From the diaries. This is a hugely significant development in one of our top tier Senate races. mcjoan
Two days ago, questions surfaced about the relationship between Colorado Senate candidate Bob Schaffer and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's storied efforts to stall human rights and immigration reforms in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory.
Today, the Denver Post's homework is complete, and it's utterly devastating:
Just before boarding a plane to the Mariana Islands in 1999, then-Congressman Bob Schaffer announced he was embarking on a fact-finding mission to get to the bottom of repeated allegations of labor abuse in the American protectorate.
"I plan to walk right into those factories and living quarters to see for myself what conditions exist," Schaffer said in a news release in August of that year.
What he didn't say was that the trip was partly arranged by the firm of now-jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented textile factory owners fighting congressional efforts to reform labor and immigration laws on the islands and who was being handsomely paid to keep the islands' cherished exemptions.
Schaffer and his wife stayed for free at a palm-studded beach resort and, besides factories, also toured historical sites and met with clients of Preston-
Gates, Abramoff's firm, according to a copy of the trip's agenda archived in Schaffer's congressional papers.
He left believing that allegations of widespread abuse were largely unfounded -- blaming them on Big Labor's efforts to shut down a booming textile industry allowed to use the "Made in USA" label but dependent on tens of thousands of imported workers.
In a recent interview with The Denver Post, the Republican candidate for Colorado's open Senate seat described the protectorate's guest-worker program as a "model" lawmakers could use as they overhaul the U.S. immigration system...
You have to read all of this--reporter Michael Riley goes on to detail the horrific labor conditions widely reported in the Northern Marianas, Schaffer's ridiculous Abramoff-arranged vacation that never even attempted to veer from its Potemkin script, and (best of all) Dick Wadhams completely slobbering himself trying to defend the indefensible.
And there's more--we've been going through contribution records looking for ties between Schaffer and other CNMI corporate interests. I previously mentioned donations to Schaffer's Senate campaign from the pro-business governor of the territory, and here's another bit:
Two $1000 contributions to Schaffer on 3/31/1997 from Jerry Tan, brother of sweatshop owner of scandalous record Willie Tan, who hired Abramoff to lobby to preserve the "Made in the USA" status quo in CNMI. The entire Tan family, through Tan Holdings and affiliated businesses, were key figures in the CNMI/Abramoff scandal. They were assessed the largest fine ever levied by the US Dept of Labor, approximately $9,000,000, and after that they hired Jack Abramoff to protect their "interests."
Here's a .PDF of donors from Saipan's ZIP code (remember, US territory) to Schaffer.
Coming up: Greenberg Traurig, anyone?
Cross-posted at ProgressNowAction