For each program designed to implement Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (affirmative action), there are attempts to front or commit fraud and abuse of such programs.
Usually, a front operation has a Black acting as if he has majority ownership and/or management when the real operators are behind the scenes and very much Caucasian. Most of this activity happens at the local level as the penalties for committing federal fraud are certain and hard; three to five years in federal prison is not unusual.
However, with the coming of high-powered, slick lobbying firms in Washington, D.C., a new era is here. The 8a program, which is the best federal affirmative action program in existence, has now been infiltrated. Congress — the Congressional Black Caucus included — has allowed lobbyists to get some of their high-powered Caucasian clients into the 8a program by representing themselves as Alaska Native Corporations. That's right, Alaska Native Corporations have 8a benefits and they don't have to actually be Alaskan natives. They don't have to be small or disadvantaged, either.
In fact, most Alaska Native Corporations are businesses approaching $1 billion in annual revenue. They sit back in the offices of their D.C. lobbyist and "cherry pick" federal contracts worth hundreds of millions — or billions — of dollars. Remember, these dollars are credited as minority dollars and, in effect, are taken from the pools set aside for real minorities such as Blacks, Hispanics, etc.
Keep in mind that real American Indians still have to apply to get into the 8a program and meet stringent certification. They have to show that they live as American Indians, such as on a reservation or culturally live as an Apache, Cherokee, etc. But the corporations only have to have a subsidiary of their organization show a paper relationship with some tribe in Alaska, such as giving a small portion of the net profits to help the tribe. It is less than pennies on the dollar.
What the lobbyists have created with the Alaskan Native Corporations program is a genuine license to steal federal contracts from bona fide and qualified minority businesses. They are not minority and they are not small (free to have large contracts as opposed to legitimate 8a firms).
They had me going for a while. Federal agencies began showing great increases in small and minority business contracts. The reality was that they had all gotten on the Alaska Native Corporation bandwagon, and it became very apparent when Katrina hit us. The first minority business report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed huge numbers. After we studied and dissected it, we found that 98 percent of the "minority businesses" were White-owned Alaska Native Corporations. Black firms had less than 0.5 percent.
These Alaska Native Corporations are based in places like Greenbelt, Md., Charlotte, N.C., Alexandria, Va., Chesapeake, Va. and many other such fine communities that are thousands of miles south of Alaska.
They are so arrogant that they are now getting no-bid contracts in excess of $1 billion and subcontracting to corporate giants like Lockheed, Boeing, etc. And it has gotten worse. Alaskan Native Corporations that have exploited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act are now declaring themselves exempt from the Act's hiring and employment practices and be free from litigation.
One person told me this: "In May 2006, I was discriminated against and terminated from my position as deputy division director. I was the last surviving African American senior manager in the company."
After filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and participating in the mediation process, this person discovered claims by the attorneys for Chenega Corporation that they and their subsidiaries hold sovereign immunity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the U.S. codes governing civil rights because of their identity as a registered "Indian tribe."
Folks, we can't make this up.
Harry C. Alford is the president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.