Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Eye Openers

Forbes reports the Sweeney Spinner's version of reality pretty succinctly here

Carlson said Northern Mariana Islands officials had "concerns about sweatshops" and wanted Sweeney to advise them on potential reforms.

The TU reports that Carlson "said the congressman made some recommendations and suggested he could help if his suggestions were put in place, but the CNMI government never followed up."

But:

On Jan. 15, 2001, the Tribune reported Sweeney had indicated in his speech that the CNMI needed to continue efforts to combat its poor image back in the states.

"The reputation of the commonwealth is not really what ought to be," Sweeney said. "I come (sic) here and found that the truth projected to me in Washington was not the truth at all." ...

Sweeney was quoted in the Saipan Tribune on Jan. 15 as saying reports of poor working conditions in the CNMI were overblown, and that he had seen worse sweatshops back home in New York.

Do those sound like suggestions for reforms to you?

Put on your thinking cap if you have to, I'll wait. Sweeney sounds like Rumsfeld when bad news from Iraq began coming in, telling reporters that the Iraq chaos stories were not getting the real story of all the progress that was being made.

According to the TU report, the governor of CNMI "had meetings with Sweeney and his fellow Appropriations Committee member, Doolittle, in Washington on April 8, 2001, to discuss the islands' infrastructure and development needs." Bragging about his friendship with Sweeney (kind of how the NMMA folks did when Sweeney wrote laws on their behalf), the governor told the paper that:

I am very glad that the CNMI has friends in such powerful positions. Whether the issue is construction funding or Compact impact assistance, the Appropriations Committee will make the important decisions, and I am confident we will receive a fair hearing because of our friends that serve on that committee."

Needless to say, Sweeney is not a co-sponsor of Rep George Miller's bill that seeks to do away with the Abramoff/DeLay and Sweeney protection of the sweatshop business interests. The Washington Post recently reported:

House Democrats led by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced legislation today to extend key federal controls over a U.S. territory in the western Pacific, renewing an effort that was blocked for years by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and once-powerful Texas Republican Tom DeLay.

The bill aims to apply U.S. immigration law and basic labor protections, including the U.S. minimum wage, to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory 3,900 miles west of Hawaii. Human rights and labor investigators have found rampant abuses there over the years, notably the trafficking of women for a commercial sex trade and the exploitation of mostly female workers from poor Asian countries in a largely foreign-owned garment-manufacturing industry that uses the territory to turn out "Made in U.S.A." clothing exempt from U.S. tariffs and quotas.

Sweeney claims he has no ties to Abramoff, but this trip raises doubts about his honesty. His spinner says he didn't know about the abuses but in 1992, the Department of Labor sued five garment factories owned by Willie Tan for workplace abuses.

And according to the TU story, the paper that covered Sweeney's event and his pro-sweatshop commentary in CNMI is published by the Tan Holdings Group, whose president is Willie Tan, Abramoff associate.

According to Wikipedia, Sweeney's "friend" Governor Fitial seems to have been handpicked by Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay:

Using promises of U.S. tax dollars as bartering chips, [former DeLay chief of staff] Edwin A. Buckham [then a lobbyist with Alexander Strategy Group] and Michael Scanlon traveled to these remote Pacific islands in late 1999 to convince two local legislators [Alejo Mendiola and Norman S. Palacios] to switch their votes for speaker of the territory's 18-member House of Representatives,” the Los Angeles Times revealed in May 2005. “They succeeded.” Benigno Fitial was “an underdog contender” for speaker of the House, the Times wrote. ...Fitial was expected to reinstate Abramoff's expired lobbying contract.

Ed Buckham gave $700 to Sweeney's campaign. And the TU reports over $8,000 from Alexander Strategy Group which closed in January of 2006 "because of its ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay." (Washington Post)

Come on Sweeney went with Rudy who is with Abramoff and Sweeney didn't know who was paying for this trip. We're supposed to believe that Sweeney has no ties to Abramoff?

Sweeney was in the CNMI because he was on the appropriations committee not because he worked for Pataki back in the day.

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