In 1999 I was working on a story about the sweatshops on Saipan, a US Territory in the South Pacific. I came across Jack Abramoff and every thread seemed to connect to another scandal. Since then I have been researching Jack. And I have been writing about the Abramoff Affair
at Daily Kos.
Earlier this week we hit a new frame: Jack was not a lobbyist, he was a 25-year GOP bagman running a vast, multi-layered, flexible, redundant slush fund.
To date, only the surface of the Abramoff Affair has been scratched. It is time to dig deeper. Time to help the MSM connect the dots.
That is what this ongoing Diary series will be about.
Each post will focus on one aspect of the Abramoff Affair and how it connects to other GOP scandals. And I'll ask for the help of the Netroots to take action to push the story and connect the dots.
Today, let's look at $75,000 from three Saipan sweatshops coming to the GOP in Oct. 2002...
As we know from DeLay's indictment, Tom and his gang were pulling out all the stops to win control of Texas to redraw Congressional districts. Corporate money was flowing in. After a quick wash in DC (at one of the many "legit" GOP fundraising arms) the cash was converted to a legal Texas donation.
In October of 2002, three garment factories on Saipan each gave $25,000 to the GOP.
Let's look at those donations and connect the dots between DeLay, Abramoff, the GOP, Texas, sweatshops, Willie Tan and Luen Thai, a Chinese corporation trading on the Honk Kong stock exchange.
On 10-3-02, Concord Garment Manufacturing gave $25,000 to the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee).
On 10-4-02, Global Manufacturing Inc gave $25,000 to the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee).
On 10-4-02, L & T Group of Companies gave $25,000 to the NRSC.
Now the Tan Family owns all three businesses (along with many other businesses on Saipan). In the past Tan Family garment factories have been cited for sweatshop violations:
In 1992, the United States Department of Labor filed suit against five garment factories owned by Mr. Willie Tan
for labor and safety violations. The lawsuit alleged that employees were forced to work 84 hours per week without overtime pay, wages were paid below the already-low minimum wage, and employees were locked in their work sites and living barracks. Mr. Tan paid $9 million in restitution to 1,200 workers - the largest fine ever imposed by the United States Department of Labor.
Tan's company also pled guilty to felony charges for violating 18 U.S.C. §1001, prohibiting fraudulent or false statements to the government. [snip]
Violations of OSHA regulations by the CNMI contractors have been frequent and numerous. During the first half of 1997, OSHA sent four inspection teams to the CNMI and found over 500 violations in the labor barracks alone. Inspectors found that barracks were unhealthy, with overcrowding, unsanitary facilities, dirty and inoperable toilets, dirty kitchens and electrical hazards. Further, federal investigators noted evidence of class members being abused or fired for complaining about these poor facilities. During the most recent inspections carried out in February 1998, the OSHA Regional Administrator noted in an interview with a local news agency that working conditions in Saipan were worsening. In fact, since 1993, there have been over one thousand regulatory violations identified by OSHA inspectors in the CNMI garment factories with which the U.S. retailers do business.
Since 1998 DeLay, Abramoff and the GOP have blocked efforts to extend US labor, immigration and custom laws to Saipan. The only bright spot has been a May, 2002 lawsuit victory against the sweatshops and US clothing stores:
A settlement fund of $1.25 million will be established to fund the monitoring, as well as for public education, and to partially reimburse workers for unlawful recruitment fees paid in the past. CNMI contractors that will now be subject to monitoring under the settlement include Global Manufacturing, Inc., Concorde Garment Manufacturing Corp., Trans-Asia Garment Forte Corp., Jin Apparel, Inc., Marianas Garment Manufacturing, Inc., Mirage Saipan Inc., N.E.T. Corp. dba Suntex Manufacturing, Inc., Onwel Manufacturing Saipan Ltd., Diorva Saipan Ltd. and Micronesian Garment Manufacturing, Inc.
Note the Tan Family companies in the list. And did you notice the name, Willie Tan? He has been connected to Abramoff and DeLay in any number of reports, like this one from the Dallas Observer in 1998:
Indeed, DeLay, whose New Year's holiday junket received considerable press attention, wasn't on the island more than a day when he gave the Marianas' garment industry his seal of approval.
On his first night on the island, DeLay was invited to a reception at the posh, beachfront Pacific Islands Club hosted by Willie Tan, the powerful garment factory king. According to a promotional brochure, Tan Holdings Corp. owns the island's largest garment factories, several hotels, a bank, and businesses ranging from travel agencies to ice cream parlors.
