OK

I was researching a scandal thread about some odd donations from Saipan and (as often happens) I found Richard Pombo.

Somehow I missed this Marianas Variety article from last January. It dropped a little bombshell that I have not seen reported on the mainland (emphasis added):

The e-mails that have been subpoenaed by the U.S. District Court of the District of Colombia through Abramoff's former employer, Greenberg Traurig, included that of garment magnate Willie Tan, former Gov. Froilan C. Tenorio, Gov.-elect Benigno R. Fitial, former Vice Speaker Alejo Mendiola, Rep. Norman Palacios, U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-California, the CNMI, Travel Subgroup, the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association, the Western Pacific Economic Council and Enron.

Now there are literally dozens of GOP Congressmen involved with the Abramoff scandal and yet it was Pombo who made the cut.

More on the jump.

I recently posted about the Scandal trail that is evident in the plea agreements of Scanlon, Abramoff, Rudy, and Volz.  All the pleas point to how Ed Buckham and Mike Scanlon traveled to CNMI in late 1999 to promise Mendiola and Palacios great rewards if they switched their votes to support Ben Fitial election to CNMI's Speaker of the House. It worked:

So all plea agreements mention that in January 2000, Scanlon, Volz and others traveled  to CNMI. They were there to seal the deal and ensure Fitial election. This was important to Abramoff and his sweatshop clients. And Fitial would deliver the goods for Jack. By July 2000 he had pushed through legislation that basically ordered the CNMI Government to rehire Abramoff. And they did.

But the Volz plea mentions that the January 2000 travel was to "in part to assist Scanlon and others with their lobbying businesses" and the Rudy Plea stated that (emphasis added):

 

In 2000, Rudy worked with others to secure certain appropriations projects for the CNMI which he knew would help Abramoff's lobbying business and that had been sought by Abramoff and Lobbyist B;

Lobbyist B is Ed Buckham. In late 1999 Mike Scanlon was still on DeLay's staff when he traveled to CNMI with Buckham to fix the CNMI election. By the time Mike took the January trip he was working for Abramoff, Buckham and himself. According to Scanlons final financial disclosure form as a Hill staffer, he was paid $10,000 by Buckham for work done "during a break in service". Back in 1999 Buckham's lobbying firm only had one client doing business on CNMI. That was Enron. They wanted to land the contract to build a power plant on the islands to help run all those sweatshops. By the end of 1999 they were losing the bid.

In January 2000 they lost the bid. By March, Fitial had pushed through legislation that reopened the bidding and forced awarding Enron the contract. Then, of course, Enron imploded and the power plant on CNMI was never built.

And the payoffs to CNMI flowed through the GOP controlled Congress (and later the Bush White House as well). As Jack explained in his pitch letter:

 

Working on behalf of the Western Pacific Economic Council, our team not only stopped all anti-CNMI legislation from being enacted, we helped to secure $1.4 million in extra CNMI appropriations for infrastructure improvements in Tinian and Rota.

And that was not all. Millions flowed through the Appropriation process to CNMI. Jack, Tom and the gang had many willing participants in the process. Folks like Doolittle, Pombo, Taylor, Rohrabacher, Young, Burton, Burns and a host of others have plenty to worry about. And they should worry, because they have committed a horrible crime.

And based on the Marianas Variety it looks like Pombo may be moving to the top of the list. According to the article the U.S. District Court of the District of Colombia had subpoenaed Greenberg Traurig for the e-mails. And then lawyers for GT asked CNMI's Government to waive any attorney-client privilege. The outgoing CNMI Governor complied:

GOVERNOR Juan N. Babauta has waived any and all exemptions from disclosure, including attorney-client privilege, concerning e-mails and correspondence between local government officials and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff while the CNMI was still his client. [snip]

Babauta issued the waiver after Clinton L. Narver, of Williams & Connolly L.L.P, which represents Greenberg, wrote him a letter dated Dec. 9 asking for a "direction concerning the CNMI's assertion or waiver of attorney-client privilege in connection with the Department of Justice subpoena." [snip]

"We have made everything available to the inspector general's office relative to the subpoenas that have been issued," he said.

Now there was a limited amount of time for the DOJ to act on these records as the incoming Governor is certainly a "person of interest" in the ongoing investigation:

Babauta, who lost to Fitial in the November election, said the people of the commonwealth should seek to recover at least part of the millions paid to Abramoff to represent the CNMI in Washington. [snip]

"We paid Jack Abramoff millions and millions of dollars which I think was a waste of resources that we badly needed to use in other areas," Babauta said. [snip]

"It's hard to leave it up to (the new) administration since they have a close working relationship with Jack Abramoff, so there's a conflict there."

