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Here we go again.

Another (very) long and winding tale of yet another bit of corruption that weaves in and out of the Bush White House, Chinese Casinos, Team Abramoff, the Mariana Islands and the purge of US Attorneys.

As the Bush era enters the scandal-a-day phase it is hard to keep up. Do you really need to learn more?

Perhaps.

This is a tale of exploitation, greed and money laundering. The targets of the scam are not only foreign guest workers, but also US tax payers and US service men and women.

Like most of the scandals of the Gingrich/Bush era this one is about raising money for off-the-books operations to fix elections, control the news media and enrich the vested investors in the Gingrich/Bush Republican party.

And if you want to follow the money the Republican Party raised and spent in the moral twilight zone defined by their greed, desire, power and hypocrisy, you need to study Jack Abramoff.

That study will lead to long and complicated tales.

Like this one.

Let’s go to school on the jump...

Let’s be clear:

The focus of the Bush White House and the Republican Party is obstructing justice

Why?

It is because they have so much to hide.

You could start looking anywhere, with anyone connected to the Republican power structure of the last quarter of a century. If you dig just a little, something will smell bad. Dig more and it becomes foul. Dig deep and you’ll find yourself in a river of corruption.

I am one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of US citizens who started to dig. The progressive netroots have provided us a way to link up, share notes, make new discoveries and hold the Republican Party accountable.

For many in the Gingrich/Bush GOP and their media-based sycophants it is the first time anybody has ever dared to hold them accountable. Their wails of protests are louder than a stadium full of testy two-year olds in full tantrum meltdown.

It makes me smile.

We have more power than they do. And we are learning how to use it.

Anyone of us can discover something and move it from a comment or Diary to a full blown National scandal. Revelations around Karl Rove’s Power Point and the growing Prosecutor Purge scandal are just two examples. There are many, many more.

And Jack Abramoff seems to be woven into every scandal of the Bush era. It is not surprising, as he was a 25-year bagman for the Republican Party and the effort to establish one party rule in the USA.

He worked with everybody, and as he told Vanity Fair (emphasis added):

"Any important Republican who comes out and says they didn’t know me is almost certainly lying," he says. Such lies are not just, well, lies, but dumb to boot, he adds, for, as his own humiliations suggest, old e-mails never die; they just sit on hard drives, waiting to be subpoenaed and then to be leaked to the press. "This is not an age when you can run away from facts," he declares. "I had to deal with my records, and others will have to deal with theirs."

Try as they might to deny it, it seems that reality—that facts—are catching up with the Boy-King and his court of yes-men, liars and thieves. For years, Jack Abramoff was a key player in the modern Republican Party. He ran their money through the shadows of the global economy. He financed their dirty deeds and for many years he did it out of the spotlight. Then one day some facts were exposed. Jack had nowhere to run. Now he is in jail. More facts will come out.

Even though the efforts to obstruct justice have been massive, they will fail. They are failing. Any "important Republican" should be very worried these days. They are just a few news cycles away from ruin.

I know this because I’ve posted about Abramoff for some time now and have been researching him since 1999. By design, Jack’s work was criminal and very, very complicated. And since 1979, Jack has been part of a much larger effort to fund and establish one-party rule in the United States—by any means necessary.

Jack was a player in Iran-Contra. He helped organize the speaking tour for the Contras. I’ve always thought that Jack made a mistake that helped the Iran-Contra scandal break into the headlines, but that’s a story for another day.

At its root the Iran-Contra Scandal was a money laundering scheme run out of the basement of the Reagan White House. The operation was based on moving money around a three legged operation of drugs, guns and cash.

It proved to be too easy to trace the funds and expose the secret agenda of the modern GOP. Abramoff came up with a solution. His innovation was to add gambling as the fourth and stabilizing leg to the operation. Purchasing the fleet of SunCruz gambling ships was a part of the plan. So was exploiting Tribal casinos. Gambling was also what attracted Jack to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

The CNMI is a string of islands some forty miles North of Guam in the Western Pacific. By 1986 the CNMI had formally became a Territory of the United States. Different islands within the CNMI set rules for their development. Saipan decided to let in foreign investors, import tens of thousands of "guest workers" and set up sweatshops to take advantage of their newly acquired right to sew a "Made in the USA" label on CNMI produced garments. All of the CNMI embraced the sex trade, but Saipan led the way. And all of the Territory embraced gambling through poker machines, but one island, Tinian, authorized the building of up to five casinos.