"When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made," DeLay said, after thanking Tan for "that great introduction."
"Even though I have only been here for 24 hours, I have witnessed the economic success of the Marianas."
DeLay told Tan and his group that the Clinton administration wanted to "kill prosperity on the islands."
"You are up against the forces of big labor and the radical left," he said. DeLay repeated the promise that "Dick Armey and I made" to defend the island's present system. He finished his remarks by telling the group: "Stand firm. Resist evil. Remember that all truth and blessings emanate from our Creator."
Photographs taken by a U.S. Labor Department employee last August of a workers' barracks owned by the L&T Group of Companies, a Tan subsidiary, show that life for Tan's workers is no day at the beach. They paint a foul picture of hallways puddled with water, foam-pad mattresses packed end-to-end on the floors, piles of garbage drifting up in a courtyard outside, and dank, grungy bathrooms inside. A yellowing health-department notice taped to a wall serves as a testament to the effectiveness of local enforcement. Addressed to Tan and several others, it's a "reminder" that "all our housing facilities be kept clean, in sanitary condition and safe."
It was reports like this that convinced me to follow the career of Jack Abramoff. One can read more about Tom, Willie, Jack, sweatshops and Saipan at DeLay lies about Sex.
By the fall of 2002, the Democrats were once again introducing legislation to extend US labor, immigration and custom laws to Saipan. The GOP was using 9-11 as a club to beat the Dems in the mid-terms. Money was flowing in to GOP coffers and everybody was expected to pony-up. Jack was in high gear. With DeLay's former staffer, Mike Scanlon, he was bilking Indian tribes out of more than $60 million. He was hitting up Tyco.
And they reached out to their old pals on Saipan.
$75,000 is a lot of money to flow into the last weeks of a campaign, especially from supposedly "small" businesses on a small island in the South Pacific. And it was the only time in the last decade that Tan Family companies gave directly to US campaigns.
Sure, individuals who work for any number of the families companies have given money. And Willie gave Bush $1,000. As did other family members who listed Tan Holding as their employer. Including Henry, who once describe working with US Customs as being like a duet with barbarians, and the patriarch of the family, Tan Siu Lin.
Tan Siu Lin moved to Guam in the early 1980s (or the late 70s). He came from Hong Kong (or China). The family members were educated in Guam. The various members of the family have been described as from America, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, China, Guam, CNMI and more. It depends upon the news report and whom they were trying to impress.
They have built a vast empire, from textiles to fishing to shipping and more. They learned the garment business with US help and assistance--first on the Philippines in the Clark Export zone (our former airbase) and then on Saipan.
Their corporation, Luen Thai recently went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange to finance the expansion of their garment factories in China (they are currently shutting down their factories on CNMI, much like Wal-Mart leaving small-town America).
Who can say what country the family members are from? Perhaps they are from Guam. But we do know that US tax payers financed their entry into the global textile market and today China is the beneficiary of that process .
The Tan family is an example of how DeLay and the GOP killed the US textile industry.
It is also an example of how corporate money flowed into the GOP coffers for the 2002 mid-terms. While three Tan owned companies each gave $25,000, the full $75,000 came from one source. Perhaps it was a very legal. But, after all these years research Abramoff, I would guess that a little digging will add a new crop of Abramoff scandal stories.
Here are a few questions that might help push these donations and the DaLay/Abramoff/Tan Family connections into the MSM:
- Were these contributions legal? Did they come from an American company or a Chinese Corporation?
- Are the individual members of the Tan Family American Citizens? Do they have Green Cards? Are their contributions legal?
- Once the $25,000 went to the RNCC and the $50,000 went to the RNSC where did the money go next? Were there transfers (donations) from RNCC or RNSC to Texas in Oct. 2002?
- Are there any mentions in the Abramoff emails about these donations?
- Has the Tan Family given payments to slush-fund fronts (Grover, Ralph, etc.) in the same way that Jack directed Indian tribes to give to these groups?
- Was laying off textile quotas part of the GOP payback to the Tan Family?
- How connected to the Chinese government is the Tan Family? Is this a source of foreign money flowing into the GOP?
There will be more questions.
At a basic level I'm appalled that proven sweatshops gave $75,000 to the GOP in any year. That alone should move the MSM, but it won't.
I would appreciate anything anyone can do to move this along.
As for Jack and Tom, it looks like their support of sweatshops may be just another of their many, many moral transgressions.