Fitial is deep into this scandal. And according to news reports he is cooperating with the DOJ:

Thursday: December 8, 2005
The Marianas Variety Online reports that Governor-elect Benigno R. Fitial says he will cooperate with federal authorities in the ongoing investigation of Rep. Tom Delay and former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whom he once described as his "close friends."

All in all this is more bad news for the GOP. And Pombo stands out with the name check in the DOJ subpoena list. Last week I posted a long Diary on Pombo's January 2004 visit to CNMI. Many possible favors for the Tan Family were mentioned, but I still like the way Pombo helped get the Tan's fishing fleets access to 10 percent of all the canned tuna sold in the USA:

Now, in November 2003, Congress passed and Bush signed the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003. [snip]

But the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003 had some other goodies in it for the GOP's Hong Kong patrons. And this one seems to have the mark of Pombo upon it. Here is Article IV, Section 242 of the law (emphasis added):

The President shall proclaim the following tariff treatment for articles imported from the Federated States of Micronesia which shall apply during the period of effectiveness of this title:
    (a) Unless otherwise excluded, articles imported from the Federated States of Micronesia, subject to the limitations imposed under section 503(b) of title V of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2463(b)), shall be exempt from duty.
    (b) Only tuna in airtight containers provided for in heading 1604.14.22 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States that is imported from the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands during any calendar year not to exceed 10 percent of apparent United States consumption of tuna in airtight containers during the immediately preceding calendar year, as reported by the National Marine Fisheries Service, shall be exempt from duty; but the quantity of tuna given duty-free treatment under this paragraph for any calendar year shall be counted against the aggregated quantity of tuna in airtight containers that is dutiable under rate column numbered 1 of such heading 1604.14.22 for that calendar year.

Pombo loves his fishing and so does the Tan Family. In fact one of the Tan Family corporations is the Luen Thai Fishing Venture which started on Pohnpei, one of the islands that make up the FSM.

Being able to suddenly ship up to 10% of US tuna consumption, duty free, to the United States is very profitable for the Tan Family and thanks to other Pombo and the Bush administration they can slap a dolphin-safe label. These tuna fleets are floating factories at sea. An effort has to be made to protect the dolphins that swim with schools of tuna from being killed. There used to be oversight to ensure compliance, but now the tuna industries can do their own oversight as long as they tell the Bush administration that everything is A OK.

And I'm sure a family that made a fortune trafficking in human beings to work in sweatshops across the globe is taking the extra steps to ensure they don't kill any dolphins as the factory-fish the Pacific.

It looks like the donations the Tan Family made to Pombo's Rich PAC were more than worth it.

And Pombo is the Tan Family's new first line of defense to stop Congressman George Miller as he joins with others to finally extend US labor, immigration and custom laws to CNMI.

Perhaps that earmark is just one of the many goodies Pombo and the rest of the GOP syndicate slipped into legislation for their Chinese patrons. I am encouraged that the DOJ seems to be digging in this area.

It is important because at its heart this is a scandal about buying and selling human beings for power and profit. It is about the modern GOP turning a blind eye and passive support to forced sex, forced labor and forced abortions.

Rebecca Clarren's  article in Ms. Magazinedetails her recent trip to CNMI and how she met with the sweatshop workers, sex workers and other victims of the Abramoff/DeLay/GOP efforts to protect the sweatshops and keep the abuse going. As of now the full article is only available in print, but I would recommend purchasing a copy of Ms. to read the report. Excerpts are also available at AlterNet.

This record of abuse should be thrown in Pombo's face. He should be forced to explain why he has spent his time in Congress working to protect a system of forced labor, forced prostitution and forced abortions.

This should be a National campaign issue. The Republican Party has some explaining to do. They put the interests of their Hong Kong patrons ahead of justice and America.

They used their offices and positions to protect abuse and promote injustice. They put the Government of the United States of America in the business of supporting sweatshops, human trafficking, force prostitution and forced abortion. And they did it for money and power.

We need to talk about this. We need to make this an issue for 2006. The more we talk about it the less likely it is that the Bush political appointees will be able to sweep the abuse under the rug (once again).

Every member of the GOP Caucus who worked to block legislation extending US labor, immigration and custom laws to CNMI should be put on the defensive. The crimes were real and the evidence has been presented to Congress since before 1994. It is time to hold these folks accountable: both as co-conspirators and at the ballot box.

2006 is now. Let's take our Country back!

Originally posted to dengre on Mon May 22, 2006 at 08:00 PM PDT.

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