Connecting the Dots: Fitial-Reyes-Abramoff

June 14, 2008

With the recent release of the report from the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Governor Fitial, former "good friend" of Jack Abramoff now reportedly wants to distance himself from the jailed lobbyist. It's too late to do that. Governor Fitial is too tightly woven in that tapestry of corruption to free himself. In fact, some say he will join his friend behind bars in the not too distant future. Pacific Magazine quotes the governor:

“There's nothing I can say. I didn't know anything about it,” said Fitial, who once described Abramoff as “a close friend.”
I think the governor knows far more about this than he is admitting. As more and more about this scandal is exposed, we can connect more of the dots between Fitial, Abramoff, the US Congress, Wille Tan and the Western Pacific Economic Council, and the White House to reveal a picture that clearly shows Fitial was not just involved, but an pivotal part of the corrupted scheme. The 1998 "secret memo" between Ben Fitial, Willie Tan, Eloy Inos, and Abramoff reveals he was fully aware of the plan. The memo outlined the lobbying strategy which included "impeaching" Stayman; preparing hearing questions and factual backup for the friendly Senators and Congressman; arranging junkets to the CNMI; getting friendly writers to prepare positive pro-CNMI pieces for print media, television and radio talk shows; and cutting funding for the pro-federalization Department of Interior.

It is interesting that Charles Reyes, the current public information officer for Governor Fitial, former columnist for the Saipan Tribune, and former Tan employee has also distanced himself from this.

Last year when I was reading the Abramoff-CNMI billing records, I was not surprised when I ran across Charles Reyes's name. Some of us suspected that the lobbying team and former administrations were using Charles Reyes's pen to attack detractors, and shift the focus from corruption and greed so they could maintain control of the system.

Included in the secret memo's plan was an effort to get friendly journalists to write positive stories about the CNMI, and to write negative ones about their detractors. Charles Reyes certainly followed that line. His often nasty columns attacked anyone who exposed corruption, discussed the labor abuses, or called for federal reform legislation. In fact, he attacked me several times and repeatedly attacked Allen Stayman, Danny Aranza, George Miller, Daniel Akaka, and others who supported reform. Many of the columns were childish and contained unsubstantiated jabs and nonsense.

Reyes also followed another tactic from the Secret memo and the report revealed last week- to get Fitial elected. The report stated:

Here are some lines from some of Reyes columns:

May 24, 1999 Urging the public to vote for Fitial
"I am voting for Ben," I told my friend, as soon as I heard the news that businessman (and former congressman) Ben Fitial was running in this upcoming mid-term election. "We can’t fail with Ben Fitial."

During my stint as the Local Affairs Coordinator with the Tan Holdings Corporation, I once had the opportunity to see Mr. Fitial in action. At the various personnel meetings I attended, I always relished Mr. Fitial’s acute business acumen. It was clear to me that here was one sharp fellow--not someone merely employed for political reasons, but a genuine contributor to the company’s success and advancement.

...The time for failed policies must now come to an abrupt end. It is time to bring Ben Fitial back too woo prosperity and regain our confidence in good government.

I encourage all of you to vote for Mr. Ben Fitial.
December 30, 1999 Praising Fitial
I am sure looking forward to the inauguration of Congressman Ben Fitial next month. Whether he actually becomes House Speaker or not-and I hope he does--I believe Mr. Fitial brings much needed vigor, optimism and encouragement to public life.
June 7, 1999 Reyes supporting Fitial
I suggest that we throw the rascals out. We have an opportunity to do so in this upcoming mid-term November election. Fire the incumbents and install fresh, new leadership, preferably one that is open to a truly market based economy.

Think of Anicia Tomokane and other Reform Party candidates. Think of Ben Fitial and Eloy Inos. Think of anybody but the current crop of bankrupt political leadership.
July 28, 1999 On Allen Stayman
In the CNMI, no federal man is probably more resented than Mr. Stayman. Virtually every local CNMI leader, from Senator Pete P. Reyes to former Governor Froilan Tenorio, has, at one point or another, expressed great outrage at Mr. Stayman's fanatical anti-CNMI bias.

