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Jul 21, 2008

The Commitments

Blog polls are not scientific, in part because the people who respond to them are self-selected, and may not be representative of the community at large. Still, a couple of recent polls conducted on this blog and Glend558 may be worth looking at.

The poll on Glend558 asks: “Will you support a candidate in the next election if they support Fitial filing a lawsuit against the federal government?” The poll was conducted in response to the CNMI Legislature’s resolution to support the governor’s lawsuit (it has been referred to committee, where it will probably die a slow death). The results of the poll are astounding. As of today, 85.3% of those who responded say they would not support any candidate who supported the governor’s plan to sue the federal government.

This site’s poll asks whether people think Fitial could win a lawsuit challenging the federalization of immigration and labor, and fully 70% have responded “Fat chance.”

Numerous posts on this site and others have focused on the drawbacks of filing suit against the feds, and the seeming lack of any legal merit to it. There are many arguments against filing. A lawsuit will make it uncertain, perhaps for several years, whether foreign investors will be allowed into the CNMI, and whether employers will have access to foreign workers. Not knowing who’s in charge or what the rules will be will discourage private investment. Many have also pointed out that we should be working with the Department of Homeland Security to help draft the regulations to implement the new federal law, so we can get regulations that are favorable to our economy. A lawsuit will limit the degree of cooperation between the local government and the feds, and likely result in less favorable consideration.

Other posters have pointed out that the government can’t afford the cost of litigation, which the Fitial Administration has said will be $50,000 a month, and most believe there is little or no chance that the CNMI would win.

Fitial cannot even argue that the new law will harm the CNMI until the regulations are drafted and about to go into effect on June 1, 2009, only about six months before a new governor is inaugurated. Whoever the new governor is could withdraw the previous governor’s lawsuit, just as Fitial did with Babauta’s lawsuit to claim our cover-over money from the feds.

So here is the question: would you be more inclined or less inclined to support a candidate for governor who publicly committed to the following statement:

If I am elected governor, my first official act will be to withdraw any lawsuit filed against the federal government over the federalization of immigration in the CNMI.


What plan is next said...

I will vote for the candidate that supports this pledge instead of our complete loss of vision for the people of the NMI by a pointless and LOST Congress.

Will the hypothetical candidate also promise to eliminate or make a part time legislature, support the Open Government Act, and streamline our Governement offices and their high ticket boards?

Anonymous said...

Everyone in the NMI is for this except those getting the $$$

hang'em high said...

Less lawmakers and more lawmen would eliminate many problems here.

Anonymous said...

To quote the most famous web site about Saipan regarding todays post:

"Nepotism rules on the islands. Fueled by money paid by American taxpayers and diverted to the far-off territory, politicians run for office primarily for the sake of being in a position to appoint their relatives to high-paying sinecures. Politics in the CNMI is a blood sport. In an election year – which includes nearly every year, since there are primaries when there are no general elections – campaigning starts on Memorial Day, with political signs littering the roadsides. During the interminable election seasons government employees commonly take leaves of absence or sick time from work and dedicate all their time to getting either themselves or their relatives elected. And what do the campaigns consist of? Nothing more than photographs of the candidates with their family names exploding on the landscape. One candidate for U.S. Washington Representative, for example, was known by her married name throughout her career as president of the local community college. She was married to a Mainland American. Suddenly as a candidate she became a local, returning in her campaign posters to a long-ignored family name blaring from the middle of the name she had used professionally for years. Her campaign posters, like all the others, screamingly appealed to nothing more than indigenous racial and family interests.

Campaign platforms are non-existent. Political campaigns in the CNMI are less sophisticated, if this can be believed, than a typical high school student council election in the Mainland U.S. They are popularity contests -- family popularity contests and nothing more. Candidates are a conduit for their relatives' government employment. One Senator regularly runs for reelection under the slogan "Why not!" Why not, indeed? There are hundreds of reasons why not. Ignorance and illiteracy are two. The candidate offers not a single reason why he should be given anyone's vote. He is routinely reelected.

Another Senator complained in the local media that because the Legislature keeps passing laws, modifying and then rescinding them, the legislators look like they don't know what they're doing. He has a point: they don't know what they're doing.

The "success" of the Legislature is measured solely on the number of bills introduced and laws passed, regardless of their constitutionality or their ultimate demise.

