News From the CNMI

March 25, 2008

No News News

Neither the Marianas Variety nor the Saipan Tribune has covered the meeting "volunteer" attorneys, Deanne Siemer and Maya Kara hosted for guest workers and others to discuss "CNMI status" for guest workers. Odder than that is this - Greg Cruz attended the meeting and sent no press releases, and wrote no letters to the editor. Greg Cruz not commenting? Now that is suspicious.

Governor and Lt. Governor Running Again

The local papers covered the story that Fitial and Villagomez will seek re-election. The Variety reported that they met with Covenant Party members at a barbecue in Oleai Sunday where he claimed he would privitize CUC and start a new industry - education. The Saipan Tribune reported:

“I strongly believe that I still have the political will and the resources-meaning I still have business connections in the world-that would help me and my administration, together with the lieutenant governor, to stimulate the economic growth we need to turn the economy around,” said Fitial. “I'm very healthy now [and] my circulation is going at around 100mph so I'm ready to rock and roll.”

In previous elections the governor called upon his political and lobbyist "friends" for support. It may be more difficult since many of his "former" friends like Tom Delay have left office in disgrace, some like Jack Abramoff are in jail, and some - John Doolittle, Dana Rohracbacher, Conrad Burns - may be headed in that direction.

Fitial himself is under investigation for his involvement in the Abramoff scandal. Last summer an AP story reported:

"Fitial referred questions about the Justice Department's inquiry to his Los Angeles attorney, Tom Pollack, who didn't immediately return calls for comment.

But Fitial, a one-time Abramoff ally who in past years pushed to extend Abramoff's contract to represent the Marianas, refused to distance himself from the disgraced lobbyist.

"When I have a friend, that friend always remains a friend," said Fitial, who became House speaker of the Marianas in 2000 after intervention from two former aides to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. After becoming speaker, Fitial pushed for Abramoff's contract to continue."

Fitial Now Agrees With Senator Kennedy and Rep. Miller on Labor Report

Fitial lauded the January 2008 Department of Labor report in an Saipan Tribune interview on January 29, 2008. The article states:

"In a statement issued yesterday, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial hailed the U.S. Labor Department Report, saying it “justifies what this administration and our local business community have been projecting all along, in view of our current economic situation.”

Yet today, Fitial seems to have changed his mind. The Saipan Tribune reported:

"The Fitial administration said yesterday that it agrees with the comments of two U.S. lawmakers that described as “poorly researched” and “fundamentally flawed” the U.S. Department of Labor study on the impact of the increased minimum wage on the economies of American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“Although we believe the U.S. Labor report was a good starting point, the governor agrees with Sen. [Edward] Kennedy and Rep. [George] Miller that federal minimum wage policy in American Samoa and the CNMI should be based on solid, objective, and impartial studies with meaningful and accurate data,” said press secretary Charles P. Reyes in an e-mail to the Saipan Tribune."