Means endorsed Thune earlier this year, saying Republicans could help change federal Indian policy, and the two had appeared together at some campaign events. But Means said the Thune campaign never responded after he proposed a plan in April designed to win Thune more support from Indian voters in his challenge of Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle (search).
"I honestly tried to be a Republican, but the campaign proposal, Thune campaign officials never contacted him and never returned his telephone calls. He said a friend close to the campaign told him Thune's campaign has limited funds and that a state Republican Party program is handling get-out-the-vote efforts.
Thune said Thursday he still wants Means' help, but the campaign does not have enough money to finance all the get-out-the vote programs Means and others have proposed.
"I don't think we were able to fully do all the things he wants us to do, but we're trying to do the things we can do, that we're able to do," Thune said.
"I guess I take issue with the notion there hasn't been communication because we've been trying to continually work with him throughout the process," Thune said. "We've got folks who are talking to him on what I would say is a fairly regular basis and we'll continue to stay in contact."
Means, a leader in the 1973 Wounded Knee takeover and other protests against government Indian policies, now is an actor and politician. He is running for president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe this year.
Means said he had guaranteed that Thune could get 4,000 more votes from Indians if he embraced Means' campaign proposals — a swing that could tip a close election. In 2002, Thune lost to Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson by 524 votes, and this year's race also is expected to be close.
The proposal included:
— Dealing with black mold in Indian housing built by the federal government.
— Bringing some actor friends to South Dakota to campaign for Thune and to hold a movie premiere in the state.
— Having Thune invite a Harvard doctor who wants to conduct a study of health needs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Thune said he agrees the black-mold problem and other issues need to be discussed. "We want to be engaged in being part of the solution to that problem," the Republican Senate candidate said.
"Russell gives voice to a group of people on the reservations who I don't think get heard from much," Thune said. "His message, I think, is a very powerful and compelling one, and it's one that I have embraced."
Means also has proposed a plan to get companies to locate plants on Indian reservations instead of moving them to other countries. Companies have moved jobs overseas because of the high cost of wages, health insurance and unions, but Indian reservations could offer economical options to such companies, he said.
Means is a Libertarian who supports Ralph Nader for president because he believes that both Republicans and Democrats can't deal with the problems of Indian reservations and the rest of the nation. He said he hopes a strong third party can be formed by the 2008 election.
Reservation voters likely will support Daschle in November because they have voted Democratic for decades, even though the Democratic Party has pursued policies that harmed Indians, Means said. Republicans will show up at some reservation events, but such campaigning will not win them many votes, he said.
"I tried to help the Republicans. They didn't want my help," Means said.