Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Abramoff shoes keep dropping

One of the impacts of last falls elections was the fact that the Abramoff scandal contributed to the defeat of a number of Republican Congressmen, most notably Richard Pombo (CA-11) and almost resulted in the defeat of John Doolittle (CA-4). Another effect was the fact that the investigation into the affairs of Jack Abramoff became old news and is no longer being covered on the 11:00 news. There must be more than a few sighs of relief, even in Huntington Beach.

The investigation is still unfolding and for those paying attention it is like listening to a centipede undress. You keep waiting for another shoe to drop, which it does on an almost daily basis.

Recent developments in the Abramoff scandal This week, one time Congressional staffer, Mark Zachares made a guilty plea and agreed to assist prosecutors in peeling yet another layer off this rotten onion. According to a Bloomberg New story...

Court documents said Zachares used his post as staff director of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Coast Guard and Maritime subcommittee to help Abramoff land clients and obtain favorable congressional action. Zachares agreed to use his committee position to retaliate against companies that hired other lobbyists, the document said.
TPM has made the court filing available to all. From that we know that Zachares served as staff to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chaired by Alaska Congressman Donald Young. Zachares was identified by Abramoff while employed by the Attorney General's office in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI).

The long sordid history of Abramoff and the Marianas has been very well documented by dengre on DailyKos. I don't intend to duplicate what he has done to connect the dots, most recently to Young. I do want to point out that Dana Rohrabacher is surely one of those who is listening carefully for each shoe drop.

We know that Rohrabacher visited the CNMI and met with officials there. He went along with Young, John Dootlittle.and others on a Abramoff sponsored trip to the CNMI in 1999. I am sure that Rohrabacher's memory of this trip will be about as good as Alberto Gonzales's memory of the more recent firing of Carol Lam (investigated and convicted Randy Cunningham and beginning an investigation of other Southern California Congressmen) or Arizona USDA John Charlton (beginning an investigation of Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi.)

There is an open question about Congressman Rohrabacher and whether he was just along for the ride going to a Pacific paradise and Libertarian Free Market success story, or that is what they wanted you to want to believe. That “free market success” was built on the exploitation of guest workers, women forced into prostitution and a system of sweatshops which benefited not the citizens of the CNMI, but Abramoff's Hong Kong based employers who had taken over the CNMI government.

How much did Rohrabacher know about what was really going on? Did he so want to believe that “free market success” that he turned a blind eye to corruption on which it was built? If that is so, then he is merely incompetent, because everyone else could see it. Or is there something deeper than that?

At that time, the Department of Justice was fully aware of the extent of corruption in the CNMI. The Associate Deputy Attorney General at the time (09/1999), Nicholas Gess testified as such to the House Committee on Resources.

Every day as we work to investigate and prosecute these cases, more criminals arrive on the CNMI. As we investigate to determine whether a recruiter who promised jobs to workers to get them to come to the CNMI committed fraud or is just a bad businessman, another group of cheated workers lands at the airport. As we seize a load of drugs brought in by members of the Japanese Yakuza or Chinese triad gangs, others are already on their way, ensured of easy access to the islands. As we put one gang member in jail, others arrive. In short, we are winning individual battles, but we may be losing the war.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the famed libertarian troubadour is singing a different tune. It is time that we give his vocal cords a rest.

As soon as the mechanisms are in place, we will be telling you how you can contribute to the defeat of Crazy Dana. In the meantime, there is a good chance to help retire Doolittle from California's congressional delegation. Charlie Brown is building a campaign fund to go after Doolittle one more time. Without the strong backing of the DCCC, he almost pulled it off last time, thanks greatly to way that the netroots got behind his candidacy. We can continue that by going to the Democracy For America site and voting for Charlie Brown as their "all star". That contest ends at midnight tonight. so don't put it off.

Then, we need to identify a new allstar to take on Crazy Dana.

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