One member of the Legislature, for example, introduced a bill during the Summer of 2002 to amend the CNMI Constitution to prohibit anyone other than persons of Northern Marianas descent from running for political office. Of course, the prohibition is innate, since nobody else has the slightest chance of being elected. This politician was rightly assailed in the media (by non-indigenous island residents, of course) first of all for racism, but also for having no concept of the CNMI’s obligation to recognize the United States Constitution, which was endorsed and accepted as part of the Commonwealth’s deal with America. Of course, assuming the politician had an even passing familiarity with the Constitution (a dubious proposition), he was speaking plainly for the rest of his ilk for whom the “law” is little more than what the English refer to as a “dodge.”

“It’s odd,” notes P.F. Kluge in his excellent book The Edge of Paradise: America in Micronesia. “The other islands chose leaders who were exceptional, one way or another. . . . In the Northern Marianas they elected men who were most like themselves, typical rather than special.” And “typical” in the Northern Marianas is anything but special, unless one considers rapacious greed and racism to be special.

The only question in any election is which candidate will be given his turn to steal the money pouring in from the United States government.

In early 2003 two CNMI senators faced trial on federal indictments charging them with official corruption for “employing” the other’s family members in high-paying, phantom positions. Because each senator is allocated $500,000 per year for “office expenses,” theft is laughably easy. Apparently not content to “employ” illiterate family members to sit behind a desk from time to time and chew betel nut, one senator allegedly “employed” another’s daughter pursuant to three separate contracts – not letting the fact that she was a full-time college student living 100 miles away in Guam stand in his way. Witnesses testified that the daughter never appeared for “work.” Of course, the other senator reciprocated. Theft, like sex, is much more fun when it’s done with a friend.

Locals vented their opinions in letters to the newspapers. If you think they were outraged about their elected representatives stealing taxpayer money and paying it to their families, think again. Their principal concern was that the senators were being unfairly prosecuted and they should not be called to account, since it is common knowledge that “they all do the same thing.” Of course, Nazis supporting Hitler and American fascists supporting Bush all spout the same line: “they all do the same thing.” (Another implicit worry was that this prosecution and others of its kind might upset the gravy train.) One defendant, in fact, up until the time of trial, professed bewilderment at his prosecution. So psychologically ingrained is the culture of theft that, even facing jail, he considered the practice to be no big deal.

The trump card of every local politico or public official brought to trial is the jury. Defendants know with certainty that they or a friend will have a relative or dependent government employee on the jury. Faced with blatant intimidation by defendants’ supporters glaring at them from the gallery – even the governor showed up recently in the trial of some local drunks who shot to death a 7-year-old girl at a family barbecue, since the local drunks were family members of the lieutenant governor (guns don’t kill people, assholes with guns kill people) – jurors commonly acquit even in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt. They know which side their bread is buttered on.

Amazingly, in spite of all the protections available to him, the first senator tried was convicted. Pending his incarceration he was actually suspended from the senate. It was unknown whether the presiding senator – a relative of the convict – suspended his pay as well. Indications are that he did not.

One reason the federal government is prosecuting the case against the senators is that their offices and positions – like everything else in the CNMI government – are funded exclusively by federal money. This is federal taxpayer money at issue and the “citizens” of the Northern Marianas – like most people on the dole – pay no federal taxes.

Another reason the federal government is prosecuting the case is that the local government is the biggest crook in the Pacific, and it can’t really be expected to prosecute itself.

An anti-nepotism law in the CNMI might simplify the election process: it would weed out virtually all the candidates, with the probable exception of the perennial gubernatorial candidate who was the unabashed pawn of the garment industry.

That candidate, late in the 2001 election, was shown to have paid a prospective voter $550 by check drawn on his campaign organization. A photocopy of the check was published in one of the two Saipan newspapers – not the one owned by his sponsor and former employer. The candidate's spokesman answered the charges. Unable to deny the allegations of vote-buying, the spokesman defended the practice – claiming the payments were an "accommodation" and that such payments are made out of the kindness of the candidate's heart. They represent "the island way." (He actually said that. You can't make this stuff up.) At least one other payment was disclosed later, also drawn on the candidate's campaign organization and similarly defended. Vote-buying, therefore, is openly argued to constitute acceptable conduct. And where did this candidate's money to buy votes come from? From the garment interests, of course. Because garment workers are paid nearly slave wages, the factory owners are able to amass enormous capital both to pay off United States Congressmen to maintain the CNMI's political status quo and to buy votes for their local candidate.

Bribe-taking by governmental officials in the CNMI is also so common as to be hardly newsworthy. It's "the island way."

