July 11, 2012
|Enhanced Saipan Tribune Photo of flag flying at Capital Hill |
photo by Haidee Eugenio
Governor Fitial is off on a 17-day junket in the United States as the CNMI's economy deteriorate by the day. The trip will most likely be costly as the governor, his wife and press secretary will be gone for over two weeks. The governor will attend the 4-day National Governor Association Conference in Williamsburg Virginia and the 3-day Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council in Washington, DC. There is no information on the agenda for the 10 remaining days of the trip.
Protests and outrage will greet the governors at their annual NGA bash. It has been labeled an undemocratic gathering according to Daniel Carawan who writes for The Richmond Progressive Examiner. The NGA meeting has been described as a lobbyist orgy where corporations buy access to elected officials, while the press and public are generally kept away.
Included in the event is golf, amusement parks, fireworks and five-star dining. Although taxpayers foot the bill for membership, transportation and accommodations, over $1 million in corporate donations have been collected to help fund the gathering. The Associated Press reports:
NGA spokeswoman Jodi Omear said the 100 corporations pay $20,000 annually to participate. For their money, the corporations — including giants such as General Electric, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Ford, Bank of America and UnitedHealth Group — get the opportunity to help governors and their advisers "develop and implement innovative solutions to governance and public policy challenges."While corporations can buy access to political leaders to push their agendas, the average citizen lacks the access to be heard. Combined with the fact that corporations have been deemed "citizens" by the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision and can pour millions into campaigns to ensure their corporate interests, we, the people, can only watch the U.S. thread-worn democracy further unravels.
Counting restricted and unrestricted gifts from the corporate fellows and other contributions, the NGA received nearly $3 million in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2010, according to the organization's most recent financial report.
That's enough to buy some corporate fellows a place at the table in Williamsburg. Literally. There are closed-door luncheons for corporate fellows Friday and Saturday, and the second power lunch gives them face time with senior advisers to governors — though not governors themselves — and NGA staff, according to the NGA weekend itinerary.