U.S. LAWMAKERS CALL FOR ABRAMOFF MARIANAS PROBE

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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 13) – Five Democrats in Congress, including Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, have renewed their call for a special counsel outside of the Justice Department to investigate Jack Abramoff's Guam and the Northern Marianas’ lobbying ties.

The Justice Department response to the Democrats' October request for such an investigation has been inadequate, the lawmakers wrote January 11.

In their letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the lawmakers asked for a special counsel to investigate:

Allegations that Frederick Black, the former acting U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Marianas, was replaced in November 2002 because he had secured a subpoena as part of a Guam investigation into Abramoff. The subpoena sought documents of the Superior Court of Guam payments to California attorney Howard Hills, who forwarded about US$400,000 to Abramoff, according to documents obtained by the Pacific Daily News.

Allegations that Abramoff, according to the lawmakers' letter, allegedly "had influenced senior (Justice) officials to suppress" an immigration report on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which Black had requested in the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks. The CNMI's political status under the U.S. flag allows foreigners to enter the islands without the U.S. government's visa screening process.

"Mr. Black had ordered the review in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks to determine whether loopholes in (the laws concerning CNMI immigration) constituted a security risk for the United States," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter quoted Bloomberg News as stating the 2002 report on CNMI immigration "warns that continued local control over the Marianas' borders will 'seriously jeopardize the national security' of the U.S."

The lawmakers' renewed request was made as Abramoff's image as a power broker in the nation's capital has been tarnished by an influence-peddling federal case to which he pleaded guilty recently.

"Our original request, made on October 6, 2005, is even more warranted today in light of information revealed since that time and light of the Department's response to our request thus far," the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

The letter further states that in an e-mail, Abramoff reported to a contact in the Northern Marianas that the lobbyist played host to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's chief of staff in a skybox to watch a Washington Redskins game on October 1, 2001.

The CNMI government and the Saipan garment factory owners have paid Abramoff-associated lobby shops millions of dollars in fees between the late 1990s and 2004, lobbying disclosure reports in the U.S. Senate Office of Public records show.

In the e-mail dated October 1, 2001, the lawmakers' letter states, Abramoff had told a Northern Marianas contact that "there might be a classified document floating in the department, which deals with (Northern Marianas immigration-related security concern)."

Abramoff, according to the letter, stated in his e-mail that while the attorney general at the time "will be fine," the "underlings are a worrisome matter."

One of those who signed the letter, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has been unsuccessful in his almost decade-long efforts to apply U.S. immigration and minimum wage laws in the Northern Marianas. Local immigration authority has allowed the Northern Marianas visitor and garment industries to hire thousands of foreign workers who are paid below the U.S. minimum wage.

"It is further alleged that Abramoff learned about a classified analysis of security breaches posed by CNMI's weak immigration controls that Black requested in the wake of the attacks of 9-11, and that Abramoff used his connections with then-Attorney General Ashcroft and his then-chief of staff to suppress the report," according to a press release on Miller's Web site, www.house.gov/georgemiller.

Rep. Tom DeLay, who recently resigned as majority leader because of his association with Abramoff, had been one of the strongest defenders of Northern Marianas' immigration and labor practices.

On November 14, the Justice Department replied to the minority lawmakers' request for a special counsel investigation.

The Justice Department reply states that, if the Justice Inspector General finds evidence of a criminal violation, he will bring the information to an appropriate prosecuting office with the department for review, according to the lawmakers' letter.

But the lawmakers added, given that the allegations involved the former attorney general and his chief of staff, "an investigation by outside counsel and not internal prosecutors is required."

The lawmakers also quoted a Los Angeles Times report that a Republican lobbyist had said he carried the recommendation for Black's replacement to Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff in early 2003. The Bush White House appointed Leonardo Rapadas as U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Marianas.

The letter calling for a special counsel was also signed by the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan; the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia; and the senior Democrat on the House Resources Committee, William Delahunt.

January 13, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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