Monday, January 4, 2016

AS GOP Party Chief Blasts Agency headed by Faleomavaega Sister

In the Page One lead story, indeed the only page one story, in the December 21 edition of Samoa News, American Samoa Republican Party Chairman Utu Abe Malae was quoted as saying “We are not doing enough” to educate Samoan students in math and science disciplines.  Speaking in his capacity as director of the territory's power authority, Malae said that “the entire American Samoa school system must be revamped and follow the example of Manumalo Baptist School.”

Careful to note that Department of Education Director Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin-Finau had made a similar proposal, Malae said he would overhaul the department by creating a semi-autonomous agency like that in the Northern Marianas, where Malae once served a tour as head of that government's utility agency. While not further mentioning Hunkin-Finau by name, his implication was clear when he continued that “This is just an edifice but the success depends on those who hold the top positions and the board of directors; i.e., those who stand on this edifice."

In other words, if the system needs to be overhauled, it means it is not succeeding as is and if success depends on who holds the top positions, the current leaders need to be replaced as part of the overhaul. He went on to point out that competent administrators are not just top-notch educators, but proven managers. Hunkin-Finau has a doctorate in education from the University of Hawaii while Malae, who has built a career around specializing in overhauling and successfully turning around government entities, has a master's in public administration as well as an engineering master's degree—hence his particular interest in management as well as math and science.

The twice-married Hunkin-Finau ran for governor in 2012 but even though she was on a ticket that included her brother Eni Faleomavaega, she finished poorly while he sailed home to a 13th term in Congress despite rumors about his health late in the campaign.  Hunkin-Finau previously was fired from her position as president of the community college.

Malae may well have had in mind the departure of an alarming number of teachers dissatisfied with Hunkin-Finau's leadership when he said the “next step would be to improve the lot of the teaching profession — better compensation; empower them to make decisions; administration is to support them not to rule them.” [emphasis added] When he said the revamp also would “need excellent financial and other support staff who take care of the nuts and bolts — so that teachers can do their work well,” he likely did not mean cleaning toilets as part of the “nuts and bolts,” however. DOE office staff reportedly are unhappy with a recent memo from the director reminding them that their duties included cleaning the department bathrooms on a rotating basis.

Although there has been no coverage in the local media, it has been widely rumored that the local Democratic Party already has voted for Hunkin-Finau to be its nominee for congress this year to avenge the defeat of her brother Faleomavaega, who lost a bid for a 14th term in the 2014 election when rumors about his health proved true.  Although after his defeat Faleomavaega vowed to continue to be involved in Samoan politics, he never built his own home in the territory and does not live here.  He lives on the Mainland now and other than a brief trip home for Flag Day this year, has not been head from locally. It is not known if he discussed his sister's attempt to return the seat to the family's control while he was on island it would come as no surprise if he encouraged her to do it since his health continues to be poor and there is no chance he could be elected if he even ran again.

Perhaps Hunkin-Finau has made no public announcement of her intentions because local law would require her to take leave from her government job while she is a candidate. Since she is widely known, there is no rush and the filing period does not open until July in any event.  It is not clear if news of the party endorsement has been suppressed by Samoa News at the request of one of the paper's editors, Teri Hunkin, who is Hunkin Finau's sister-in-law and also is the territory's Democratic National Committeewoman.

Meanwhile, the power agency director taking the unusual step of criticizing the performance of another government agency surely can be seen as obliquely taking a shot across the bow of Hunkin-Finau's looming candidacy for Congress when seen in the context of Malae's other position: chairman of the Republican Party of American Samoa. Samoa News makes no mention of Malae's political position nor Hunkin-Finau's political aspirations but because of the story's prominent placement in the paper, the implications are clear on an island well tuned in to politics.  Election year has just begun.  Stay tuned.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Embarrassments for Faleomavaega sister

Memo to candidates for Congress next year:  If you are seeking signatures for your nominating petition, you might start in the DOE director's office. There should be plenty of people eager to sign up even if they might be happy to see the boss, Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin-Finau move on.  They likely know Salu, the sister of defeated delegate Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, has no prayer of being elected to Congress, for which she is said already to be campaigning hard.  Her staff hopes that after the leave she will be required to take that she will move on to some other job.