The CNMI, but especially, Tinian has a lot of "shadow material".  In 1945, US planes would leave an airstrip on the island to introduce Japan and the world to the Atomic Bomb. On top of that, for the last twenty five years the CNMI has embraced an economic system rooted in the hidden shadows of global trade (human trafficking, sweatshops, forced prostitution, money laundering, drug smuggling, gun running and the like).The Mariana Islands have some karma to work through. And the history of the CNMI is part of the collective hidden history of the United States and our collective karma to resolve.

Perhaps that is why I care about this issue, but I digress...

An oddity of the CNMI is that only members of the indigenous population can own land. Everybody else—foreign, US citizen or even the US Government—has to lease the land they use from the locals. When the Mariana Islands became a US Territory, the US military occupied a lot of land. They still do. And they have long-term leases.

When Tinian decided to allow up to five casinos on the island they faced a few obstacles. One was that the US military had the best real estate locked up in long-term leases. Another was that the transportation infrastructure on Tinian sucked.

That is what Jack Abramoff would have discovered back in the late 1980s when he formed a company with his father to build a casino on Tinian. That effort never got off the ground. Through the early 1990s Jack visited the CNMI to try and get a Tinian casino off the ground. It didn’t work. There were too many obstacles that only the Federal government could remove. Fortunately for Jack, he was part of the effort take over the government in the 1994 midterm elections.

As Lou Dubose reported Abramoff helped raised $700,000 for GOP candidates in the 1994 elections. The money was passed through DeLay, who then was elected GOP Whip over Gingrich’s chosen candidate. After that, "Abramoff was a made man."  

Most reports of the work Abramoff, DeLay, the Republican Congress did for the CNMI focus on the effort to block legislation to end the sweatshops, sexshops and human trafficking. And to be sure, they did all of that. It is a very sordid tale of abuse that deserves more attention, but there are other Abramoff activities that deserve an investigation.

Jack never stopped pursuing a casino on Tinian. A major focus of Team Abramoff in 1996 and 1997 was getting the Department of Defense to lease back land to the CNMI Government for economic development (aka Tinian Casinos). With the help of Tom DeLay that effort was successful. The front page of the October 10, 1997 issue of the Marianas Variety celebrated the news:

DeLay and Tenorio & Tinian
A few weeks later DeLay would travel to the CNMI to ring in the New Year and enjoy a cockfight with Governor Tenorio, but I digress...

For those who thrive on the global shadow economy, it was a good thing that Jack and Tom came through for the Tinian Casino. By the fall of 1997, Chinese investors from Hong Kong had already committed millions to build it. And over the years the Jacked-Up Republicans appropriated millions for improvements to the Titian airport to help the Chinese get to their unregulated international gambling/money laundering operation.

For most of the last decade only one casino has operated on Tinian and it was a perfect set-up for off-the-books money. According to a 2002 Security Report released by the US Attorney for Guam, the casino on Tinian was an international center for money laundering:

Unfettered access into the C.N.M.I and the presence of an unregulated international gambling casino on Tinian, allow for the perfect venue to launder illegal funds, regardless of their source. This situation is further compounded by the lack of any civil or criminal revenue enforcement by the territorial government or sufficient Federal assets to continually scrutinize banking and money handling businesses.

It was perfect for the needs of the GOP and the owners of the casino—the Peoples Republic of China (PRC):

The P.R.C. has built and currently operates a 600-room hotel and international gambling resort on the island of Tinian in the C.N.M.I. This facility has been in operation for approximately three years. Federal officials indicate that it has-never enjoyed more than a 20 percent occupancy rate and is believed to be a "marker" for mainland China with involvements in international money laundering operations. In March of 2002, this casino became the subject of investigation by Federal authorities because it received $3.5 million in fraudulent loans in connection with the Bank of Saipan fraud scheme cited earlier.

So, just to take a moment for review: Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and the Republican party actively helped the PRC build a casino money laundering facility on a US Territory.

And then they protected the money laundering operation from oversight.

Part of that effort was suppressing the 2002 security report and punishing the authors—Robert Meissner, a DOJ regional security specialist and acting Guam US Attorney, Frederick Black. Both lost their positions and were replaced with hand picked cronies. The active effort to obstruct justice and protect the Tinian money laundering facility worked for a while. Rove and Abramoff were able to keep the report out of the public eye for two election cycles. But then Jack got into trouble. Those pesky "facts" are coming to light and the truth is leaking out (you can read more about it here, here, and here). More questions can and should be asked.

