie to the Reagan years [was] not lost on some tribal leaders.” Some observed that he was “poised to head the very agency his committee wanted to dismantle,” and other tribal leaders wondered “‘where'” McCaleb’s “‘loyalties'” would lie. [Mary Pierpoint, “Indian Affairs nominee bit of a mystery in Indian country,” Indian Country Today, 04/25/01, and [“Natives mixed on nominee,” Lincoln Journal Star, 4/19/01]

When he was Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Neal McCaleb was embroiled in the infamous Cobell trust fund lawsuit, a class-action lawsuit in which Native Americans sued the Interior Department for mismanaging billions of dollars in oil, gas and timber royalties. When McCaleb was at Interior, he deleted “months of e-mail and computer records relating to the Indian trust fund” and then tried to blame the disappearance of the records on one of his employees. In 2002 McCaleb was “found… guilty of contempt of court” for his actions in the trust fund issue.

The Cobell trust fund lawsuit was “a 15-year legal battle that ended with the federal government’s agreeing to pay $3.4 billion in compensation for mismanagement of Indian trust funds since the late 1800s.” Eloise Cobell, the lead plaintiff, representing “about 500,000” Native Americans “in a class-action lawsuit,” sued the Interior Department “claiming the government mismanaged possibly $137 billion in oil, gas and timber royalties for more than 100 years.” The lawsuit was filed in 1996, before McNeal took office, and “originally named his predecessor.” [Dennis Hevesi, “Elouise Cobell, 65, Dies; Sued U.S. Over Indian Trust Funds,” New York Times, 10/17/11, “Attorney: Indian trust debacle bigger than Enron,” Associated Press, 08/22/02, and Editorial, “Congress, courts must stop malfeasance at BIA,” Argus Leader, 01/31/03]

Although the lawsuit was filed before Neal McCaleb took office, when McCaleb was Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs government lawyers accused him breaking “federal law by destroying individual Indian trust records” and “deleting months of e-mail and computer records relating to the Indian trust fund,” “despite court orders and internal policy to the contrary.” The material McCaleb deleted “reportedly included figures on the amounts of money going in and out of Indian trust fund accounts.” [“Native American Trust Fund: Massive Mismanagement,” Friends Committee on National Legislation, 12/10/10, and Editorial, “Congress, courts must stop malfeasance at BIA,” Argus Leader, 01/31/03]

McCaleb “admitted he didn’t preserve the documents as required by Department of Interior policy.” However, his excuse was that “he didn’t know he was supposed to keep the material,” because he “thought a subordinate was keeping the records.”

Alan Balaran, a court-appointed special master investigating McCaleb, called it “unbelievable” that McCaleb had “‘fabricated a story that attempted to blame others for his misdeeds.'” [“McCaleb aide testifies in court’s email probe,” Indianz.com, 12/11/02,  and Editorial, “Congress, courts must stop malfeasance at BIA,” Argus Leader, 01/31/03]

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, “later found the department also was not protecting the security of the accounts.” Under McCaleb’s leadership, a “court-hired hacker broke into the trust fund computer in late 2001 and set up dummy accounts. In his contempt ruling, the judge found that Norton and McCaleb made ‘false and misleading representations’ about the security of Indian trust data.” [Chris Casteel, “BIA, Interior officials accused of cover-up Contempt ruling urged in Indian trust fund case,” The Oklahoman, 12/11/01, and Faith Bremner, “Departing Indian Affairs official disappointed by trust fund dispute,” Gannett News Service, 12/30/02]

In September 2002, Judge Lamberth “found Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Assistant Interior Secretary of Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb guilty of contempt of court” for “failing to do enough to reform the system.” Lamberth wrote that the Interior Department had “‘undeniably shown that it can no longer be trusted to state accurately the status of its trust reform efforts'” and he called Neal McCaleb an “‘unfit’ trustee.” McCaleb left Interior “frustrated and disappointed” in January 2003, after only as serving assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs for 18 months. [Faith Bremner, “Departing Indian Affairs official disappointed by trust fund dispute,” Gannett News Service, 12/30/02 and Jim Adams, “Norton and McCaleb found guilty of contempt of court,” Indian Country Today, 09/18/02]

The plaintiffs’ attorney for the case called the “government corruption in the handling of American Indian trust money… a scandal bigger than the Enron debacle.” [“Attorney: Indian trust debacle bigger than Enron,” Associated Press, 08/22/02]

In the short time he was at Interior, Neal McCaleb was a proponent of “increased energy production on reservations.”

Neal McCaleb, as assistant secretary for Indian affairs, said that “his goal [was] to streamline policies to make energy development in Indian country more competitive.” [“Indian Bureau Chief Announces His Retirement,” Associated Press, 11/22/02, and “Bush administration to develop Indian energy policy,” Associated Press, 08/16/02]

Other Information

Neal McCaleb serves on the Board of Chickasaw Nation Industries.

Chickasaw Nation Industries is a “corporation wholly owned by the Chickasaw Nation” that “serves as a holding company with over a dozen subsidiaries that operate as Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) engaged in multiple lines of business.”

One of Chickasaw Nation Industries’ companies is Filtra-Systems Company, LLC, which is involved with “industrial filtration and separation products, systems, and technology” and works with “players in the automotive, aerospace, [and] oil and gas” industries.” [“About CNI,” Chickasaw Nation Industries, accessed 09/28/17, “Leadership Team,” Chickasaw Nation Industries, accessed 09/28/17, and “Manufacturing,” Chickasaw Nation Industries, accessed 09/28/17]