Why won't they back her?  Lots of reasons but the latest is a memo she wrote to all staff reminding them that in addition to their professional duties, they need to take turns cleaning the department's bathrooms and answering general telephone calls.

Meantime, in the page one lead Samoa News story, the director of human resources embarassed her in demanding she "cease and desist" in the hiring of a deputy director. Another DOE professional lodged a complaint with HR that she hired someone without even interviewing the complainant, who also had applied for the job. She has been upbraided publically by the governor before so this is nothing new for her.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Faleomavaega May Try Congress By Proxy

This blog has had one purpose over the years: to expose the truth about Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin in an effort to drive him from office. With his defeat last year in an attempt to win a 14th term, we put this blog into mothballs. Living in Utah in retirement, when he took down his Facebook Page earlier this year we were more confident than ever that he would not attempt a comeback and this conclusion was reinforced by his special trip here for Flag Day, at which it was obvious that his health had not improved since election day 2014. How could it? He has diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure. All are chronic illnesses from which recovery is not expected and he is too old to risk a kidney or heart transplant.

So when he quickly departed after Flag Day, we were ready to consign this blog to the dust bin of history until we started to hear talk around the island that Faleomavaega's sister, Vaitunasa Salu Hunkin-Finau is prepared to make a bid to return the office to family hands. We have no indication of what the two siblings discussed while Eni was on island but have no doubt it would have included the next congressional race. Our own belief is that at some point Eni would have told her he would not be a candidate and encouraged her to take on the woman who beat him.

We make no judgment on the performance of Eni's successor but it is unlikely that he could transfer to Vaitunasa his western district power base, which completely collapsed on him last year. For years he had done poorly in the east and never has won Manu'a but always made up for it with massive margins in the vote rich districts of Fofo and the Tualauta, home to many of the members of the territory's Mormon Church to which church he belongs and, of course, the home of the vast Hunkin family clan, regardless of faith.

Matthew Hunkin, a young Englishman born in Cornwall in 1815, came to Tutuila in 1836 at age 21 and settled in the village of Leone, where two years later he married a member of the Malala family and lived for 43 years until he died in 1879. The Hunkins had seven children but only one emigrated elsewhere. All of the many Samoans who carry the Hunkin surname are descended from one of Matthew's three remaining sons and there are many more descended from the three Hunkin daughters who carry the blood if not the name.  So it is a huge vote base on an island where family ties are still important in voting habits.

However, when Faleomavaega won his final victory in 2012 with his usual large margins, that voter base at the same time did not transfer to his sister, who was on the ballot running for governor. Indeed, she finished a poor fourth or fifth in the traditional Hunkin strongholds and wound up with only 6.8 percent of the total vote territory-wide. So the first question that has to be asked is where is her base?  There may have been resistance to voting for two close members of the same family for territory wide office but her votes totals were so much lower than his in the family districts that it could not be a major reason for her dismal showing.

In the absence of a reliable base, perhaps she is banking on her personal qualities or professional performance. If so, she is delusional. She has none of her brother's easy going personality, which carried him far with the voters during his career. Moreover, she has no track record on which to build. In the 2012 gubernatorial election voters undoubtedly recalled that she had been fired as president of the community college. Nonetheless, after the election Governor Lolo made her his director of education (which does not oversee the college) perhaps in hopes she would not run against him again in 2016. 

But her tenure at DOE has been less than spectacular, marked by school buildings not ready for students at the beginning of the school year, book shortages, teacher shortages caused by low salaries for some and others who just did not want to work for her any more and troubles with federal grant management. School buses have been idled for lack of fuel and her disastrous decision to combine all the high school graduating classes for one ceremony was so unpopular that it had to be reversed by the governor, publicly humiliating her in the process.

