Zachares: Talking

April 5, 2009

The hearing date for former CNMI Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration, Mark Zachares, indicted for conspiracy in the Abramoff scandal, has been reset for July 10, 2009. Some of the other indicted A-team members have had their hearing dates postponed for years. Why? Because they are talking. Every three months those indicted in the Abramoff scandal get their hearings moved up another 90 days as long as they are cooperating. From the March 16, 2009 Motion to Continue (emphasis added) :
On April 24, 2007, the Court accepted Mark Zachares’ plea of guilty and deferred setting a date for his sentencing. By Order dated September 10, 2008, the Court scheduled a status conference for December 8, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Zachares has agreed to cooperate with the government in any and all matters when required. In conformity with this agreement, Mr. Zachares has been cooperating with government agents and prosecutors, including in several ongoing investigations. The government anticipates that Mr. Zachares’ cooperation will continue for the foreseeable future. In the view of both parties, no issues have arisen which require the Court’s intervention at this time.

Accordingly, the parties jointly move the Court to again defer setting a date for the sentencing of Mr. Zachares. The parties also ask that the Court continue the status conference to a date not less than 90 days in the future in order to allow Mr. Zachares’ cooperation to continue uninterrupted.
The hearing has now been moved to July 10, 2009 as Zachares continues to talk. He has a lot to talk about. Officials and others in Alaska (Rep. Don Young), Florida ( former Rep. Tom Feeney), Colorado (former Rep. Bob Schaffer), California (former Rep. John Doolittle), Washington, D.C. (convicted former lobbyist Kevin Ring and other lobbyists), and the CNMI (insert your favorite Zachares-connected conspirator's name here) should have a lot to worry about.

Zachares worked in the CNMI from 1994 until January 2002. He served as an attorney in the Office of the Attorney General. Some say his Alaskan ties to Herb Soll landed him the position in the CNMI, as both Soll and Zachares came from Alaska to the CNMI. Soll worked in the Office of the Attorney General, and as a labor hearing officer. He was appointed Attorney General in 2000 by Governor Pedro Tenorio after the Maya Kara appointment as acting attorney general was ruled unconstitutional since she served in that position for more than 30 days. In September 2000, Zachares as DOLI head, and Soll as AG, traveled to San Francisco to terminate the MOU with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Office. In 2002, Soll returned to the Department of Labor to resume work as a hearing officer. That same year, Zachares was off to Washington, DC to take a Abramoff-secured position with the House Transportation and Infrastricture Committee chaired by Rep. Don Young (D-Alaska).

While Zachares served in the Pedro Tenorio Administration as the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration (DOLI), he was considered an arrogant bully by guest workers, asylum victims, and some advocates and others who attempted to communicate with those locked in the detention center. He authorized warrantless raids on private homes where workers resided. He was sued multiple times including law suits for human rights abuses and imprisonment of ayslum seekers in the detention center and illegal arrests. Even the Saipan Chamber of Commerce criticized DOLI under Zachares for delays in processing of documents, bonding fees, deportation of nonresidents workers, as well as the influx of undocumented immigrants to the Northern Marianas.

I received dozens of letters, phone calls, and emails when Zachares was Secretary of DOLI. All were complaints from foreign contract workers and advocates. A guest worker who was held in the detention center in the late 1990's complained of being denied basic rights and being verbally abused by both Zachares and Robert Goldberg. Illegally held Muslim guest workers complained that they were continually served SPAM and other pork products even though they protested. Detention center visiting hours were limited and even those who attempted to visit during the hours were denied access to prisoners. I wrote to former governor Pedro Tenorio about irregularities in the detention center, illegal raids, and other human rights abuses. Then Acting Attorney General Maya Kara responded with a letter that was a cover-up letter that danced around issues and defended the policies at DOLI.

In 1999 Zachares wrote a letter to the Department of Interior's Insular Affairs Office complaining about the new ombudsperson, Pam Brown. God forbid, the guest workers have case workers who can speak their languages and be represented in by an advocate for justice for minor children. Zachares was objecting to foreign-born case workers being hired and Ms. Brown's request to use the deportation fund to repatriate three young children with their mother who was being deported.

Fitial was close to Zachares. As Speaker of the House it was Fitial who landed Abramoff his government contract during this time period. In fact, Zachares attended the governor's inauguration flying in all the way from Washington D.C.

Zachares was arrested in April 2007. He has been talking for two years. Here are some selected phrases from the "Information":
On or about June 2002 and through November 2004, ZACHARES served in various
positions on the staff of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee of the United States House of Representatives; specifically, ZACHARES served: (a) from June 2002 through December 2002 as Legal Counsel to the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee; (b) from January 2003 through December 2003 as Staff Director for the Coast Guard & Maritime Subcommittee; and (c) from January 2004 through November 2004, as Special Counsel to the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
The Lobbyists and Their Clients
3. Jack Abramoff was a Washington, D.C. lobbyist representing numerous clients, including the government of the CNMI, which Abramoff represented from 1996 to 2001, receiving fees in excess of $7 million.
4. Beginning in the mid-1990s, ZACHARES came to have extensive contact with Abramoff during ZACHARES' tenure as an official of the CNMI, and ZACHARES and Abramoff became personal and professional acquaintances.

