Newsweek reports in its May 24 issue that the new Bureau of Indian Affairs chief Dave Anderson recently dispatched top staff members, at taxpayer expense, to a seminar being put on by self-help guru Tony Robbins in Chicago. Robbins is the ridiculously popular author of such motivational tomes as Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement and Awaken the Giant Within. The local barbecue magnate, a 51-year-old member of the Choctaw and Chippewa tribes, is also a longtime Robbins admirer.
According to the BIA, 14 employees attended the four-day event at a cost of $995 per person. For those keeping score, that's $13,930 in public funds.
How does the chronically mismanaged BIA justify this expense?
"He just wanted to help the employees in his office create a more positive environment in working on hard issues and with other employees," says BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling. "He thought that this would lend to that very well."
Darling further maintains that other government agencies have sent their employees to Robbins's seminars, though she could not name one when asked.
Apparently, along with unlimited power comes the ability to roll logs: Robbins just happens to have penned a nice blurb for Anderson's own recently published book, Famous Dave's LifeSkills for Success. "Famous Dave Anderson is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary message," Robbins swoons. "His heart is solid gold and the information in his book, LifeSkills, is just as valuable."
Anderson took over the BIA post in February, but is already stirring up controversy because of his past ties to casino interests. Last month, Sen. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, called for Anderson's resignation. Anderson co-founded Grand Casinos Inc., one of the most successful Indian casino developers in the country, but left the business in 1996. His former partner, Lyle Berman, however, continues to operate Indian casinos and regularly has business before the BIA. Given these ties, Anderson has recused himself from all decisions involving tribal recognition and gambling--two central areas of concern for the agency.
If he can rise above the mesquite smoke, Famous Dave should fit right in with the Bushmen. After all, the administration's ruling philosophy seems to have been cribbed from The Power of Positive Thinking.