So, we see no rationale for her candidacy, but then again there have been other perennial candidates like Tuika Tuika and Rosie Lancaster who have had little or no support at the ballot box yet run again and again, so who knows?

While this blog is devoted to making sure Faleomavaega does not occupy the congressional seat ever again, we are expanding our scope to include his sister to make sure he does not occupy it by proxy, either. We have plenty to say about Vaitunasa and more to dig up but will hold our fire until we see if a candidacy really develops. For now, Salu, let us just say that your don't want to run for office again, you really don't. Trust us.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Rise of the Phoenix




The March 10 blog essay in The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper focusing on Congress, written by former nonvoting delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) requesting Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologize for his country’s use of “comfort women” in World War II is reminiscent of the famous bathtub scene in the movie Fatal Attraction, in which Glenn Close’s character simply will not stay dead after Michael Douglas’s character presumably has drowned her.

Faleomavaega was soundly beaten in last November’s election, he has health problems (diabetes, heart and kidney disease) from which he simply will not recover, he reportedly has moved from his Washington area residence to Utah, where his wife has lived apart from him for many years and he has not returned to American Samoa—at least not that we have seen—since his departure shortly after the election.   So one might have been forgiven to have been surprised to have seen him reinsert himself into the national scene on one of his pet issues.  While the essay might have been buried domestically in the avalanche of news emanating from Washington, it did not go unnoticed by the Communist Chinese, who quickly picked it up and ran it in the Global Times, the English-language version of Xinhua.

Giving further credence to speculation that he plans also to reinsert himself into the American Samoa political scene, also this week there was a full-page ad in Samoa News quoting passages from his 1995 memoir, Navigating the Future.   There was no tag line indicating who paid for the ad but who else could it have been but Eni or his campaign committee?  Checking Federal Election Commission records, there are three active campaign committees for 2016, including one for Faleomavaega.  If his committee paid for it, the expenditure will not be reflected until the filing of the next required quarterly report next month.

His defeat was so decisive, the ABCDEF Group was prepared to close down this blog the day after the election and disband.  But we held off when we saw photos and news stories about how he joined the winning candidate in the traditional, day-after-election, roadside thank-you wave.  Public comments on the gesture were uniformly positive with people expressing pleasure at how these two long time rivals had so quickly healed any lingering wounds.
However, we were not so positive.  Knowing Faleomavaega and his need for the spotlight, he surmised that he realized the spotlight now was no longer on him so he moved across the street to join her so he could be under it again.  It worked because it was published widely in the media and in on-line social networks.  Frankly, we thought it was magnanimous of the winner to let him share her stage since she had run against him repeatedly over the past 20 years while he had repeatedly denigrated her.  However, once the post-election spotlight was turned off, with Faleomavaega wishing the victor well and promising to help her as much as possible in the transition, the ABCDEF Group was ready to fold our tent.

Not so fast.  Before boarding his plane Friday after the election he already was qualifying his support for his successor, saying it would depend on where she stood on the issues since there were major philosophical differences between the parties to which they belong. Without specifying how we would get involved in the future, he also told the media that he was not finished with Samoan politics.  But that was the last noise he made until his op-ed blog essay this week in The Hill and his full page ad in both English and Samoan which concluded “to be continued.”  For our part, we decided to let it go and assume a "wait and watch" posture.

 However, if his reentry onto the public stage so far were any indication, he does not seem to have learned any lessons by his defeat other than his belief that questions about his health played a major role in his demise.  Despite all the problems American Samoa faces that need federal attention, his energies still are focused on foreign affairs.  His final substantive appearance on the House Floor dealt with a resolution not on American Samoa but on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.  His essay in The Hill dealt with Japan.  His full page ad had to do with Micronesia.   All worthy issues, no doubt, but not very high on the list of priorities of the voters in this territory.  