Additional garment industry money was devoted to paying for television campaign commercials and print advertisements featuring "conservative" Republican U.S. congressmen (read "whores") supporting a candidate they may never have met but whose sponsor can be very generous.

Partly because of the electorate's resentment of the well-publicized abuses perpetrated by the garment industry, its candidate lost. Knowledgeable observers and islanders themselves also understand that a major consideration in the minds of the voters – and perhaps the controlling factor – was that the candidate's wife is from the Philippines. The prospect of a Filipina as their First Lady was repugnant to most of the locals, who see themselves for some reason as racially superior to everyone else, especially people from the Philippines. A third, unexamined factor possibly leading to the candidate’s loss was his physical ugliness and mean-spiritedness, which were not outweighed by his sponsor’s money."

Anonymous said...

The US must stop the money flow there until the crooks are put behind bars.

Island Girl said...

I would be much more inclined to support a candidate who would make that pledge. Maybe we should consider not voting for anyone who will not make that pledge, even if that means voting for no one.

Anonymous said...

Locals here want the corruption stopped too. Everyone here is for this pledge except the Congress and some chamber of commerce members.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

That would only be one of a bunch of things anyone running for governor should have on their "list".

Anonymous said...

I would VOTE for candidates swearing this oath, and like Lil says, we need 20 other items on the list.

Club Fed said...

20 NMI residents have been subpeoned to testify before a Grand Jury regarding CUC, contracts, fed money, and much more.

Broken Dreams said...

Only 20

3 man debate said...

There are only 3 candidates for DC Rep with any chance to win, and they are Pete A., Kilili, and J. Gonzales.

The voters should ask them to state their positions on federalization, legal actions against the US, opinions on minimum wage, what programs we can introduce to help the local citizens of the broken commonwealth, position on the Open Govt. Act, reduction in &/or making our legislature part time, reduction in NMI government employees and how to fund the salaries remaining, support for an NMI transitional immigration & labor system, suggestions to save the retirement fund, closing CPA, liquidating the assets of CDA, restructuring MIHA, what to do about article 12, how to market the commonwealth since MVA is broken, will the candidate seek US aid eliminating foreign national criminals from the NMI, how to address our legacy in the sex trade industry, whether the NMI should seize assets of foreign investors not meeting US investment guidelines, eliminating our QC program aimed at tax breaks for cheats that do not aid the CNMI, and what proposals to offer the US in our crisises in inadaqute power, potable water, and airline support.

You've got it all wrong said...


Anonymous said...

That's a nice list, 3 man debate, particularly for next year's candidates for Governor or legislator.

However, at least half of your topics do not apply to our Delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Anonymous said...

Hey, what happened to the Administration's hired guns who always read these blogs and write comments about how evil the federalizers are? They must be sleeping on the job, or else they must have run out of money to pay their contracts. Just like that Island Crusader blog that stopped all of a sudden. All the money must be going to pay for the lawsuit.

Marianas Pride said...

Everyone is missing the point. How is possible that Governor Fitial can use special interest money to support a lawsuit? Isn't that illegal? Could President Bush get $50,000 from unnamed "sympathizers" and push for a bill?

Would that not constitute bribery? Isn't that illegal? Wouldn't he be impeached?

I forgot. We're on Saipan! Break the law, DO NOT go directly to jail.

Biba koruption!

Anonymous said...

Ed, there you go again!

Practicing law without a license. It sounds like you need to go to law school, or at least read the statutes and case law.

Maybe you should also make a contribution to your favorite PSS school. Be sure to get a receipt. And don't forget to take a charitable tax deduction (giving to the government qualifies) or Educational Tax Credit.

You are right, of course, that remuneration for an office holder's personal benefit would be forbidden.

Marianas Pride said...

Hi Anon,

I was seriously considering law school.

But after realizing that we have more attorneys on Saipan than poker machines, I figure our market might be a bit saturated.

But I did once stay in a Holiday Inn!


Anonymous said...

There may be too many lawyers in private practice, but the OAG seems perpetually shorthanded.

Why don't you go clean things up in there? Make a difference.

“Federalization: You asked for it; you got it.”

see ya in the movies said...

"Why don't you go clean things up in there? Make a difference.

“Federalization: You asked for it; you got it.”

I have helped clean things up, thank you. Foreign crooks will be leaving soon, leaving their property leases and investments to lay fallow which will give more opportunity to locals. Maybe we can get the Gov off in time before he retire to club fed.

Federalization: I demanded it: I got it!!


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