Democrats to return donation to impoverished Indian tribe White House pressures DNC to undo fund raising

March 14, 1997|By SUN WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic National Committee said yesterday that it would return $107,000 solicited from an impoverished Indian tribe -- even though tribal leaders made it clear they didn't want it back.

The Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe of central Oklahoma was tapped for a large contribution last year by DNC workers. The tribe responded, even though it had to dip into a tribal welfare fund, in hopes of getting a meeting with President Clinton -- and a favorable ruling on a lingering land dispute with the federal government.

Escorted by DNC officials, two members of the tribal council met with Clinton, but nothing happened on the land issue.

This week, when the contribution made the news, Clinton reacted angrily, but his demand that the DNC straighten out the matter was complicated by the Indians' response that they didn't want their money back, they wanted their land instead.

But yesterday, DNC officials -- with a push from the White House -- concluded that they were legally and ethically bound to return it.

"There seems to be a link in the mind of the tribe's members that they needed to give this money in order to be heard on an official government matter," said a joint statement from co-DNC chairmen Steve Grossman and Colorado Gov. Roy Romer. "That is not the case, and we cannot retain this money if they believe that to be so."

Tribal council chairman Charles Surveyor said the tribe "stands behind the donation," but added, "if they persist in offering the tribe their money back, we will have no choice but to accept it."

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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