Saddest of all for him and for American Samoa, with all his frenetic energy he really did not make a difference.   Lots of great photos on his ego walls in his office that can be seen from pictures of his farewell party posted on his Facebook page but that is about it.  No signal achievements for American Samoa or anywhere else in his 26 years of trying.  Even in his latest pet project: the election of the new prime minister of India, he has been eclipsed by the other Samoan in the House, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) whose Hindu faith already has made her a favorite in New Delhi.  Pitiful, just pitiful.

 Moreover, his final House Floor appearance was punctuated with the traditional Hawaiian farewell “aloha” rather than the Samoan “tofa,” reflecting the fact that he spent his formative years growing up in Hawaii, not American Samoa, and underscoring yet another of his pet issues: social justice for Native Hawaiians.   He has not made a difference there, either.

So, unlike Michael Douglas, who turned his back when he was certain Glenn Close was dead, the ABCDEFG blog will remain online albeit dormant just in case, like Douglas's movie wife, we need to put a final bullet in the political corpse by reminding voters of all the reasons why this man needs to remain out of public office. 

That having been said, we are under no illusions that the many blog entries we have posted here over the years turned a single voter against him (although it should have) or in any way cost him the election.  Our disagreement with him always has been about his priorities.   Although we have expressed no opinion, he may well be right about Japanese comfort women, Cambodian debt relief,  the name of the Washington Redskins, nuclear clean up in Central Asia, French nuclear testing, land disputes in Rapanui, Hawaiian and West Papuan sovereignty and all the other issues to which he has devoted his time over the years—excessively we believe. 

He never hid from the voters his passion for foreign affairs and he should be commended for that.  They renewed his mandate every two years for a quarter century.  We do agree with him that his health cost him the election or he would have won again.  In our final pre-election blog, we stated that he would have to be considered the odds on favorite to be reelected, so his defeat came as much of a surprise to us as it did to him.  He also lost because he took the voters for granted by not telling them what his health situation was for nearly a year, not returning home to campaign until three weeks before the election (with no valid reason for staying away) then skipping the big candidate debate.  Health and arrogance cost him his seat and there is no indication in his reemergence that he has learned anything from it.

He won repeatedly not because of his positions on foreign affairs issues. He won because he had a large family base in the Leone area, where the original Englishman Matthew Hunkin settled, married a Samoan girl 177 years ago and over the ensuing 43 years raised four sons (John, Alfred, George and William) and three daughters (Ann, Mary and Jane). Faleomavaega, whose birth name was Eni F. Hunkin, Jr. is one of Matthew’s countless descendents still in the area who for years provided him with a rock solid family voter base.  Coupled with the unwavering support of the large population of his fellow Mormon co-religionists, he was unbeatable at the polls.

He also won through fear: fear that his defeat would reduce sharply the federal funds that flow to the territory.  He played heavily on the belief that his party was the party that was better able to ensure federal grants and that his friendship with the powerful Hawaii senators, Daniel Akaka (D) and especially Daniel Inouye (D) as well as being, along with the powerful California Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D) and George Miller (D), the protégés of the late Rep. Phillip Burton (D)  (who features prominently in the Samoa News ad), were essential to keeping the grants coming.

He actually might have won because of all these factors if he had not been too clever a decade ago in getting the federal law changed to do away with the majority vote for his office.  Since 2004, he has needed only a plurality to win re-election, eliminating the need for runoffs between the two candidates receiving the most votes.  The change was made without any local input from local political leaders and thereafter was derisively labeled the “Eni Hunkin Perpetual Reelection Act.”  The change served him well until last November. 

Had the runoff rule remained in effect, he very well might have beaten his main opponent once the former governor and seven minor candidates were swept away in a first round of voting.  But in the final analysis he was hoist with his own petard and it served him right.  Revenge is a dish best served cold. 
***
End note:  If this man were to try to make a comeback, we would be reminding voters all the reasons he should not be permitted but if he does not, this blog will remain dormant.  So, just in case we do not come back, we would be remiss by not commenting on coverage of Faleomavaega by Samoa News and Radio 93KHJ-FM, the major news outlets for the territory.   We felt that they showed bias toward Faleomavaega over the years by not adequately exposing his excessive travel, inattention to local issues, long absences from the territory, lack of information from his office and in the final year, inadequate coverage of his deteriorating health, especially with the use of misleading photos showing him in excellent health. 

