Thursday, August 23, 2007

Faleomavaega wars with Insular Panel Chair

Faleomavaega has a history of kamikaze attacks as his approach to governance but his targets are usually Republican. For some reason, though, he seems to have taken on one of his own: Democrat Del. Donna Christiansen from the Virgin Islands. If not at war with her, he at least his demonstrated he either is contemptuous of her or disrespects her. Perhaps it is his well known male chauvinism in action. Consider what he has done since the election that brought his party back into power:

1. He announced publicly that he was offered the chairmanship of the insular subcommittee on Natural Resources but turned it down; Donna Christiansen took it but how does she feel being second choice?

2. He skipped the very first hearing she chaired on oversight of the Interior budget for territories;

3. He skipped the second hearing she chaired on CNMI minimum wage and immigration issues;

4. When she scheduled a third hearing, this time on the Marshall Islands, he scheduled his own hearings a day later as Foreign Affairs Asia-Pacific subcommittee chairman and dropped in on her hearing long enough to deny he was interferring in internal Marshall Islands politics;

5. This month Christiansen held field hearings on Guam and Saipan but Felaeomavaega skipped the Guam hearings (he had business on Taiwan) and only got to Saipan in time for the tail end of the CNMI hearing.

6. After the Saipan hearing, he blindsided his chairman by publicly breaking with her bill on CNMI immigration, issuing a press release and giving her absolutely no forewarning at all.

Dr. Christiansen must be apoplectic by now. You would think she was Eni's sworn enemy. If she isn't now, maybe she will be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Faleomavega colludes to overthrow government

Wow. There has been a buzz around Washington about how Faleomavaega abused his authority as a subcommittee chairman to try to rig a hearing in favor of the opposition to the current government of the Marshall Islands before full committee chairman Tom Lantos stepped in to put a stop to it. Now a blog entitled "tony exposed" lays out the whole sordid story. Read the August 13 entry on the blog and decide for yourself:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Faleomavaega the leftist

From its inception, Faleomavaega was a card carrying member of the left-wing Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a collection of the most far left fringe members of Congress started by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only avowed socialist in Congress.

Now that Democrats have taken control of Congress, a number of CPC members have moved into positions of influence as full committee and subcommittee chairmen but Faleomaveaga is not among them. Somewhere along the way, Eni has quietly dropped his membership. Curious, since he hasn't changed his views and as recently as a couple of years ago he vigorously defended in the media his membership and the CPC's policies against an attack by one of his political opponents. However, he has only narrowly escaped defeat in his most recent two elections and in fact had the lowest percentage of the vote of any incumbent Democrat in the 2006 election. It is not likely that many voters in American Samoa have studied CPC's manifesto but it would raise more than a few hairs if some of CPC's policy positions were explained t them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Well, it looks like the world-traveling Faleomavaega departed the PDU meeting in Taiwan in time to blow into Saipan for the immigration hearing although I understand he barely made it in time to catch the end of it. At least his hair was combed for a change in the one photo I saw and he wasn't nodding off to sleep. But there is not a little irony in two passages I found in Saipan news stories about the hearing:

from a Saipan Tribune story 8/16/07

For his part, American Samoa Rep. Eni Faleomavaega raised concern about the NMI immigration bill's potential impact on his jurisdiction, which is the only other U.S. territory that currently controls its own immigration. He cited as a case in point recent legislation applying federal minimum wage laws to the CNMI and American Samoa. Until recently, both U.S. jurisdictions determined their own minimum wage.

What he neglected to mention, of course, is that American Samoa got included in the minimum wage bill because his "close ally" Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw him under a bus. When a Republican congressman complained that American Samoa was getting special treatment because the territory's largest private employer was based in her district, she decided to lump American Samoa in with Northern Marianas. Why didn't Eni step right in before Nancy made that commitment to treat both AS and CNMI the same? Because he was traveling, of course!

Can you imagine? The Democrats announced they would take major actions in the first 100 hours after coming into power in January. You would think it would have been a no brainer for every Democrat to be in his seat to make sure he got a piece of the action (and supported his leadership) and that every Republican also would be in his seat to protect his interests from the expected onslaught. But, oh, no, not Faleomavaega. For him, it was business as usual and that means travel, travel, travel--despite the fact that the Democrats now have restored a vote to the territorial delegates on the floor when in the committee of the whole. This time, his travel cost the territory dearly, very dearly. (BTW, when the energy bill was being considered in the Natural Resources Committee--where Eni has an unconditional vote--Nancy had to order him to stay in town--he was going to go off to a funeral--to cast his vote; (the Dem. majority is not all that great).

