Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sweeney's Tangled Web

Sweeney gets a dough-nation from Abramoff's firm on April 6, 2001. And Abramoff's corrupt lobbyist Tony Rudy starts meeting with John Sweeney regularly right after that. This happens just a couple of months after Sweeney's "Oopsie-do-I-get-another-do-over so I can file now?" trip to with Rudy CNMI. I'm quoting a timeline here -

April 26, 2001 - Indicted Delay aide Tony C. Rudy meets with appropriations staff of Rep. Sweeney's office.

May 4, 2001 - Indicted Delay aide Tony C. Rudy meets with Rep. Sweeney to discuss Appropriations request.

May 25, 2001 - Jack Abramoff Teamate Kevin A. Ring has phone conversation and correspondence with K. Kaloi (House Resources) regarding CNMI appropriations; sends talking points to same; phone conversation with Labor Department official regarding minimum wage; correspondence with staff of Rep. Sweeney regarding appropriations. All in all, with the help of Sweeney and Doolittle, $28 million in additional “earmark” funds were secured by Abramoff for the Marianas in 2001.

June 20, 2001 - Indicted Delay aide Tony C. Rudy meets with Rep. Sweeney regarding Marianas issues; discussions with L. Lamora (Watts) regarding upcoming minimum wage effort.

All that indicates Rudy was meeting with Sweeney on behalf of Abramoff's client and regarding appropriations issues. Sweeney is expecting us to believe that that his trip with a lobbyist (whose firm he took donations from) was about how to reform Sweatshops in the CNMI? Irony of all ironies, Sweeney's comments there were critical of the Clinton administration which did support cleaning up the sweatshops.

On March 31, 2006, Tony Rudy pleaded guilty in federal court to a conspiracy charge related to the federal investigation into corrupt lobbying practices. He also agreed to aide prosecutors as they continue their probe. ...

Rudy went to work for Abramoff when the lobbyist moved to a new law firm, Greenberg Traurig LLP, in January 2001. Months later, Rudy himself was hired as a lobbyist by Abramoff. (source)

In 2000, Abramoff wrote to the Governor of CNMI and cited his "strong ties to the new Republican majority in control of Congress" Abramoff went on:

For the past six years, our team has combated and defeated every single attack on CNMI. We have faced formidable opposition at times, including a hostile Clinton Administration, powerful Members of Congress, labor unions and human rights groups, and negative media stories. Each time, our team worked with the CNMI to develop and execute strategies that protected and furthered the CNMI interests. ...

In the end, this all-out public relations and lobbying blitz brought CNMI back from the brink of legislative disaster. All of our tactics produced enormously positive results. Our efforts with the House Resource Committee allowed us to transform two congressional hearings that promised to be embarrassing to the CNMI into platforms to express local opposition to federal takeover schemes. We worked with the House Leadership to assure the bill would not move to the House floor, even if the committee did act. It also allowed us to acquire some very powerful allies, such as Majority Whip Tom DeLay. Perhaps most importantly, our dedication to the public relations aspect of the lobbying campaign helped the CNMI to develop a reputation for freedom and local autonomy, two virtues that were very attractive to the new Republican majority. The CNMI soon became known as a "laboratory of liberty," a place where free markets flourished...

Abramoff specifically sites the role of the Appropriations committee in his letter:

We kept the CNMI's opponents from diverting federal funds in the appropriations bills that were designated for the CNMI. We reached out to the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as to anti-tax think-tanks and grassroots organizations, to generate strong opposition to the Administration's tariff proposal. Finally, we won a hard-fought victory on the House floor against Representative Miller and others who sought to attach federal takeover language to an appropriation measure. In the end, we successfully prevented any anti-CNMI legislation from becoming law.

He sums up:

The CNMI's authority to control its own immigration and wage laws has been protected. Its ability to export its goods freely to the mainland has been preserved. And its physical development has been aided by the infusion of federal assistance. (source)

A cached version of a removed Saipan Tribune article from 2000 notes that CNMI leaders were going to the Washington

to meet with U.S. lawmakers ... to help fight federal takeover proposals, the House leaders believed it can only do so much owing to the pressures being exerted by labor unions and other interest groups opposed to the current economic system on the islands ... the local business community, through the Western Pacific Economic Council, has been very active in lobbying on behalf of the government, but these actions are not sufficient if the CNMI is not going to get involved. ...Mr. Tenorio [then Governor], in an interview the other day, appeared inclined to grant request by lawmakers to hire [lobbyist] Preston Gates, although he is still mum on any final decision by his administration.

The TU article noted: "Within months of returning from the CNMI, Sweeney met separately with Marianas Gov. Fitial and Rudy in Washington."

Another ST article on Nov. 11, 2000 says "just a few days ago there was an effort to attach the [Made in the USA Label Defense] bill to an appropriation measure which was headed off by prompt action of the CNMI's lobbying firm in Washington... it's impossible to exaggerate the threat this mean-spirited and misguided legislation poses to the CNMI."

The National Retail Federation opposed the "Made in the USA Label Defense Act" as reported in Sept 2000. "An NRF spokesman told the Bureau of National Affairs September 6 that there was concern that the measure could end up being rolled into an omnibus appropriations measure as Congress gets ready to adjourn." That same month, the conservative "think tank" Heritage Foundation questioned the same bill.

The Natioanl Retail Federation gave $1500 to Sweeney in the 2000 election cycle.

Sweeney was not one of the 234 co-sponsors of the Made in the USA Label Defense Act.

PS. One of the bazillion lobbyists attending both the 2005 and 2006 Congressional Winter Challenges with John Sweeney happens to be Steve Pfister of the National Retail Federation. (source)

On January 15, 2001, the STribune glowingly covered John Sweeney's visit. Sweeney's comments are lock step in line with Abramoff's "dedication to the public relations aspect of the lobbying campaign" to help the CNMI.

Sweeney also "said Washington should be made to understand that the departure of the industry will devastate the Northern Marianas." Shortly after Sweeney was there, Abramoff was given a new contract by CNMI. Like Abramoff, Sweeney attacked Clinton efforts to bring the abuses under control. Plus Sweeney urged CNMI to keep lobbying Washington. Shortly after Sweeney left, Abramoff was rehired at his new firm by CNMI. Do these connections all seem like coinkydinks to you? Go here for the full story the ST gave of Sweeney's appearance.

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