In the final analysis we now believe more than anything else it was a question of lack of resources to get at the truth that hampered local news coverage.  When Eni did return, Samoa News had a photographer at the airport and published a photo the next day showing the gaunt delegate hobbling through the terminal with a cast on his foot and a portable dialysis bag hanging from his shoulder.  That picture was worth a thousand words and KHJ-FM also used contemporary, unflattering photos on its companion talanei.com website.  The photos more than made up for the previous poor coverage.  KHJ also took the extra step of engaging a Washington correspondent to keep better tabs on Eni.
We do not know much about the abilities of the woman who is replacing him in the House but through the local media she does appear at least to be keeping the public better informed than he did of her activities in Washington.  If Eni does attempt a comeback, he probably will be forced to change his approach to public information.   If he does not, we will be here to fill in the gaps.


Monday, November 3, 2014

FALEOMAVAEGA BEING SUED

With only five days to go before elections, a former member of Faleomavaega's staff is suing the delegate for a variety of human rights abuses, including racial and religious discrimination. The main target of the suit is Lisa Williams, Faleomavaega's Washington chief of staff. She has been with him may years and has a reputation of being a no-nonsense throat cutter who takes no prisoners. We understand there is no shortage of glee over any hot water in which she may find herself. Needless to say, the delegate's local office director, Fai'ivae Alex Godinet, the following day quickly dismissed the suit as baseless.

It is hard to say what effect, if any, this late publicity might have on the election but at least some voters are likely to wonder if the territory can afford to have its delegate preoccupied with yet another distraction along with his failing health and pet issues unrelated to American Samoa. Since he has been home, he largely has remained out of sight, missing a number of joint public appearances with his challengers. Other than his thrice weekly visits to the hospital's dialysis clinic, he hasn't been seen by the public except for his road side sign waving, a traditional ritual of Samoan campaigns.

The man is either extremely arrogant, supremely confident or has lost his mind in this campaign. Other than some well worn newspaper ads, a few heart tugging radio ads, which emphasize his health problems, and the ubiquitous sign-waving, sometimes in a wheel chair, complete with him sporting a cast on one foot and carrying what looks like some sort of an IV device, he has done very little campaigning at all.

If he is supremely confident of reelection, it is because he has played a brilliant game of delaying announcement of his reelection plans so as to draw into the race a large field of challengers so his opposition would be fragmented. In that way, he could retreat into his stronghold on the western side of the island, knowing that as long as he held his hardcore supporters he could withstand a fragmented challenge and win with only the plurality that is required thanks to a change in the law he rammed through Congress almost 10 years ago.

He is also arrogant, taking a huge gamble that more people will react in sympathy to his physical infirmities and reward with with “one last term” than will conclude after seeing him that he simply no longer has the capacity to do the job. We can think of nine reasons right off the bat why he should be rewarded with another term:
  1. double bypass heart surgery
  2. cataract surgery
  3. appendectomy
  4. type II diabetes
  5. high blood pressure
  6. chronic heart disease
  7. kidney failure
  8. gout
  9. knee surgery
Perhaps no single one of these conditions is disqualifying but taken together they do not bode well for the future health of a 71-year-old man. As a matter of fact, we question whether, if reelected, he could make it through another two-year term.

Even if he has no further setbacks, his schedule likely would be cut back. His heart and kidney disease, which he says is caused by his exposure to Agent Orange 40 years ago during his military service, are chronic conditions that will only worsen, not improve. Needing to be tethered to a dialysis machine three times a week, his travel to exotic places would be severely reduced if not eliminated and if travel were an important part of being the Ranking Minority Member of a foreign affairs subcommittee, then his position would likely be in jeopardy and he probably would face a challenge.