From a Marianas Variety story 8/16/07

“This is one historic occasion and it’s about a congressional committee reaching out to the jurisdiction rather than just making all the decisions in Washington. In doing it here, we get a better idea of what’s really happening here in the CNMI,” he told Variety.

This is truly ironic, since Eni is the major proponent of Washington decisionmaking over his own territory. Not only did he rig election law to get himself perpetually re-elected without a majority vote (which he has rarely achieved since 1996), he now wants Washington to impose that on local elections. Moreover, he plans to earmark Interior construction funds for projects of his choosing, and wants to force the islands to vote on changing citizenship law, election of senators and establishment of a federal court.

I haven't heard him propose a field hearing on any of these measures. Of course, he could have scheduled such a hearing himself had he taken the Insular Affairs subcommittee chairmanship he was offered instead of one on foreign affairs, which allows him to roam half the world on his own timetable (except for when Nancy says no).

How could Eni really get a better picture of what is happening in CNMI by being on the ground? The chairman and Congresswoman Bordallo already have been on the ground in the Marianas several days, with one hearing on Guam already under their belts. I guess Eni doesn't think he needs any new information under his ample belt. Why bother to come for the closing minutes of the hearing, after which I am sure he'll be on the first plane out--unless he has a golf game scheduled? After all, he could have stayed at his PDU meeting in Taiwan and watched the hearing on TV or read the transcript when he got back to Washington (or save it to read on his next long plane trip--if it can be printed that fast).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Saipan, you idiot, not Taipei!

Well, our whirlwind jetsetter is at it again. I swear he must be teleported because he seems to move in and out of PPG whenever he needs to, even though Hawaiian Airlines only goes in and out twice a week. Last week I wondered what he was doing clowning around on the Colbert Report when he should have been with the Congressional Insular Subcommittee holding hearings on Guam. But practically before I could get those words written, he's in Pago Pago meeting with the Fono. At that meeting, he at least recognized the CNMI immigration issue might impact American Samoa and would be going to hearings on Saipan this week. Well, it's now this week. I guess he couldn't resist a side trip first because there is a news story out of Taiwan that he met with the Taiwan vice president on Monday. Sometimes I think he forgets he is not secretary of State. So, I suppose he has found a flight out of Taipei that will get him over to Saipan in time for the hearing. We'll see. And he does this even though he is getting so old and fat he is barely able to walk any more. Amazing.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Eni on Colbert? Ya Gotta Be Kidding!

Lisa Williams must be at it again. She is thought to be the person who came up with the ingenious idea to have opposition leaders from a foreign country testify be foreign Eni's subcommittee. When Republicans and State Department howled, Committee Chairman Tom Lantos stepped in and forced Eni to relabel it a briefing, and invite both U.S. and foreign (in this came Marshall Islands) to testify.

Insular subcommittee Chairman Dona Christiansen is said to be annoyed because Eni trumped her own hearing. True, an argument can be made for Eni having jurisdiction but Marshall Islands issues traditionally have been considered by the Natural Resources Committee.

Congress in in recess, which means Members are traveling. Christiansen's subcommittee is in Guam and Saipan for hearings this week and are scheduled to go th Palau for familiarization. Even though he is a senior member of the subcommittee, Eni isn't on the trip. Since he loves to travel, why not? One can only speculate but he did show up on Stephen Colbert's show on Comedy Central this week. In case you missed it, you may still be able to find the clip here:

Of course, he looks ridiculous in his trademark Indian tie and is coatless, which is increasingly his style of dress, even when chairing a hearing. Of course, Colbert made a fool of him and I would not be surprised to see a heading in L.A. saying "Samoan representative recommends nuclear testing on Catalina Island." That's why Rep. Rahm Emanuel earlier this year told the Democrat freshman class to stay off Colbert's show. See this:

There may be another reason as well. Yesterday I saw a story out of Palau that an 18-person congressional delegation is expected there this month. Since only Christiansen and Madeleine Bordallo, and probably one staffer, are going from Natural Resources, do you suppose it's another subcommittee going to Palau a bit later? Like Eni's, maybe? More trumping of Donna's ace. She will be furious. More handiwork of Lisa Williams? Who knows. We've been told Lantos demanded she be sent back to Eni's office and off the Foreign Affairs staff after the Marshalls fiasco.

