Washington D.C. - Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff blames key lawmakers and bureaucrats for the demise of the CNMI economy in his new book “Capitol Punishment—the Hard Truth About Washington Corruption.”
HEAR Matt Kaye's report HERE>>>2011-11-11 abramoffbook.mp3But one of Abramoff’s political enemies charges NMI leaders themselves are to blame.
Abramoff writes in his book, out this week, that after now Governor Benigno Fitial became Speaker in 2000 and helped renew Abramoff’s firm’s contract, things began to heat up in Washington.
NMI nemesis George Miller “redoubled his efforts” on NMI labor and immigration reforms in the House. But “thanks to our efforts, our allies blocked his every move.”
Same with Senate Republican Frank Murkowski.
Then Abramoff allies in Congress fought off a Bush Justice Department draft letter backing a Federal takeover of NMI immigration.
But when Juan Babauta defeated Fitial for Governor and took over in 2002, Abramoff’s contract ended.
The CNMI, Abramoff writes, “would survive Babauta’s ineffectual term,” and “live to see Ben Fitial elected as Governor in 2005.”
But by 2006, the Democrats had taken control of Congress and the CNMI’s “days were numbered.” The Democrats passed their “long-desired” takeover legislation, as part of a Federal minimum wage increase in 2007.
Abramoff writes, “the garment industry folded quickly and the CNMI economy tanked.”
An Abramoff enemy, who got fired with a call to the White House, was State Department Covenant negotiator, Alan Stayman, who today dismisses Abramoff’s claims about the NMI economy.“I’m really surprised by Abramoff’s ignorance of the history of how the collapse of the CNMI economy occurred. It had originally been predicted, and a warning was sent, by the Reagan Administration in 1986, that the consequences of a large guest worker program, and reliance on the garment industry, would bring all kinds of long-term problems.” Including a huge population increase that Stayman argues the NMI could not properly manage. And that “degraded” the power and water and sewer systems, and led to sewage on the beaches, trash fires, and hurt tourism.
Stayman claims reliance on the garment industry was always seen as “temporary,” and would end with the 2005 WTO rule changes that allowed China’s factories to export directly to the U.S.
He argues today’s crisis in the Commonwealth, with thousands about to lose immigration status, could have been prevented, had the NMI in ’97, under Froilan Tenorio, not cut off talks with Washington on how to manage the garment industry.“The garment industry, had it been managed properly, that is, it’s growth been managed, and most particularly, it’s phase-out been managed, it could have been a really great thing for the CNMI.”
Abramoff writes in “Capitol Punishment”: “For almost a decade, we stood between the peoples of the Northern Marianas, and the hostile bureaucrats and Congressmen bent on their destruction, now the enemy had won.”