Last year he missed a committee trip to East Asia, which is in his geographical area of jurisdiction; he missed a Natural Resources Committee trip to the Pacific, including a stop in American Samoa; he missed an international small island states conference that takes place only once every 10 years and was of importance to both the territories and the independent Pacific; he missed months of committee hearings; and he missed a UN summit on climate change.

If he were reelected tomorrow—and it is a distinct possibility—it would represent the height of selfishness. He already is eligible for a full pension, topped off by VA disability benefits, full congressional health and insurance benefits and no real clout in a Congress that will be run again by Republicans for at least the next two years. Nor does he show any interest in American Samoa issues. He is more concerned with such issues as forcing the Washington Redskins to relinquish the team nickname, pushing for Cambodian debt relief and lobbying for nuclear clean up of Kazakhstan.

Faleomavaega has done his constituents a great disservice by insisting they decide his political future when it is clear he should have made the decision to retire on his own. He will be doing us an even greater disservice by continuing to serve as long as he is able to do so into another term, largely doing little more than occupying a seat while his staff props him up. All the while, he will be denying some other worthy public servant the opportunity to accrue seniority that will benefit the territory down the line. At his age even in the best of health his productive years would have been behind him.

Since he will not go gently into the night, we can only hope that the voters are fed up to the point they are ready to say enough is enough and end his career tomorrow.

If not, we will be right back in this space come Wednesday to continue to keep a watchful eye on him and perform the public responsibility our local media has abrogated.

Friday, October 24, 2014

WE MADE A MISTAKE ABOUT FALEOMAVAEGA



Some months ago, local Democratic Party Chairman Ali’imau J.R. Scanlan accused this blog of calling for Faleomavaega to resign, which we did not.  What we did call for him to do was not to run for re-election and retire at the end of this term.  If not, we expressed hope that one of the other eight candidates challenging him would defeat him in the November 4 election.

We made a mistake.

We should have called on him to resign so the Governor could have had the opportunity to call a special election at the same time as the general election to fill the vacancy.  It would have been hoped that the same candidate would have won both elections, been seated immediately, participate in the lame duck session of Congress and begin to build seniority ahead of the freshman class to be seated on January 3.  Because the turnover in the House will be small this year, a freshman would be unlikely to be in a position to chair a subcommittee but a member with a little advanced seniority might very well be in such a position at the start of a second term.

However, that is all wishful thinking because Faleomavaega neither resigned nor retired and finally has returned home just a few days short of a year after his medical evacuation last October.  Samoa News was at the airport to capture his arrival on film and ran two of the photos Monday morning.  Editorially, Samoa News has had very little to say about the delegate’s health but if a picture were worth a thousand words, Samoa News did him no favor by publishing those photographs, which were shocking. 

In one photo walking beside the Governor, who was arriving on the same flight from Honolulu, he is hunched over, thin, frail and sickly looking.  He also appears to have some sort of medical device hanging from his hip.  In the other photo, he gamely tries to do the siva but if the intended effect were to show his health and vigor it was offset by showing a cast on his left foot that could have been the result of gout or the effects of his diabetes.  Samoa News easily could have cropped the second photo as they did the one of him walking with the Governor, but they chose not to do so.  We suspect that was a deliberate decision.   At the same time, the extensive markings on his arms, which very much look like bruising from medical needle marks, could not have been cropped out.

Two weeks ago his office announced he would be returning to Pago Pago in time to participate in the college candidate forum that has been held before almost every election over the years.  That forum was held yesterday and eight of the nine candidates participated.  Faleomavaega did not.  Either his office misinformed the press or his absence was health related.  He has admitted he is on dialysis for kidney disease and there is talk that he must spend several hours at the hospital every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to be dialyzed.

Given his condition, we would not be surprised to see him avoid as many public appearances as possible.  We have seen him and he looks awful.  Expect instead that he will rely on newspaper ads, which feature a photo that is at least 10 years old, and radio ads, in which he will speak in a soft voice plaintively asking for public sympathy and one more term to complete his agenda.  It is a familiar routine and there is no doubt he will generate a lot of sympathy votes from people who feel sorry for him.  However, at the same time, there is a growing number of people who feel he is simply is not up to the job any more. 