But I digress. I guess playing a clown on Colbert is more important (he even issued a press release!) than attending an insular field hearing, even though the subject matter--immigration--could affect American Samoa the way minimum wage for NMI did.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

the perfect storm

Faleomavaega has been kept at bay all these years because all the political pieces have never fallen into place at the same time. When he was first elected to Congress, although Democrats controlled the House, Republicans controlled the White House. When Democrats controlled both branches in his third term, he was still too junior to push through any of his wild ideas, like adding four American Indian seats to the House (who would decide which tribes?). Then he suffered the next six years as a member of the minority in the House, unable to get anything accomplished. But he traveled a lot. Then the next six years, he had to cope with both a Republican Congress and a Republican White House.

Now that Democrats are back in control of Congress and he is senior enough to chair a subcommittee, he already has embroiled himself in controversies with Japan, Indonesia and the Marshall Islands--and it's only the first half of the year!!! Fortunately, the Bush administration is still there to keep him in check. But it is frightening to think how he will run wild if Democrats retain Congress next year and recapture the White House. He will be like a kid in a candy store. The only way to prevent the Perfect Storm from coming together is to defeat him for re-election. And that's a lot cheaper than trying to take back Congress and hold the White House. Send money today!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Respect for Inouye?

Faleomavaega has told Samoa News that if the governor and Lolo want to raise the cabotage issue with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committtee "they are more than welcome to do so, but I have too much respect for the Senator to put him in such a predicament."

He said he doesn't want to put Inouye in a position of having to choose to give American Samoa a waiver at the expense of putting one of Hawaii's carriers (Hawaiian Air) at risk.

As he acknowledges, getting a change in cabotage would be very difficult. Given his track record, we'd say impossible. But we had to chuckle at his talk of "respect" for Inouye. Where was the respect when Inouye asked Eni not to move forward on his resolution on Japanese World War II comfort women? Eni ignored the senator's plea and the measure passed the full House yesterday on a voice vote.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Three Strikes and You're Out?

There is a Radio New Zealand report that Eni has asked the Interior Department to help the U.S. labor Department with its study of the effect of wage hikes in American Samoa. Political analysts say they believe he is looking for someone to blame if DOL's report doesn't stop future increases in the territory's minimum wage. Eni's credibility was badly hurt in January when his ally, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, essentially threw him under the bus. First he asked AS to be exempted from the wage increase. When that failed he asked the House to put American Samoa under a wage review board along with Northern Marianas. He lost both rounds, even though his party is in charge of both Houses. Now he is opposing a second hike due next year unless Congress changes the law. The Labor Department findings are critical to that. Three strikes in a row could affect his political survival.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

spreading the word

We are not going to make any effort to publicize the existence of this blog in order to see who stumbles across it and how quickly it finds an audience all on it own.

Marshalls controversy

Some people found it unusual that Foreign Affairs full committee chairman Tom Lantos, rather that subcommittee chairman Eni, would extend an invitation to Marshall Island leaders to testify at a subcommittee hearing just five days before it was scheduled, especially considering th cost of air travel when not purchasing tickets at least seven days in advance. Rude, to say the least. But scratching beneath the surface, we find that it was Lantos's intervention that resulted in short notice. The capital was abuzz this week that Eni had rigged the hearing on nuclear issues to favor the opposition and didn't invite the government at a time when RMI is preparing for national elections just three months from now. Among other things, Lantos overrode Eni, downgraded the hearing to a "briefing" and insisted that his hearing be limited to testimony from Bush administration witnesses. So concerned at what appeared to be Congressional interference in internal RMI politics was Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios that he softly and diplomatically cautioned the subcommittee against pressing delicate issues during the campaign season. Nonetheless, Faleomavaega announced from the chair at the hearing's conclusion that he wanted to hold "field hearings" in RMI "in the coming months." We doubt Lantos will allow that to happen.

This is the third major controversy for the outspoken delegate since he took on the chairmanship in January. First it was the Comfort Women resolution, which is still unresolved, and then his controversial trip to Indonesia. We'll expand on these issues as we go. The sad thing is that at a time when American Samoa has so many problems, its congressman continues to be preoccupied with his myriad foreign adventures. The cowboy is in the saddle. Hang on. Looks like we are in for quite a ride.

As usual, the mainstream media is focusing on Faleomavaega's outbursts of outrage at how the U.S. has treated the Marshallese people but have not dug deeper for the real story. When at the end of his current term he again will have been shown to have a scant legislative record, people will wonder why. This is why.