One of the reasons that the CNMI was so important to Jack Abramoff and the Republican Party was the PRC’s Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino. It was a way to get off-the-books money into the system. Most of this effort was done in the shadows, but every now and then mistakes were made and a glimpse of the activity was revealed. Take this May 23, 2000 report of a planned Bush fundraiser as an example:

A $250-per-head fundraising event will be held next month for U.S. presidential hopeful, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, at the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino, the first in a series of activities to be conducted by a CNMI committee.

House Speaker Benigno R. Fitial, who was designated last month as chair of the George W. Bush for President Committee for the Northern Marianas, said they hope to raise more than $80,000 during the event scheduled for June 14.

And by June 1st the event was "postponed":

The $250-per-head dinner scheduled for June 14 at the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino to raise funds for U.S. presidential candidate George W. Bush has been postponed to a later date .

House Speaker Benigno R. Fitial, chair of the George W. Bush for President Committee for the CNMI, said the postponement was due to the busy activities by the campaign head committee in the mainland in preparation for the July convention.

There is not a record that the fundraiser ever officially happened. And George Bush’s disclosed take from the CNMI in 2000 was very small, less than $2,000. By contrast, Bush’s CNMI donations from 2004 were just shy of $30,000. Given the close race in 2000, I just don’t see Rove leaving $80,000 on the table. My hunch is that it became part of the stream of off-the-books funds that Jack Abramoff, their star GOP bagman, was collecting for "special" off-the-books electoral efforts in 2000. We may never now how much money was spent that year in the effort to elect Bush and establish one party rule in the USA.

The money might help explain why, in 2003, George Bush told the CNMI Governor he was "secretly" aware of the Territory:

U.S. president George W. Bush knows about Saipan for some reasons—reasons that cannot be disclosed, according to Governor Juan N. Babauta.

"President Bush is very much aware of where Saipan is for a number of reasons, reasons which I can't disclose," told reporters yesterday when asked about his upcoming meeting with the President at the White House.

Of course by 2003 there were several other "secret" reasons Bush might know about the CNMI.

One might be the firing of Fred Black and the suppressing of the 2002 Guam/CNMI Security Report.  

Or it could be the close working relationship between Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove—a relationship so tight that Karl hired Jack’s long-time assistant, Susan Ralston as his own Gal Friday.

Or it could be the money. To win re-election in 2004, Bush would need a lot of undisclosed funds.

Yet another reason for Bush’s "secret" knowledge might have been his plan to let Karl Rove’s assistant, Susan Ralston, select the members of the President's Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Commission (AAIP). This detail was reported in several sources, including Ralston’s political obits (emphasis added):

In a startling development, the highest-ranking Asian Pacific American in the White House has abruptly resigned. [snip]

As the top administrative aide to Bush strategist Karl Rove, Ralston brings the scandal of imprisoned former lobbyist Jack Abramoff right into Bush’s inner circle. [snip]

Even Ralston’s role in forming Bush’s "White House Initiative on AAPI’s" has come under criticism for being "largely perceived as a commission she stacked with her people," many relatively unknown in the community.

And Ralston did indeed stack the membership of the AAPI with loyal "Bushies". Chief among them, is her fellow Loyola University alumni, Rudy Pamintuan. Ralston made sure that this young "Baby Jack" was appointed as Chairman of Bush’s AAPI.

Pamintuan runs a PR agency out of Chicago; Sherman Consulting. From the Web site, it seems to be a typical dodgy "Baby Jack" firm. Now, a "Baby Jack" is an outfit spawned by Abramoff and his 25-year money laundering operation. The folks running these outfits are the next generation of Abramoffs. (Think of the "PR Firms" ran by Michael Scanlon).

In the shadow economy, PR firms are almost as important as casinos. These "companies" are easily establish, can operate in political realms, move massive amounts of cash, impact campaigns and avoid any disclosure rules that might apply to lobbyists, and Federal employees.

To be a "Baby Jack", one has to use connections to the powerful to land business that you otherwise would never be on the short list to get. For example, the poorly designed Sherman Consulting web site list FEMA among Rudy’s clients. Another of Rudy’s clients is the extremely corrupt Governor of the CNMI. According to the Marianas Variety Rudy is helping Fitial’s attempt to block the 110th Congress from extending US labor, immigration and custom laws to the rogue US Territory (and Pamintuan is trading on his connections to the White House in that effort):

Rudy Pamintuan, chairman of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, is on island to help the CNMI government prepare for the hearing.

