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McCaskill to propose native contracting bill

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri says she wants to strip Alaska Native corporations of the unprecedented edge they now enjoy in obtaining federal contracts worth billions of dollars.

The Democrat said she planned to introduce legislation in mid-November that would, among other changes, eliminate the ability of the corporations to receive contracts with no monetary caps under a Small Business Administration program that aims to help small disadvantaged firms.

“We’ve seen that a very small portion of these companies’ profits are reaching native Alaskans, so it’s time to acknowledge the fact that this program is not effective for either native Alaskans or taxpayers,” McCaskill said in an e-mail Thursday provided by an aide.

The Washington Post first reported McCaskill’s plans.

The corporations would still be able to participate in the program, but they would have to qualify under the same rules as other participants, such as being designated as socially disadvantaged business enterprised, managed by equally disadvantaged individuals and meet size requirements.

The companies, which currently don’t have to be managed by Alaska Natives, would no longer enjoy special benefits ushered through Congress two decades ago by then-Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

The scores of regional and village corporations were created after the signing of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to compensate Alaska Natives for the loss of lands historically used or occupied. It appropriated more than $962 million and allowed the regional and village corporations to select 44 million acres of land.

McCaskill spokeswoman Maria Speiser said the corporations would still be able to receive no-bid contracts with $5.5 million caps for goods and $3.5 million for services. “Contracts of larger size would require that they compete,” Speiser said.

McCaskill, a former auditor, has said that she believes that a number of Native corporations are too large to qualify as small businesses. She also has said the advantages need to be examined, given the astronomical increase in the contracts awarded to Alaska Native corporations and their hundreds of subsidiaries.

Responding to McCaskill’s plan, some Native corporations that are proposing their own reforms said Congress’ goal should remain a federal priority. Those preferences were intended to provide economic opportunities to impoverished Alaskans.

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