To be sure, Mr. Stayman has been a tireless crusader for a federal takeover of our islands. He has compiled a series of unfavorable (and highly questionable) reports against us. He has submitted these reports to the US Congress, in a blatant effort to completely discredit us and weaken our position on local self-government and economic self-sufficiency--areas Interior is supposed to be supporting..
August 2, 1999 Following the secret memo attack plan on DOI:
A month from now, the CNMI will be facing yet another congressional oversight hearing. During this hearing, U.S. House Representatives will be asking pointed questions about our reform efforts. Naturally, our delegation will be doing its best to convey the facts in the larger context of extreme media sensationalism and labor union propaganda.

But after the CNMI complies with these proceedings, we demand that other congressional hearings be held, not to further investigate the CNMI, but to scrutinize the overzealous actions of our detractors, especially the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Insular (or Insolent) Affairs.
August 31, 1999 On DOI and Jeffrey Farrow
Make no mistake about it, we are here because of the dastardly efforts of the U.S. Department of Interior. We are here because Allen Stayman and David North sought to discredit our quest for local self-government.

We are here because certain highly partisan members of the Clinton administration (possibly including Mr. Jeffrey Farrow) have been engaged in a filthy smear campaign against us--because wretched lies have been told against our islands and our indigenous peoples, all for the benefit of protectionist labor union special interest groups and the advancement of a left-wing political agenda.
September 1, 1999 Attacking DOI and the federal government
The federal government cannot be trusted.

The F.B.I. and the Justice Department, in particular, cannot be trusted. They lied about the Waco, Texas tragedy. They may have killed dozens of innocent children.

The U.S. Interior Department also cannot be trusted. Secretary Bruce Babbitt mismanaged the Indian Affairs Office and may have been involved in other improper activities...
September 17, 1999 Anti-federalization stance
What we are dealing with here, folks, is federal tyranny: the destruction of our local self-government and our economic self-sufficiency.

The reasons the feds give seem rather noble: human rights, labor reform, immigration controls, and so forth. But sharp observers are not easily deceived by the federal propaganda.

And to the extent that our legitimate concerns are not heard, the hearings in Washington, D.C., are nothing but a hoax. American democracy, freedom and justice--OK, let's pretend.
September 24, 1999 Attacking DOI, liberal media typed and other reformists
The real issue is not human rights but political rights. The CNMI is not systematically violating human rights. The federal government, however, is consistently attempting to deny us our political rights: our right to self-government and democracy.

In addition to writing press releases and letters to the editor on behalf of Democrats, David North also edited congressional testimony for Democrat-leaning witnesses hostile to CNMI interests. The CNMI has been, in effect, the primary target of a ruthless cabal comprised of labor unions, “human rights” organizations, Democrats, liberal media types, and Interior Department/Clinton administration officials.

That is the real issue, Mr. Akaka. Please stop trying to evade it.
October 6, 1999 Trashing DOI and praising Don Young
Danny Akaka, George Miller, David North, Al Stayman, Bruce Babbitt--none of these men represent the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. They are hostile to our interests. The CNMI has no representation in any branch of the U.S. government.

Still, this does not stop any of our hardened detractors from desperately trying to take over.

Fortunately, we still have fair men like Chairman Don Young, who recently declared that “....The not just a piece of property--this is a community of U.S. citizens” [though politically disenfranchised at that].
November 18, 1999 Trashing Allen Stayman
Mr. Stayman has done us a great service, you see. In trying so hard (and so desperately) to destroy our Commonwealth--and strip it of its local self-government--he has unwittingly exposed his fanatical biases and prejudices.

But, Mr. Stayman, too, must be thankful to certain people. So, on Mr. Stayman's behalf, I would like to thank the key people who have assisted him in his (so far) failed colonial quest. This should be Mr. Stayman's thank you list...
February 25, 2000 In a fictitious letter from Senator Akaka to Al Stayman, Reyes attacking Juan Babauta (Fitial's opponent)
In fact, I really appreciated Juan's political contribution to my re-election campaign. That was very nice of him to do for me. It's just too bad that he cannot come right out and side with us at the moment, due to the fact that it might compromise his political ambitions, given the unfortunate reality that a federal takeover still remains extremely unpopular among their islands' stupid voters
November 30, 1999 On federal politics and politicians
If the feds want to argue that dirty money politics and big business dominate Marianas politics and perpetuate labor abuses, they have got their facts all wrong. To this day, the garment industry stands as the CNMI's “scapegoat and whipping boy” (in the words of SGMA man Richard Pierce).
...Who says corrupt big business interests dictate Marianas policy? The Feds? Miller? Stayman? David North? Akaka? Kenneth Offendo?