"It is my understanding that during the hearing, there will be workers who will speak against the CNMI...and from a key strategic standpoint it’s good to have someone oppose or counter that testimony," he told Variety.

Pamintuan, who is president of his own Chicago, Illinois-based public policy and media strategy firm, Sherman Consulting Inc., met with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and other CNMI elected officials on Monday.

"If the other side is bringing a handful of victims to speak against the CNMI...and it is not opposed (then the) CNMI is in losing proposition," he said.

So like Abramoff before him, Pamintuan is advising the CNMI to attack any victims of rape and abuse who dare to travel to Washington and have the courage to testify about the decades old system of vile corruption that has been allowed to flourish on the CNMI. And like Abramoff, Rudy wraps himself in his connections to "Important Republicans" and uses these connections to get paid. That’s one reason why Rudy is a Baby Jack. Another reason is gambling.

In 2005, the very corrupt Benigno R. (Ben) Fitial was elected CNMI Governor. One of his first acts was to push for more casinos on Tinian. So far four deals have been announced. One is with an outfit called Bridge Capital. And by some coincidence several members of AAPI, including Chairman Pamintuan, are investors in the Bridge Capital casino project on Tinian.

Curious.

And Chairman Pamintuan is advising Fitial on how to stop the 110th Congress from extending US laws to the CNMI and ending decades of abuse and trading on his ties to Rove and the White House.  In that effort he is presenting himself as a representative of the White House and not as a PR firm hired by the CNMI. After the 2-8-07 CNMI Senate Hearings, Rudy made a statement to the Saipan Tribune that undercut the testimony of Bush’s head of the Office of Insular Affairs, David Cohen:

The White House has not issued any position on the CNMI immigration issue and is, in fact, "unaware" of the current talks about renewed U.S. Congress attempts to implement federal immigration control in the Commonwealth.

Rudy Pamintuan, chairman of the White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, said he personally inquired about the issue with the White House policy office.

"I contacted the policy folks at the White House. They have not really looked into it. There is no position either for or against it because they have not even looked at the issue," said Pamintuan.

And the next day, Cohen had to set the record straight:

Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs deputy assistant secretary David B. Cohen maintained yesterday that his recent testimony to the U.S. Senate about CNMI immigration was all cleared by the White House.

"The written statement that I submitted for the February 8 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources was thoroughly cleared by the Administration, including the White House," said Cohen in an email message yesterday.

Like Abramoff, Pamintuan is working his connections to Karl Rove and the Bush White House to block reforms to the CNMI. And like Jack, Rudy is attracted by the profit potential of unregulated casinos on Tinian.

Rudy is an investor in one of the new planned casinos on Tinian, an accomplishment that always eluded Jack—or maybe not. Rudy’s investment partner is Bridge Capital, one of those shadowy "investment" firms that specialize in building multiple fronts to shield the identities of the true investors from prying eyes. Several other planned Tinian casinos have similar hidden owners/investors. They could be anybody from Jack Abramoff to Tom DeLay to some guy named Mo.

Now a careful reader might remember the above pull quote from 2002 security report that Abramoff and the Bush White House worked so hard to suppress, especially this line (emphasis added):

The P.R.C. has built and currently operates a 600-room hotel and international gambling resort on the island of Tinian in the C.N.M.I. This facility has been in operation for approximately three years. Federal officials indicate that it has-never enjoyed more than a 20 percent occupancy rate and is believed to be a "marker" for mainland China with involvements in international money laundering operations.

As of now, the only folks coming to the one casino on Tinian seem to be money launderers for the PRC, the GOP and other players in the global shadow economy. A twenty percent occupancy rate is bad and it hardly seems to indicate the need for more casinos on Tinian to handle the overflow money washing.

Still, the folks on the CNMI are planning more casinos on Tinian and later this year, they will even vote on a referendum to authorize building casinos on Saipan.

The reason is the US Marines and other US military personnel.

Plans are underway to move 6,000 or more Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Speculation is growing on the CNMI that tens of thousands of Marines will be stationed on Guam and many will live and train on Tinian.

