Visit to Schaffer's Headquarters

September 30, 2008

I took a one-day trip to Denver, Colorado to join two other people who care about the rights of the guest workers - Senate staff member, Allen Stayman, and James Salt from Catholics United. We went to the "Mile High City" to ask former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer to tell the truth about his role in the Abramoff-CNMI plan, and to ask him to apologize to the foreign contract workers of the CNMI for perpetuating labor abuses and suffering by deliberately blocking reform legislation.

We held a press conference outside Schaffer's campaign headquarters where the three of us read remarks. At the press conference, Allen Stayman read this statement, and I read some key points from a longer statement that I submitted to the press. James Salt read a powerful statement from Sister Mary Stella Mangona from the Sisters of the Good Shepherds which stated in part:
As a sister of the Good Shepherd, a licensed therapist and an advocate for human rights, I've been ministering to the needs of the people of the Marianas Islands for 10 years. In my opinion, Bob Schaffer demonstrated a severe lapse of moral judgment when he defended the interests of abusive textile owners over the interests of the immigrant workers of the Mariana Islands.

As a Catholic, Schaffer should have been more mindful of the Catholic Church's long standing teachings on the dignity of the human person, especially for the poor and the immigrant. By doing the bidding of Jack Abramoff and the textile owners of the Marianas Islands, Schaffer was enabling oppressive working conditions for thousands of men, women and children.
We publicly asked Schaffer to apologize to the guest workers that he misrepresented in the halls of Congress when he was the Republican Representative from Colorado. He is running for the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, this man appears to be morally bankrupt, ethically challenged, and does not possess the integrity and qualities needed to serve in the U.S. Senate. Bob Schaffer was a foot soldier for Jack Abramoff. He made a mockery of House Hearings in 1999 and 2000. He accepted a five-day junket that was arranged by Abramoff's firm of Preston Gates, and paid for by the Traditional Values Coalition. The TVC was recently added to the Southern Law Poverty's Center's list of hate groups.

We also met some Denver bloggers for lunch including some from Square State and Progress Now. Mr. Stayman and I were later interviewed by two Denver radio stations, including an NPR affiliate.

Rove-like Campaign Manager
After the press conference, reporters followed us inside to Schaffer's office. While we were talking to a congenial staff member, Jason Shields, Schaffer's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, was said to have made some seething phone calls to Mike Reily, the reporter from the Denver Post, and Lynn Bartels, the reporter from the Rocky Mountain News to swear at them for covering the story, saying the f-word repeatedly.

Shields suggested requesting a meeting with Schaffer without the press present. Mr. Stayman called Schaffer's office to request a meeting, however his call was never returned.

Dick Wadhams was the campaign manager for the re-election of Virginia' Senator George Allen who lost the election after he made the racial slur "macaca" during a rally. Wadhams has a reputation as bullying the press, and has been repeatedly compared to Karl Rove, the master of dirty tricks. A January 2007 post on Colorado Confidential said of Wadhams:
While the local media trumpets the return of native son Dick Wadhams to Colorado politics, a review of his brutal slash-and-burn tactics against political journalists may have the state press corps clutching their fire-retardant underwear.
Eminently quotable, the Republican operative dubbed "Rove 2.0", may give good copy for news stories but Wadhams has racked up a nasty reputation for impugning the ethics of reporters who fall out of favor for simply doing their jobs—reporting the foibles of his frequently dull-witted candidates packaged as common guys.
Wadhams was even endorsed by Karl Rove who appealed to Colorado Republicans to elect Wadhams as the Republican Party chair to take the state back from Democrats who had made substantial gains in Colorado. Wadhams, known for his hot-temper and foul language, was indeed elected as the chair of the state's Republican Party.

In August 2008, Wadhams was quoted by the press as saying about opponent Mark Udall:
"We're going to shove a bunch of 30-second ads up his a-- on this issue."
The fact that Schaffer, who touts family values, conservatism, and wears his religion as a badge, hired a foul-mouthed, bullying wise guy for a campaign manager speaks volumes.