We have some of the most anti-business politicians presently holding power in public office. They should be there for a very long time. Indeed, they may always be there, because socialism (statism) never dies. In America or in the CNMI, you can't keep down envy and class hatred.
May 10, 2000 On INS and Allen Stayman in the State Department
Federal officials such as Danny Akaka, George Miller, Al Stayman, David North and Bruce Babbit all want to impose the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service upon the CNMI. They want to do this, in part, because they do not trust our own local immigration service. They apparently think that our local immigration service is incompetent, contaminated and corrupt, while their own venerable INS remains clean, competent and well above reproach--at least compared to our own local government. After all, it was Al Stayman who openly declared that our own Department of Labor and Immigration basically amounted to "organized crime." (And for his keen diplomacy, Stayman was eventually promoted to a senior post in the US State Department.)
May 24, 2000
Jeff Schorr apparently conspired with both Al Stayman and David North. He reportedly conspired to destroy the CNMI's reputation and thereby rob us of our local self-government.

Schorr clearly had no interest in carrying out the Interior Department's original mandate of assisting our islands toward greater prosperity and self-sufficiency. Instead, Schorr aggressively sought to discredit and disable us politically. He also sought to cripple our economy by pushing a radical, undemocratic federal takeover agenda that would deprive our economy of foreign workers and hit local businesses with an unsustainable minimum wage. Schorr's primary concern was apparently to please his malicious bosses at our expense...Schorr is ostensibly a kind of spy. He collects confidential information, memos and the like, and then passes them on to his bosses in Washington, D. C. His bosses, in turn, collaborate with our most vicious detractors--labor unions, protectionists, liberal Democrats and the like--in a crusade to totally discredit our natural longing to preserve our economic and political freedoms.
July 3, 2000 Attacking Babauta
Everyone should be happy. Everyone, that is, except for Mr. Juan Nekai Babauta, our current Resident Rep. and "Republican" gubernatorial aspirant. In his June 1, 2000 "Reporting from Washington," Mr. Babauta makes his position perfectly clear: he wholeheartedly opposes Mr. Fitial's comprehensive economic reform bill.
He opposes the lifting of the labor moratorium. He opposes the lifting of the three-year guest worker limit. He opposes the lifting of the $100,000 security deposit.
July 12, 2000 On Jack Abramoff
Every freedom-loving, pro-self-governing CNMI citizen ought to know who Jack Abramoff is. Mr. Abramoff is one of the CNMI's best friends in Washington, D.C. He is the point-man in our vital campaign to avert a disastrous federal takeover of our islands.

It is probably no exaggeration to suggest that Jack Abramoff is a kind of hero to the indigenous people of the CNMI. Through his work at Preston Gates, our commissioned advocate, he has kept our islands free. He has upheld the principles of liberty, autonomy, and maximum local self-government in the Northern Marianas. He has protected us from unwarranted federal encroachments upon our relatively free markets....

But Mr. Abramoff changed all of that. For the first time in our ordeal, we were hitting back. For the first time, positive and more accurate stories about the CNMI began to appear in such prestigious publications as the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.

No longer did our liberal foes--driven as they are by the allure of a bigger, more expansive and controlling federal government--have the entire public opinion and policy-making field to themselves.

