April 29, 2020

Udall Requests Formal Inspector General Review of Tribal Data Breach, Potential Conflicts of Interest in Interior Official’s Role in Distribution of Emergency Coronavirus Relief to Tribal Governments

Udall to IGs: “I appreciate that your offices are taking these concerns seriously and actively pursuing them,” requests full, formal reviews

Request follows reports that sensitive Tribal data was shared widely outside the Executive Branch and Tribal complaints of Trump administration official’s potential conflicts of interest

SANTA FE, N.M. – U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, formally requested official reviews by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for both the Department of the Treasury and the Department of the Interior into two concerns raised by Tribal governments in New Mexico and across the country related to the Trump administration’s handling of COVID-19 relief funding for Tribes.

In a letter to the Offices of the Inspectors General for the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Interior, Udall said he appreciated that the OIGs are already actively pursuing these concerns. Udall requested that the offices now undertake full and formal reviews of the issues at hand.

In the past two weeks, numerous Tribal governments and organizations have raised concerns regarding a breach of sensitive Tribal data and a senior Trump administration official’s potential conflict of interest in determining the federal distribution process for the CARES Act $8 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund set aside for Tribal governments.

In his letter, Udall welcomed the OIG’s ongoing, active pursuit of information related to both matters and asked the officials to provide information to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs as the process moves forward. This requested information will assist Congress as it undertakes its own oversight work of CARES Act implementation.

“It has been widely reported that sensitive Tribal data submitted to U.S. Treasury Department's Coronavirus Relief Fund Web portal was disseminated outside of the Executive Branch,” Udall wrote. “Tribal governments submitted this proprietary data to the portal for the purpose of aiding their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the expectation that it would be kept and maintained in confidence. The administration - as a trustee - has a duty to be a good steward of any resources Tribes place in its hands, including data. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Tribal communities must have the confidence that information submitted for the purposes of aiding their communities is carefully protected.

Udall continued, “Numerous Tribal leaders and organizations have expressed concern that the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Tara Katuk Mac Lean Sweeney, may have conflicts of interest and/or failed to comply with federal ethics laws and regulations relating to her involvement in determining Tribal eligibility for the CRF funding. In addition to your review, I ask that any Departmental ethics guidance and/or waivers granted to Ms. Sweeney related to her potential financial conflicts of interest, direct or imputed to her, be made available to the Committee.

“As a central pillar of the federal government's coronavirus pandemic relief for Indian Country, the administration and allocation of CRF to Indian Country must be done quickly, without bias, and without the appearance of any impropriety. I appreciate that your offices are taking these concerns seriously and actively pursuing them,” Udall concluded.

A copy of Udall’s letter can be found here and below:

Dear Inspectors General Greenblatt and Delmar:

My office has received concerning reports regarding the Departments of Treasury and the Interior's administration of the CARES Act Title V Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Tribal set-aside. I write today to request your full review of two issues raised by those reports.

First, it has been widely reported that sensitive Tribal data submitted to U.S. Treasury Department's Coronavirus Relief Fund Web portal was disseminated outside of the Executive Branch. Tribal governments submitted this proprietary data to the portal for the purpose of aiding their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the expectation that it would be kept and maintained in confidence. The administration - as a trustee - has a duty to be a good steward of any resources Tribes place in its hands, including data. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Tribal communities must have the confidence that information submitted for the purposes of aiding their communities is carefully protected.

Second, numerous Tribal leaders and organizations have expressed concern that the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Tara Katuk Mac Lean Sweeney, may have conflicts of interest and/or failed to comply with federal ethics laws and regulations relating to her involvement in determining Tribal eligibility for the CRF funding. In addition to your review, I ask that any Departmental ethics guidance and/or waivers granted to Ms. Sweeney related to her potential financial conflicts of interest, direct or imputed to her, be made available to the Committee.

As a central pillar of the federal government's coronavirus pandemic relief for Indian Country, the administration and allocation of CRF to Indian Country must be done quickly, without bias, and without the appearance of any impropriety. I appreciate that your offices are taking these concerns seriously and actively pursuing them.

Please keep my office and all other members of the Committee, on a bipartisan basis, updated as related inquiries proceed.

Sincerely,