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Begich signs new client focused on Native American issues

March 30th, 2015 Posted By: Morgan Howard No Comments

Alex DeMarban – Alaska Dispatch

March 30, 2015

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.Loren Holmes photoFormer U.S. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska will provide consulting services to a top legal firm focused on American Indian and Alaska Native matters.

The Northern Compass Group, the consulting company Begich created after losing his re-election bid to Republican Dan Sullivan last fall, will work with the law firm of Sonosky Chambers Sachse Miller & Munson.

The firm is based in Washington, D.C., with offices in Anchorage and Juneau. It’s Begich’s third announced client, with more clients to be announced in the near future, he said.

“We are excited because they represent a lot of Alaska tribes, and as a senator and Anchorage mayor I did a lot of work with tribes,” Begich said.

Begich would not say what’s he’s being paid for his services.

“I do know, but I’m a private sector person now. Great that you asked, but I don’t have to tell you,” he said.

The role is a natural fit for Begich, who worked with his Alaska colleagues in Washington, D.C., to find solutions to the state’s challenging Native issues, said attorney Lloyd Miller, one of the partners in the firm Begich is now consulting for.

As a member of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, Begich’s work included helping expand the powers for Alaska Native tribal courts to preside over prosecution of domestic violence cases under the Violence Against Women Act. One victory was allowing tribally run clinics and hospitals to provide services to veterans and be reimbursed by the Veterans Administration, Begich said.

Begich knows Congress and the federal government well, from large agencies to small, Miller said.

“He knows how the federal government works in a way that is unique to a person who has served as a sitting senator,” said Miller. “That gives him a unique set of skills to help Alaska Native interests and Lower 48 tribes navigate through the maze of the U.S. government.”

Miller said members of the law firm were meeting with Begich for the first time on Monday to begin determining what issues he will work on. The meeting will include exchanging ideas and hearing Begich’s suggestions on various American Indian and Alaska Native issues.

“He cannot have any contact with a member of any Congress or staff for two years, so one area he certainly will not be working on is lobbying or advocating in Congress. But what he can do is speak to someone and say if you are going to Congress, you might think about this and this and this,” said Miller.

“He can strategize and help Native organizations think tactically on how to go about solving problems,” he said.

One of Begich’s first orders of business might be working with tribally run health care organizations represented by the law firm, Miller said. As senator, Begich, working with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, worked to bring full federal funding to contract support costs for tribal health care services in 2014 and 2015, Miller said.

The change brought an additional $200 million or so into the state each year, said Miller.

There is uncertainty, however, about whether full funding will continue permanently. Begich could offer advice on how to make that happen, Miller said.

Begich, who has four employees working at the consulting firm, has previously announced two clients. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice as well as Grant Aviation, an Alaska airline, benefit from Begich’s efforts in the Senate involving general aviation and as an advocate for health care programs, including the U.S. Affordable Care Act.

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