For the first time, the facts began to emerge; and US Congressmen and their staff members began to confirm these facts first-hand by ignoring the media smear campaigns and coming directly to the source. They visited our islands.
July 18, 2000 Attacking Babauta and advocates
Make no mistake about it, the Federal takeover threat is NOT our fault. And contrary to the views of Mr. Juan Nekai Babauta, it is not due to our alleged "abuses," of which OSHA and other Federal offices bear direct responsibility.
The Federal takeover threat is due to our natural detractors in Washington, D.C.: to the protectionist labor unions and their ideological friends in the media, academia, and the Federal Government.
We have natural enemies in Washington, D.C. Now one of our own "leaders" wants to demonize Preston Gates and foolishly make enemies out of our free market-oriented and liberty-loving friends. This is a colossal mistake.
September 7, 2000 Calling documented evidence lies
When Al Stayman lied about forced abortions, his boss Bruce Babbitt cheerfully went along with the vicious lie. He never demanded any solid proof. Any smear that advanced the interests of his Democratic campaign-contributing labor unions friends was perfectly acceptable to Mr. Babbitt. In fact, he publicly praised and decorated Allen Stayman for his lies--for lying above and beyond the call of duty.
October 13, 2000 Putting down Fitial's opponent, Juan Babauta
In 1992, when the bag of labor and human rights abuses first hit the fan, Juan Babauta obviously wanted to exploit it to his local political advantage. He wanted to scrape the smears and hurl it at his political opponent at the time: then Governor Larry I. Guerrero.

Note that Mr. Babauta never questioned the validity or veracity of the Federal allegations at the time. He did not question where it came from. He did not bother to question the motives of those leveling the labor and human rights charges.

Whether they were outright lies, whether they were grossly exaggerated or whether they were just misleading--it did not matter a whit to Mr. Babauta. He did not care to carefully examine the charges in the early 1990s. He did not care whether the special interests of the protectionist labor unions were fully in play. He did not care whether the American media had a highly liberal political bias. He was not initially concerned about the neo-colonial agenda of the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs.
April 11, 2001 Praising Fitial
Democrat Danny Akaka, our ardent Hawaiian detractor, is a minority in the U.S. Senate. George Miller, our prominent detractor from California, is a minority in the US House of Representatives. The Clinton boys are out of the White House. At the moment, we have no reason to fear overzealous protectionists driven by their labor union special interest groups and their left-wing, anti-business ideology. These partisans do not threaten us from the US Congress or the White House. They are now in the minority.

In short, at the moment, everything seems fine and dandy where the garment industry and the Federal takeover are concerned. External grounds for worry appear to be rather absent at the moment. The CNMI is presently enjoying considerable success in warding off a hostile Federal takeover.

That success is due, in no small part, to Speaker Benigno R. Fitial and his impressive contacts in the nation's capital. Indeed, Speaker Fitial is probably the most well-connected CNMI leader in Washington, DC. He has the respect and support of key leaders in the nation's capital.
April 21, 2001 In support of Fitial
As to the first reason, we cannot do much about Japan's economy. We cannot affect Asia's economies. But we can continue to stave off Federal takeover attempts. And we can reverse our local leadership crisis by electing new leadership. Speaker Fitial understands these realities, and perhaps that is why he is running for governor.
Was Charles Reyes working with Fitial and the Abramoff team? Was he one of those "friendly writers" who planted stories in an effort to defeat Babauta and elect Fitial? The Pacific Magazine story quoted him:

Charles P. Reyes Jr., a spokesperson for Fitial, said that any new reports linking Abramoff to the Northern Marianas are no longer relevant now that the commonwealth has lost its immigration and minimum wage controls.

“Clearly the Abramoff issue, to a great extent, has been used against the (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) in passing federal takeover legislation and increasing minimum wage. Now that we have already been taken over, there’s no more damage to be done. Really, what are they going to do next? Take over the CNMI's taxation because of what Abramoff has done in the past? I hope not,” said Reyes.

“We have nothing to do with that anymore. We’re just looking to move forward and try to succeed economically, to deal with our challenges with respect to energy and 'federalization,' and break away from this association with Abramoff that has really compromised our political economy here,” he added.

I am not sure either Fitial or Reyes will be able to break away from their Abramoff ties. There are still questions to be answered and investigations are still being conducted. Some good questions might be: Was Charles Reyes being paid to write his anti-federalization, anti-Babauta, pro Fitial columns? Who actually paid for all of the full page Saipan Tribune ads where members of Congress (Doolittle, Schaffer, Canon etc.) pledged support for Fitial when he was running for office? Was it the lobbying team, the actual members of Congress, or did the paper run the ads for free?