Others think that Schaffer is the bully. These remarks are from two letters to the editor that were published on the Denver Post web blog:
"As a registered independent, I hadn’t followed the Colorado senatorial race very closely, but I did see Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. I had no idea that the Republicans had put up such a rude, juvenile bully to represent them."
"The Senate debate on “Meet the Press” Sunday was a sad display of the depths to which Republican Bob Schaffer will stoop to try to salvage his sinking campaign. Faced with his campaign’s inability to close the deficit in every poll with slanderous, negative advertising, Schaffer decided to double down and berate, interrupt and smear Mark Udall throughout the debate."
Schaffer's Links to Abramoff

Schaffer has continually stated he has no ties to Abramoff. He appears to be asking the public to accept as coincidences, the numerous obvious connections between himself and the convicted lobbyist. Some strategies from the Abramoff "secret memo" sent to Fitial, Willie Tan, and Eloy Inos in January 1998 clearly prove Schaffer was following Abramoff's bidding. Here is a breakdown of the memo's sections that show a clear link between the strategy and Schaffer's actions:
I. Congressional Hearings Subgroup
At a certain level, it would be good to have the hearings sooner than later, since we intend to use the hearings to impeach Stayman and his campaign against the CNMI, enabling us then to go to the appropriations process and either defund or severely restrict his activities...

The hearings subgroup will focus on, but not be limited to the following:
1. presenting the CNMI case;
2. preparing our witnesses and getting them scheduled - including CNMI officials and think tankers in DC;
3. Working with the garment industry to get friendly workers (one Chinese, one Filipino, one Bangladeshi) to DC for the hearings;
4. writing and reviewing testimony;
5. conducting "murder board" preparation sessions;
6. Preparing questions and factual backup for the friendly Senators and Congressmen;
7. outlining our hearing game plan and ensuring our lead friends in the House and Senate are ready to conduct our game plan by hearing date;
8. preparing the Stayman attack - including review of all interviews and writings;
9. preparing the schedule for hearing week (we will have to make sure we have the entire week to highlight our case on the Hill. This will include public relations activities.;
10. prepare followup submissions;
11. preparing legislation to be introduced into the appropriations process to cement any CNMI gains in the hearings (funding of a US attorney, restrictions on Interior's political and other harassment activities, etc.)
If you read the transcript of the September 1999 House Hearing, you will find that it's obvious this plan was carried out through key Abramoff foot soldiers, Representatives John Doolittle (R-CA), Don Young(R-Alaska) and in particular, Bob Schaffer. In fact, observers were stunned that new committee member, Bob Schaffer played such a prominent role at the hearing. He led the attack on Interior and Stayman, minimized the seriousness of the labor and human rights abuses and instead shifted focus to allegations (most, fabricated) of wrong doing at the Interior's Department of Insular Affairs. It is disturbing to know that a lobbying firm is writing testimony, preparing and selecting witnesses, writing the questions for "friendly" Senators and Congressmen" to ask; and planning an attack on an office and individuals who are pushing for reform.

Schaffer never veered from his mission of attacking the Department of Interior's Insular Affairs Office. He was relentless and dug his heels in to badger a series of witnesses about Interior's alleged misdeeds. He badgered a victim of human trafficking, Nousher Jaheti, badgered Danny Aranza who was Deputy of the Office of Insular Affairs, badgered John Berry, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior, and badgered Steve Galster, Executive Director of the Global Survival Network who led a five week investigation to Hong Kong and Saipan. Schaffer asked Galster if Interior was the ghostwriter for his report. Galster replied:
I would suggest, though, if you're investigating all this and you want to look for ghostwriters, you might want to look right behind me at some of the lawyers
and other lobbyists who have helped write the testimony for some of the other people who have testified today.
And Schaffer's snappy reply: "Very good."

The 2000 hearing was worse. The abuses of the foreign workers were hardly mentioned. This was a hearing where the Republican members of the committee, including Schaffer focused unsuccessfully on drilling and attempting to damage the credibility of staff members of the Department of Interior's Insular Affairs Office. Former employee David North had resigned when accused of violating that Hatch Act.