6. On repeated occasions from late 2000 through in or about April 2004, ZACHARES communicated with his coconspirators, including Abramoff and his lobbyists, in furtherance of the below-described conspiracy to defraud using interstate electronic mail transmissions and interstate telephone calls.

8. It was a purpose of the conspiracy for ZACHARES to enrich himself by using and agreeing to use his official positions within the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and by performing and agreeing to perform official acts in return for a stream of things of value.

9. It was a further purpose of the conspiracy to enrich Abramoff and his lobbyists by providing favorable official action to them and their clients, and by referring prospective clients to Abramoff and his lobbyists.

10. The conspiracy was carried out through the following manner and means, pursuant to what ZACHARES and Abramoff came to call their "two year plan":

a. ZACHARES would and did take a stream of things of value from Abramoff and his lobbyists, including the prospect of future employment as a lobbyist by Abramoff and of salary enhancements in that prospective employment, an overseas trip, monetary gifts, meals and drinks, golf, and tickets to professional sporting events and concerts.

b. In exchange for this stream of things of value, ZACHARES would and did provide a stream of favorable official action to, and would and did use his influence on behalf of', Abramoff, his lobbyists, and their clients.
20. ZACHARES took a stream of official action benefitting Abramoff, his business interests, his friends, and his lobbying clients. The stream of official action included, but was not limited to, the following:
a. On or about July 30, 2002, ZACHARES sought, at Abramoff's request, a United States Department of Justice Threat Assessment Report concerning Guam and the CNMI that was not then available to the public.
Zachares testified at the September 1999 House Hearing that was an Abramoff-run hearing with Abramoff foot soldiers Rep. Don Young (R-ALASKA) and former Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), and former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) controlling the direction and flow of the hearing that was referred to as a sham. Correspondence from Abramoff to Fitial, Willie Tan and Eloy Inos that preceded the hearing indicated it would be held for the purpose of vilifying federal officials, and to push the agenda of Abramoff's client, the CNMI. Zachares was obviously part of the scheme judging by the transcript of the hearing. Rep. Schaffer even addressed him as "Mark."

The billing records from Abramoff to the CNMI indicate that the CNMI was billed for helping the lobbyist find Zachares a position in the federal government:

2/9/01 2.0 hours Kevin Ring Continue drafting outline for J. Abramoff remarks to CNMI leaders; phone conversation with D. Stephens regarding Zachares candicacy

2/13/01 4.0 hours Tony Rudy Contact numerous congressional offices to help Mark Zachares; deliver materials to Hill; obtain signatures on letters

Why no objection? Perhaps because the CNMI officials were in on the conspiracy to land him a job. The initial position was in the DOI Office of Insular Affairs where Zachares could manipulate policy to be favorable to the CNMI. The attempts to land him that Insular Affairs position went as high as the White House as correspondence between Abramoff and White House personnel indicated. From The National Journal:
Abramoff, who had hired Reed in 1999 and 2000 to run anti-gambling drives in Alabama to fend off threats to the Choctaws' casino profits, was looking for more help. This time, Abramoff was trying to secure a job at Interior for Mark Zachares, a former secretary of labor in the Marianas government.

On January 11, 2001, Abramoff e-mailed Reed. "I was thinking about this appointment" to the Office of Insular Affairs at Interior, Abramoff wrote. "I know it is perhaps a bizarre request, but considering how quickly I was named to the transition advisory team thanks to your request, perhaps it would be possible to ask Karl [Rove, the president's chief political adviser]... that they should appoint Mark Zachares to head the Office of Insular Affairs.... Do you think we could get this favor from Karl? It would be my big ask for sure."

Reed replied quickly: "It never hurts to ask. What's the next move?" Later that day, Reed sounded even more eager. "Just let me know who to call, when to call, and what to say. And while you're at it get me another client! NOW!"

On March 6, Abramoff met with Rove for about half an hour and pushed for Zachares, according to Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues at the firm Greenberg Traurig and to Secret Service logs released earlier this year. But Rove didn't come through, and Zachares didn't get the job.

One former Abramoff colleague said he wasn't surprised that the effort failed, because Zachares was "too radioactive" and had "the worst possible profile" for the job. Zachares had received $10,000 from an Abramoff-run charity, getting half of the money before he held his Marianas job and half after. What's more, Democrats in Congress, with help from some GOP members, had mounted a bruising but unsuccessful fight to impose U.S. minimum-wage laws on the Marianas. The islands, a U.S. territory located in the western Pacific Ocean, paid immigrant workers in their garment industry wages of just $3 an hour.
What happens to these "Abramoff talkers" while they await their hearings? Zachares, Boulanger, Ring, Verrusio, Blackann, Copland and others? Do they rely on spouses or family to support them? Do they work somewhere, and if they do who would hire them? Included in some plea agreements are provisions for the non-prosecution of spouses. Such an agreement exists in the Zachares Plea Agreement for his wife, Cynthia.

Keep talking Zachares.


ACR said...

Of course you're right when you say that some plea agreements have non-prosecution clauses protecting the spouses of the admitted criminals.

In addition to Mr. Zachares, we know that Todd Boulanger's wife (Jessica Boulanger) and Tony Rudy's wife (Lisa Rudy) are protected by non-prosecution agreements negotiated as part of their husbands' plea deals.