Saipan is the Island Mariana Islands - a commonwealth nation of the United States located in the Pacific Ocean. According to the statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation's population is 50,000. The executive and legislative branches of the Saipan government are located in Capitol Hill. The judicial branch of government has its headquarters in Susupe. Saipan is considered as a Commonwealth capital. David M. Apatang is the mayor of Saipan.
One of the Saipan government corruption tool place during the nation's first five years of self-government. Staff and members of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), were charged and sentenced to serve jail terms by the federal courts in what was known as the 'Sumitomo Housing bribery scandal'. During the first decade of the Saipan's self-government, the nation's finance minister was indicted and convicted by the federal court. The minister was found to have, and without following necessary legal channels, purchased (using government-issued cards) expensive shoes for his individual use. In two years, three members of the CNMI Senate were found liable and sentenced by the federal court for having hired and paid a salary of non-existence employees. The said employees were not performing any work but were on the payroll (Larmour, 2017).
About ten years ago, the lieutenant governor and three others were sentenced and convicted by the federal court for the illegal usage of the government fund. It was demoralizing 'Rydlime case' that shoot the nation and put into doubt the nation's political capability as a sovereign commonwealth. Apart from federal-related corruption cases, there have been many scandals involving private individuals (Coello, 2014). The federal court has convicted and sentenced many people for violation of the federal anti-corruption statutes. They include those individuals charged with the bribery of government officials for unduly influencing the CNMI government, for payment of kickbacks to high-ranking officials and wrongful decision procurement. Among these corruption cases, were the much-publicized scandal case against the Saipan's Bank's Chief Executive Officer, the scandal case for kickback and bribery against Tinian (the major), and a corruption cases against several other executives and directors of the Saipan Construction Co.
These convictions and indictments of both CNMI government officials and private individuals are examples of the many illegal kickbacks and bribery cases that were filed by the United States Attorney General for the Northern Mariana. Over the past 35 years during the reign of CNMI self-government. Many of these corruption cases involved scandalized and fraudster acts that were being committed and perpetuated by the high-ranking government officials both appointed and elected. The Saipan government, as per capita basis, is said to have one of the highest cases of federal criminal sentencing and convictions for local government scandals among all the United States jurisdictions - territorial, state and commonwealth. It would be logical to think that following all these corruption cases and convictions during the past four decades, the Saipan government officials would be diligent and careful in carrying out their responsibilities and duties as government officials. However, government officials have not learned their lesson. Instead of reducing, it appears that, over the past six or seven years, there has been a rebirth of governmental corruption and scandal cases (Pattern, 2018). This time, nonetheless, the corrupt acts being perpetrated by the government officials appear to be more flagrant and deliberate. It is as if the officials are daring the Saipan people who question their unethical or unlawful actions and decisions. For instance, the most egregious misuse of public office took place flagrantly and openly during the first term of Fitial F. Benigno - the former Governor. Immediately, however, the 17th CNMI Legislature noticed what was happening and took appropriate actions to stop him. Eventually, the House of Representatives passed and introduced numerous articles of impeachment against the Governor. Most of these articles related to the corruption charge the Governor was facing. Others were associated with the blatant violation of CNMI statutes and laws.
Facing ouster and conviction by the CNMI Senate, the Governor chose to resign from office but in disgust. Consequently, the Governor was found liable for corruption charges and charged by the federal court. Fitial pleaded guilty to all the charges and was convicted and sentenced by the court. However, his successor (lieutenant governor) commuted his sentencing, ensuring that he evaded serving a prison term. One of the charges filed against the Governor involved the 'sweet contract'. The contract involved the funds he illegally awarded his friend - the Secretary of Commerce (Sablan, 2018). It was alleged that the Governor awarded this fund without following the necessary CNMI procurement regulations and rules.
Jack Abramoff CNMI Scandal
The infamous 'Jack Abramoff CNMI scandal' was infamous corruption case ever to have occurred in the Saipan government. The scandal involved the lobbyist individuals, including Jack Abramoff. The lobbyists tried but in vail to prevent or manipulate the Congressional actions concerning the CNMI and business on Saipan, Commercial centre, it's capital and two of the principal core islands (Lansing et al., 2018). Among the issues, the lobbyist individuals were working included preventing the U.S Congress from imposing and implementing the federal minimum wages for CNMI's workers.