The committee refused to release the transcript. Yet, at least one one person was given a copy. The billing records to the CNMI reveal that Jack Abramoff charged for reviewing the transcript. So only one non-committee member was allowed to see the transcript and it was "coincidentally" lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The witnesses were given copies of their own testimony so there are partial transcripts I have seen of Mr. Stayman's questioning. In those pages, Schaffer was following the Abramoff script. Schaffer was rude and belligerent. Donna Christensen did remark in those 20 or so pages of transcript that it was a shame the hearing was not focusing on CNMI issues. A Saipan Tribune article on the hearing states:
Mr. Schaffer asked Mr. Stayman if he thought it was "appropriate" for a federal agency to draft press releases for private firms. Mr. Stayman did not give a sufficient answer, and Rep. Schaffer seemed both amused and irritated with his answer.

Mr. Schaffer also discussed the Preston Gates memo and asked how Mr. Aranza got a hold of it. The OIA director said that everybody (the press and people on Saipan) had a copy of it.

Mr. Schaffer then produced a copy of OIA’s liaison officer in the CNMI Jeff Schorr’s e-mail and asked if it was part of his job to collect this type of information. Mr. Aranza said that it was his job to "collect information." Again, Rep. Schaffer was not pleased with Mr. Aranza’s answer.
It should be noted that neither Mr. Aranza nor Mr. Stayman were ever found to have done anything wrong and neither official was charged with any violation, yet Schaffer continues to follow the Abramoff stand and say, "This guy is as guilty as can be."

Mr. Stayman accepted a position at the State Department not too long after the hearing. Even though his job was totally unrelated to CNMI issues, a report, Jack Abramoff's Contact with White House Officials prepared by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, prove that it was Abramoff who got him fired from that position:
"The documents show that Mr. Abramoff and his associates influenced some White House actions. In one instance, the Abramoff team persuaded White House officials to intervene to remove from office a State Department official, Alan Stayman, who had advocated reforms in the Northern Mariana Islands that Mr. Abramoff opposed. In one exchange, Mr. Schlapp e-mailed Monica Kladakis, the deputy associate director of presidential personnel, to ask “how do we fix this?” Ms. Kladakis responded: “I think we can do something about it, but I’m trying to figure out what is the best way to go about it. I don’t want a firing scandal on our hands.” Both Karl Rove, the President’s top political advisor, and Stephen Hadley, the deputy National Security Advisor, were informed of Mr. Abramoff’s opposition to Mr. Stayman."
But the "coincidences" of direct connections between Jack Abramoff and Schaffer continue. There's this section of the memo:
VI. Travel Subgroup
This group will have responsibility for any trips to the CNMI, or trips of CNMI officials and leaders to Washington, DC. This group will be responsible to plan and schedule Teno's February trip, as well as to work with the Hearings subgroup to plan the hearings trip.
Although the current thinking is to hold up on the trips to the CNMI, this must be short-term. There is no doubt that trips to the CNMI are one of the most effective ways to build permanent friends on the Hill and among policymakers in Washington, DC...
With the cancellation of the Young trip, it would be wise for the CNMI to host a group of Resources Committee members at some time prior to the hearings. Otherwise, Miller will be the member of that committee most recently in the CNMI and this will place us at a distinct disadvantage.
Schaffer is the congressman who stepped up to fulfill the goals listed here. He took the 5-day junket to the CNMI prior to the hearing as planned. The junket was clearly arranged by Abramoff's lobbying firm Preston Gates as the memo and trip itinerary from his chief of staff proved. It was funded by one of Abramoff's money laundering NGOs, the Traditional Values Coalition.

Additionally, the lobbying firm arranged numerous trips for CNMI officials to Washington, DC to meet with favored congressional members including Bob Schaffer. Look at these articles from the Saipan Tribune:

US House leaders' support in the bag:
House Speaker Ben Fitial yesterday enjoyed another successful day in his visit to Washington DC, having received the support of the powerful US Committees on House Resources and on Appropriations.
Bailout money for CNMI underway:
Fitial said he learned from his friends in the US Congress that the CNMI will be receiving a substantial amount of financial assistance from certain departments in the federal government.