The planned casinos are being designed with the US military in mind:

"Tinian is not going to be a little Macau, not a Las Vegas. Everyone wants to be in Tinian because of the military personnel transfer," Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said [snip]

Fitial sees the potential revival of a military economy and casino industry in the CNMI. Just recently, the Pentagon announced the movement of its troops from Okinawa, Japan back to Guam. Through the existing provisions in the CNMI’s Covenant with the United States that allows the US military to use a huge portion of land on Tinian as sight for military exercises, Fitial is optimistic that a portion of the 6,000 Okinawa-based military force will be relocated to Tinian.

Landing more US military spending on the CNMI is a big priority for the Fitial government and the Pirates of Saipan. It would be a new source of Federal welfare for the Territory and the Pirates of Saipan could take the troops to the cleaners in the Tinian casinos. But that’s not all, Governor Fitial sees other CNMI industries that the military can support:

Fitial expressed hope that Tinian would soon have a military economy in the not so distant future.

He added that he was just "joking" when he said the adult industry should be relocated to Tinian because the "poor troops need some form of entertainment."

That Fitial is a funny man. Forced prostitution and human trafficking have been a joke to him for years—for decades. I will be glad when he is finally indicted.

Fitial and the Pirates of Saipan are fighting to preserve their local control over immigration and travel to the CNMI. As it stands right now, anybody can hope on a plane and come there, launder a little money, engage in a little sexual tourism and maybe even a little snorkeling or scuba diving. And the beauty part is they do not need a US Visa. The CNMI is an open doorway to the United States.

And now we are going to move US Marines onto an island with a casino controlled by the PRC, a booming sex trade and borders maintained by a corrupt and ineffective local government. Sound great, I mean in a post 9-11 world what could be wrong with this plan. I mean, aside from everything.

So as I promised, this is a very long and winding tale. There are more details and more research that needs to be done, but here are the headlines:

  • Within months of 9-11, a security report raise critical issues related to threats to the homeland from problems on Guam and the CNMI. When this was brought to the attention of the Bush WH they suppressed the report and punished the authors.
  • All of the security issues raised in 2002 still exist on the CNMI and Guam. Some have even gotten worse. Nothing has been done to follow up on the 2002 Security Report.
  • Susan Ralston, the former assistant to Abramoff and Rove used her position at the White House to have her pal Rudy Pamintuan appointed Chairman of Bush’s Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
  • Pamintuan is using his connection to the White House to land new business for his PR firm, Sherman Consulting and he presents his PR work as "official" statements from the White House.
  • Pamintuan is also using his connections to the White House and service as Chairman of the AAPI to help shape policy that will make his investments in a Casino project on Tinian more profitable.
  • The Bush White House and the Republican Party is supporting the building of more unregulated casinos on Tinian.
  • The Bush Department of Defense is letting troop relocation decisions be used to support the growth of an unregulated gambling industry on Tinian, an industry that will target US service personnel for exploitation.
  • The Republican Party has protected a Chinese Government owned and operated casino money laundering facility for almost a decade.
  • The Republican Party has protected a system of sweatshops, labor abuse, forced prostitution and human trafficking on the CNMI since 1995.

And more digging will yield more headlines.

We really should put a stop to all of this. I hope that the 110th Congress can do it, but the Pirates of Saipan have hired a Democratic Lobbying firm with ties to one of our Presidential Candidates. Another of our Candidates has taken at least $10,000 in donations from the Tan Family, including Willie Tan (celebrated in news reports, released documents and Court filings as a key participant in the growing Abramoff/GOP scandal).

This news, the delays in passing the Minimum Wage Bill and the rumors that extension of the minimum wage to the CNMI will be scrapped in favor of a Wage Review Board are troubling.

Up to now the Abramoff scandal was Republican owned and operated, the 110th Congress should do the right thing and keep it that way. And our Presidential candidates should be bashing the Republicans for their ties to Abramoff. They should not chase Jack’s partners in crime for donations and/or payoffs to family members.

We need to ensure that our candidates and elected officials take the high road and leave the taint of Abramoff to the Republican Party. And more than that, we need to ensure that justice finally comes to the CNMI. It is long overdue.

And this Diary is long as well, perhaps too long, but it was a complicated tale to lay out. Still, it boils down to a simple statement:

The focus of the Bush White House and the Republican Party is obstructing justice

It is way past time to take our Country back.

Let’s do it.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers

Originally posted to dengre on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 12:47 AM PDT.

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