We have been surprised to find that there are longtime supporters who now resent being put into the position of having to decide his future for him when he should have bowed out on his own and graciously allowed himself to be lauded for his years of service.  People are puzzled why he continues to press on when it is clear he not only is not up to the job physically, but that there is a real question whether he would be able to finish another term in office.  Do the voters really want to take a chance in electing him again only to have him suffer a relapse and be out of commission for another extensive period when there is so much at stake for the territory in Washington?

When he first took ill last year, his office put out statements saying he was expected to make a full recovery but when he recently revealed his conditions he admitted that he had been expected to die.  His office said he was here for the college forum but he did not attend.  He has said he has now recovered from his illness but has he?  Can we afford to have a representative in Washington who will need to spend a substantial part of every work week hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine?

He has always acknowledged that his principal interest and specialty is foreign affairs and in that case his work has involved a substantial amount of foreign travel.  His health now precludes any foreign travel for the foreseeable future if ever.  He has risen as far as he is going to go.  His caucus has pretty much told him he will not become the Ranking Democrat on Foreign Affairs.  Indeed, were he re-elected, he very well might be challenged for his position as Ranking Democrat on the Asia Pacific subcommittee.  If travel were important for that role, he would be unable to fulfill it.

He has a full federal pension that will reflect almost a half century of public service, including his military years.  If his illness were proven to be related to Agent Orange exposure, he would get 100% disability compensation on top of that.  Plus, he will have an ASG pension from his six years service as deputy attorney general and lieutenant governor.  He also will take his generous congressional health care coverage into retirement.  No doubt there is low cost long term illness congressional insurance  available to him along with his veterans's benefits.

Our culture may make voters be sympathetic but we are not fools.  Our culture also equates weight with health.  Someone who has been heavy who now is thin is thought to be ill.  No matter what he says, clearly he is not a well man.  Many people will turn to other candidates because they believe he is too ill to carry on.  Still others will vote against him because they genuinely believe he should spend his final years with family.

Still, with nine candidates in the race and Faleomavaega being the best known, he must be considered the odds on favorite in a contest that is winner take all with no runoff.  Even though there is no time to call a special election, we believe he would best serve the people by ending his candidacy now, formally withdrawing from the race, returning to Washington to represent us in the lame duck session and winding up his career.

It’s time to call it quits.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

RADIO REPORT: Faleomavaega Coming Home 'Soon'


Radio Station KHJ-FM Washington correspondent Matt Kaye reports that Faleomavaega intends to return to the territory before the November 4 election to campaign for re-election.  Although the story that appeared on KHJ’s talanei.com website quoted that he will be “going home soon-in the next couple of weeks,” there is no indication if these were words that Faleomavaega spoke to Kaye or Kaye was quoting someone on staff.  The story did not include embedded soundbites.

Although Kaye said this announcement ends “speculation that his illness might keep him in Washington,” it remains a mystery what is keeping Faleomavaega in Washington more than three weeks after Congress has recessed for the campaign.  Yes, one day after the recess he attended a White House barbecue but his press release to that effect announcing President Obama had invited him was virtually meaningless since it is an annual affair to which all Members always are invited regardless of party.  Since it was the evening before the recess, he had plenty of time to catch a plane to Honolulu on Thursday, remain overnight, and come down to Pago Pago on Friday.  But no Eni.

There was speculation that because he attended the first San Diego Pacific Islanders Festival in 1994, perhaps he would attend the 20th anniversary of that event on the weekend after recess on the way home.  Since it draws a crowd of 150,000 people, many of them Samoans, he could do a little fundraising then head out to the Pacific to catch the Monday flight down to Pago Pago.  But, again, no Eni.

Since he is Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, which also included legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the global environment during the four years of his chairmanship (2007-11), it also seemed plausible that he would remain in Washington to take the short hop up to New York to participate in the UN summit on global climate change, particularly since he skipped the Small Island Developing States conference in Apia in August.  But, again, no Eni.