"I talked to my friend Cong. Bob Schaffer over the phone and he told me that this assistance will be coming very, very soon," said Fitial.

CNMI’s share of the bailout money is projected to be in the millions, he added.
Education advocate endorses Fitial:
US Rep. Bob Schaffer, Colorado’s "Champion of Education Reform", said Speaker Benigno R. Fitial’s vision of providing quality education to Commonwealth children will prepare them to the challenges of the 21st century.

Rep. Schaffer supports Fitial’s bid to become the CNMI governor because he cares about the issue of education, which he said, is "Ben’s most important issue, too."
How many other candidates did Schaffer endorse with a full page newspaper ad? How many other candidates running for governor did Schaffer endorse who were not Republicans? Coincidence?

House leadership lobbies vs takeover:
The delegation, which ends its visit today, is scheduled to hold more discussion at the Speaker’s conference room in the Congress building with other leaders, including Mr. Young and his key aide Manase Mansur, Reps. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) and Ralph Hall (D-TX), and House Majority Whip Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).
Young lauds labor and business reforms:
The group wrapped up their visit Thursday (Washington time) by meeting with several ranking House Republican members, including Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Reps. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) and John Doolittle (R-CA). They also met with Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX).

Mr. Fitial described the trip a success because they were able to meet with as many U.S. lawmakers as possible and to convert those who are pushing for federal takeover of the Commonwealth’s immigration, minimum wage and customs -- control that island leaders want to maintain in order to develop the economy.
Lawmakers lobby for more Medicaid funds:
Meanwhile, the delegation is nearing to the end of its week-long visit to Washington with a "busier" schedule, according to Vice Speaker Alejo M. Mendiola.

Meetings are planned with key members of Congress, including House Majority Whip Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Reps. George Radanovich (R-CA), Bob Schaffer (R-CO), Jim Hansen (R-Utah) and Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA). Today, CNMI legislators are expected to hold discussion with congressional groups like the Western Caucus, Americans for Tax Reform and the Traditional Values Coalition.
Fitial:Hopes high for CNMI's stateless kids:
He spent the rest of his third day in Washington back on Capitol Hill. Specifically, the speaker pushed for federal education reform that would provide the CNMI more flexibility to improve educational opportunities for all children.

He [Fitial] met with members of the education committees in the US House and Senate, including Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) and Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AK). The speaker said he wanted to stress local flexibility with the lawmakers.

Mr. Fitial said the meeting with Rep. Schaffer was very productive. We discussed the positive labor reform efforts that have occurred in the CNMI and the need for better educational opportunities for CNMI citizens, especially our youth.
Another "coincidence" is that three months after Schaffer was sworn into office in 1997, he received two campaign contributions of $1,000 each from Jerry Tan. The July 1996 Abramoff billing records show that Abramoff met with Ben Fitial, Willie Tan, Eloy Inos for dinner on August 10, 1996, to discuss CNMI issues, "and upcoming congressional elections and CNMI legislature; discussion re: upcoming trips of journalists and think tank representatives in the CNMI and visits to Tan Holdings factory." Several entries that follow show that the lobbying team escorted the three garment industry officials around the GOP Convention to introduce them to candidates and congressmen. On August 11, 1996 they participated in an event sponsored by Senator Sentorums "FIGHT PAC" with some GOP members of Congress. Could it be that is where Schaffer was first introduced to his CNMI friends? Campaign contributions from the 96950 zip code continued with most funds being from CNMI officials or members of the Western Pacific Economic Council or Saipan Garment Manufacturing Association which had hired Abramoff to lobby on behalf of the CNMI, when the CNMI government dropped his contract.

Schaffer wants us to believe his ties to Abramoff were coincidences. As Dengre says, "If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Alaska."

Thanks to all of the people who guided and assisted us during the Colorado trip.