Abramoff Scandal Set to Widen

January 5, 2006 – GOP super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty this week in Washington, D.C. to three counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Abramoff later pleaded guilty in Florida to charges of fraud and conspiracy. In both cases, Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and provide evidence about members of Congress and the Bush administration on whom “Abramoff lavished luxury trips, skybox fundraisers, campaign contributions, jobs for their spouses, and meals at Signatures, the lobbyist’s upscale restaurant,” reported the Washington Post.

President Bush announced he would give back $6,000 in direct contributions from Abramoff, even though Abramoff was a GOP “Pioneer,” someone who raised more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

Abramoff’s lobbying power reached the highest levels of government and now exposes the blatant hypocrisy of legislators who say one thing in public but do the opposite behind the scenes. In the 1990s, according to ABC’s 20/20, Abramoff worked for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific including the Island of Saipan. The island was notorious for a loophole in its immigration laws that allowed Chinese businessmen to operate sweat shop garment factories outside U.S. labor law and still use the “Made in USA” label.

Almost 11,000 Chinese workers brought to Saipan were forced to sign secret agreements, illegal in the United States, forbidding them to participate in any religious or political activity, ask for a salary increase, fall in love or get married. Women who got pregnant had to either get an abortion or lose their job.

In 1997, Abramoff engineered a trip for then House GOP Majority Whip Tom Delay and his family to visit the island over the New Year’s holiday. He toured some of the factories and attended a dinner in honor of the outgoing Saipan Governer, who DeLay said was a “shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party” and “leading the world in the free market system.”

Back in Washington, DeLay, a strong anti-abortion advocate, successfully blocked efforts in Congress to change U.S. immigration laws to close the loophole for Saipan. Click here for more information and video of DeLay’s trip to Saipan.