WASHINGTON, USA ---- The governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) says he is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department's corruption investigation around jailed Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, AP reports.What do you think?
The CNMI also is still trying to retrieve some of the millions it paid Abramoff's firms, said Governor Benigno R. Fitial.
Mr Fitial referred questions about the Justice Department's inquiry to his Los Angeles attorney, Tom Pollack, who didn't immediately return calls for comment.
But Mr Fitial, a one-time Abramoff ally who in past years pushed to extend Abramoff's contract to represent the Marianas, refused to distance himself from the disgraced lobbyist.
“When I have a friend, that friend always remains a friend,” said Governor Fitial, who became House speaker of the Marianas in 2000 after intervention from two former aides to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. After becoming speaker, Fitial pushed for Abramoff's contract to continue.
Abramoff, once a powerful behind the scenes figure in Washington, is cooperating with the government's wide-ranging influence-peddling investigation after pleading guilty last year to conspiracy and other charges and admitting to bilking his clients. The investigation already has netted guilty pleas from a dozen Bush administration and congressional aides and others and one former congressman, ex-Republican Rep. Bob Ney.
The scandals were a factor in helping Democrats win control of Congress from the Republicans in last November's elections.
One current member of Congress, Republican John Doolittle is a focus of the investigation. He was another Fitial ally, endorsing him for governor and pushing federal funding on his behalf.
“Doolittle, he's also a friend,” said Mr Fitial.