It was thought that surely he would have been in New York because there would have been many opportunities to meet with Asian and Pacific leaders there for U.N. General Assembly debate while awaiting the meeting India Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to hold with nearly 40 Members of Congress the day of his major Madison Square Garden speech on September 28.  This one seemed a given not only because of Faleomavaega’s position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee but also because he has been so public and visible on U.S.-India relations, and a champion of Modi, who was just elected last Spring.  But no Eni in New York. 

In fact, he was eclipsed by the only other Samoan in Congress, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a freshman Member who already has risen to third in seniority on the A-P subcommittee and has an even more special relationship with Modi since she is the first Hindu ever elected to Congress.  When Modi was elected, Faleomavaega put out a press release congratulating him.  Gabbard, on the other hand, telephoned to congratulate him and got him right on the line.  She also received much publicity for making a special presentation following his speech while Faleomavaega was relegated to writing an op-ed piece for an Indian on-line publication called Business Today.

If for some reason he were not in New York but still not traveling home, perhaps he was waiting for Modi’s subsequent visit to Washington, where the Prime Minister had additional meetings, a White House dinner and a State Department lunch.  According to Kaye’s report, Faleomavaega was not included on the elite guest list for the Obama dinner.  Perhaps the White House figured since he attended the barbecue, where he got a fresh photo with the president, that should be enough. Whatever the reason, no Eni.

But, aha, Kaye reports that Faleomavaega was to participate in the State Department lunch co-hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden.  These lunches are considered the consolation prizes for people who cannot not get on the “A List” for a White House dinner.  Quite a come down for someone so senior and so vocal on India.  Perhaps he paid a price for outspokenly criticizing Obama and Kerry for U.S. policy towards India .  We will take Kaye at his word that Faleomavaega was at that lunch but it is over a week after the lunch and there is no press release out of the delegate’s office. Since Modi’s visit, all he has had is a release commemorating the fifth anniversary of the tsunami in Samoa and announcing the availability of some college scholarships. Curious, considering how much he has publicized U.S.-India relations and his support for Modi.

So here we are: no more congressional sessions, no more U.N. gatherings, no more Asian head of government visits, no more barbecues.  The only reason he might have been here is to stand outside the Washington Redskins stadium to shake his fist at the owner as part of his effort to get the team nickname changed to something less offensive to some Native American groups.  However, if he were there last night for the Monday night game for that purpose, there has been no publicity.

Several years ago after an election, he made a point of expressing his pleasure that another delegate had taken the chairmanship of the House insular subcommittee, leaving him free to concentrate on Asian issues.  Now it might be said that much of the rationale for his continuance in office is lost due to his chronic illness.  It seems clear that his foreign travel days are over and a popular young congresswoman of Samoan descent has made his presence on the Foreign Affairs Committee unnecessary as well.

It is particularly ironic that he has been grounded at a time when the National Journal has produced a report of congressional travel that crowned him “the most-frequent free flyer” of all, [who] was treated to a dozen international excursions in the past three years [2011-2013].   And that of course was without benefit of additional trips he might have taken in the fourth quarters of 2013, most of which he spent in a hospital bed.   The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, when Congress is out of session, is one of the most popular times for congressional travel.  

It continues to be mystifying why Faleomavaega presses on.  His pension is fully funded, his health insurance is terrific, he can keep his plan in retirement, he cannot get his agenda—if he has one—enacted because he is in the minority and all analysts say that his party will continue to be in the minority after this election and, because of the way the district lines are drawn, may remain in the minority until at least 2022 when Faleomavaega would be 79 years old.  Moreover, his health is such that he will need to be near kidney dialysis machines for the rest of his life, so that will limit the time he can be away and where he can go.

For now, every day he is away, every important event and funeral he skips and every campaign opportunity he misses, including TV appearances and candidate debates, people are getting more and more irritated.  Whether he actually will return “in the next couple of weeks” remains to be seen.