Jack Abramoff took on the Mariana Northern Islands in 1996 as a client. His law firm is said to have been paid at least 7.6 million by the Saipan government from 1994 to 2002. Being a Commonwealth nation, Saipan applies the 'Made in U.S.' label to the goods produced on Saipan. Murkowski Frank, who was then Alaska's Republican Senator and the CEO of the Senate Natural Resource and Energy Committee, introduced a bill to the Senate seeking to extend the protection of the United States wage and labour laws to the CNMI workers. In the evidence that was tabled in the Senate, it was explained that 90 per cent of the private-sector workers were immigrants, and they were receiving a payment relatively low compared to what is considered as minimum wage under the United States labour laws. Media also publicized stories detailed the appalling working and living conditions of workers in Saipan (Karen, 2015). For instance, a report that was published by the 'Department of the Interior' showed that women workers were being forced to procure an abortion and that children were subjected to forced prostitution in the then-booming sex-tourism industry. The Senate, in responding to these allegations, passed and enacted the Murkowski Workers Reform Bill. However, the bill was blocked by DeLay Tom in the House of Representative.
In 1993, Preston Gates Co. was hired by the Saipan government for lobbying purposes. Between August 1994 and April 2002, the company was paid about 7.6 million dollars by the Saipan government, about 70 per cent of the government's overall spending on lobbying. The Saipan government was one of the biggest clients of the company. In 1996, Jack Abramoff, who was working with the Preston Gates, took on as the Saipan client. The Saipan government was seeking to retain tax exemptions from the U.S. minimum wages and immigration laws. In May 1997, the contract that had had between the Saipan government and Preston Gates expired. However, the Saipan government continued to channel payments to the company. The initial Preston Gates Company with Saipan government was from July 1994 to July 1995, for about $800,000. After the contract expiration, the then Governor Tenorio C. Froilan continued to pay the company despite lack the invalidity nature of the contract (McKusker, 2016). The payment continued to be channelled to the company up until June 12, 1998, during the inauguration of Tenorior Pedro as the newly elected Governor. Eventually, all the payments which were being given to the company without a valid contract were termed as illegal by the office of the Public Auditor.
In 1997, Jack Abramoff was said to have arranged an expensive trip to Saipan for one DeLay Tom. The trip was termed as unlawful because at the time the House of Representatives' ethics rules were prohibiting members from receiving gifts or presents from lobbyists. An internal memo that was written by Ellis and Preston Gates stated that the trip was one of the most successful approaches to building long-lasting relationships on the Island (Quimby, 2016). While speaking at the 'Tan Holdings Corporations, DeLay is quoted to have said:
"When one of my dearest and closest friends, Abramoff Jack, your most abled representative in House, offered me an invite to the Islands, I wanted first to see the market success and the reform and the progress you have made so far'.
Undercover investigative research by ABC News captured one Tan Willie having a conversation (on a hidden camera) with DeLay. They were talking about the issue of labour law reforms. According to Willie, DeLay confirmed to him "Tan, if they will elect me majority whip, I will make sure that I have arranged a schedule with the Congress'. Following his trip to Saipan, Tom Abramoff's lobbying group helped Representative Hall Ralph draft statement that was meant to attack and discredit the person of 'Katrina' - a teenager sex slave, of whom was relocated to Hawaii by federal officials. The girl provided testimonial evidence to the Congress and federal officials about the nature of sex trade that was being conducted in the Island. The testimony saw the forestalling of the criminal prosecution of the involved culprits (McPhetres, 2016). Jack Abramoff is said to have negotiated a $1.3 million biding contract with the Marianas. In both of these cases, Jack Abramoff was reimbursed by Ellis and Preston Gates, and the Mariana government was paying the company (Quimby, 2016).
The trip to Saipan two crucial allies of Tom DeLay - Tom Rudy and Edwin Buckham - both joined the lobbying company (Alexandrian Strategy Group). Rudy and Buckham travelled together with Tom Abramoff from November 5 to November 13, 1996. According to the letter written and signed by Jennifer Haman, Tom Abramoff is said to have paid at least $4,000 of the incurred expenses. The second trip to the Island involved Clybum James and Thomson Ben according to a memo dated August 16, 1996. The lawmakers were invt3ed by the National Security Foundation to attend a function in the Island in February 1997. These trips incurred expenses which were illegally settled by the Saipan government (Quimby, 2016).
Suspension and Renewal of the Contract
Jack Abramoff's lobbying agreement with the Saipan government was suspended in late 1998 owing to the changes in governmental administration and financial challenges. In September 1999, allegedly at the request of Benigno Fitial - Saipan politician - both Michael Scanlon and Edwin Buckham paid a visit to the Island. The two lobbyists visited the Island with the aim of convincing the Saipan legislators to drum up support for Fitial to be elected as the speaker of the House of Representatives (Quimby, 2016). At the time, Michael Scanlon was still acting as the member of Congressional staff and was on leave. Scanlon and Buckham promised to help in delivering federal aid to their districts. They, eventually, succeeded in convincing the Democratic legislators to support and vote for Benigno Fitial.
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