Alaska Federation of Natives, a key supporter of Murkowski, opposes Kavanaugh appointment

Alaska's largest Native organization said Wednesday it "strongly" opposes the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, calling his views on Indian policy erroneous and a threat to unique policies and laws governing Alaska Native institutions.

The Alaska Federation of Natives announcement potentially adds pressure to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has not said whether she supports the appointment and who in 2010 benefited from the group's endorsement in her uphill write-in victory against Joe Miller. Groups opposed to Kavanaugh's appointment have pressed Murkowski to vote against him.

"AFN strongly urges the U.S. Senate to vote against Judge Kavanaugh," the organization said. "The documents that have been released so far in relation to his nomination demonstrate how troubling his confirmation would be for Native peoples, particularly Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians."

AFN said Kavanaugh has an "erroneous" position on the Indian Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The clause gives Congress the power to "regulate commerce" with nations, states and Indian tribes, but Kavanaugh challenges the clause's application to affairs beyond trade, the organization said in a prepared statement.

"This impacts Alaska Native tribes, corporations, organizations and consortia because their dealings with Congress presently extend to a host of federal programs concerning their members, resources and governments," AFN said.

AFN also called Kavanaugh's view of the federal government's special trust responsibility with tribes "misguided." Kavanaugh has a limited view of the responsibility, rooted in the U.S. Constitution, treaties and elsewhere, the group said.

"Specifically, he would only extend the special trust relationship to Indian tribes with his preferred history of federal dealings, including territorial removal and isolation," the group said. "This, too, impacts Alaska, since Alaska Natives have a unique federal experience and few reservations were established in Alaska."


"This thinking could overturn much, if not all, of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as well as all other federal legislation and regulations addressing Alaska Natives, tribes, corporations and organizations," the group said.

Murkowski could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Alaska's other senator, Republican Dan Sullivan, had one of the earliest Senate meetings with Kavanaugh and announced immediately after that the judge had won his confirmation vote.

Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have been targeted as possible "no" votes on because they are both pro-choice Republicans in a Senate with a 51-49 Republican majority. Groups opposed to Kavanaugh have been running ads in Alaska and Maine, largely focused on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.


[Murkowski, weighing Kavanaugh's stand on abortion, still mum on vote]

[Pressure is on Murkowski over Kavanaugh vote]

[Q&A: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on vetting Trump's new Supreme Court nominee]

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.