Denise Desiderio, Former National Congress of American Indians Policy Director, Joins Akin Gump

(Washington, D.C.) – Akin Gump today announced that Denise Desiderio, former policy director at the National Congress of American Indians, has joined Akin Gump as a senior policy advisor in its American Indian law and policy practice. Working at the largest national organization for tribal governments and for the U.S. government, Ms. Desiderio earned 15 years of experience advising on American Indian policy and regulation.

In her previous role at the National Congress of American Indians, Ms. Desiderio was responsible for overseeing policy and advocating to Congress and the White House on behalf of Tribal Nations concerning policy matters impacting Indian Country.

“Denise is an outstanding addition to our group. She has spent many years in public service on behalf of American Indians,” said Don Pongrace, head of Akin Gump’s American Indian law and policy practice. “Her ability to deliver on major issues affecting tribal governments will be welcomed by our many clients, and I am thrilled that she has decided to join us.”

Added Ms. Desiderio, “Akin Gump is well known for the impressive breadth of its work with tribes, including an ability to navigate crucial, complex matters involving land rights and natural resource development and financing. Given my background and extensive work with Tribal Nations over the years, Akin Gump is an ideal fit, and I could not be more excited to be here.”

About Denise Desiderio

Prior to joining the National Congress of American Indians, Ms. Desiderio worked as deputy staff director/senior counsel for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. During her time in that role, she provided policy, legislative and strategic advice to the committee chairman and supported the advancement of committee policy through bipartisan Senate outreach.

Ms. Desiderio also served as counselor in the Office of the General Counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission, where she advised the chairman and commissioners on actions taken under the authority of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). She was responsible for preparing and implementing the commission’s facility license regulations, including internal and external training related to the regulations. She also oversaw the legal review of tribal gaming ordinances, management contracts, facility license submissions and issues related to Indian lands, and she developed and implemented an Indian lands database providing information on lands where gaming facilities are located. In addition, her work included the review of facility environmental impact statements, responses to Freedom of Information Act appeals and the day-to-day oversight and review mandated by the IGRA.

Ms. Desiderio began her career as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, where she advised on legal and policy issues affecting tribal governments. On behalf of the Assistant Secretary, she conducted meetings with tribal representatives and acted as liaison with other federal agencies, tribal governments and departmental leadership.

A member of the Sappony Tribe, Ms. Desiderio serves as counsel to the Tribal Council and, through her work on the Tribal Governance Project, revamped the Tribal Constitution by means of formal meetings with the Tribal Council and the community.  She also participates in the Annual Sappony Youth Camp.

Ms. Desiderio received her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and her B.A. from Marymount University.

About Akin Gump’s American Indian Law and Policy Practice

Akin Gump’s American Indian law and policy practice provides legal and strategic advice to American Indian tribal governments and other entities that share a commitment to tribal political empowerment, sovereignty and economic development. The firm’s lawyers and consultants design legal strategies, defend tribal rights and formulate public policy recommendations that make it possible for tribal clients to accomplish their business, legal and political goals. Whether it is finding the capital necessary to help tribal clients grow their businesses or educational facilities or helping to ensure an advantageous legislative and regulatory environment, Akin Gump draws from the collective knowledge and experience of one of the nation’s leading teams to help accomplish a particular client objective.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 

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