Thursday, November 6, 2008

Faleomavaega Buys Re-election

Voters put aside all their doubts about Congressman Faleomavaega's travels, policies and actions in favor of cold, hard cash and delivered a solid general election victory to him for the first time since 1998, when he faced only token opposition. When he arrived back from Washington to begin campaigning a little more than two weeks before the election, he had over $40,000 in the bank to spend and got a last minute infusion of Asian and Labor special interest money to fund his election day operations. While it's unlikely the expenditure of those funds will be detailed on Federal Election Commission reports, it is fair to speculate that there were a lot of golden handshakes between his campaign and powerful clan leaders who dictate their extended family votes in what remains a very feudal society. And no doubt a lot of individuals were paid handsomely to serve as "poll workers" on election day.

The result reminds of the old story about a guy standing on a street corner repeatedly banging his head with a hammer. When asked why by a passerby, he replies: "Because it feels so good when I stop."

Well, that may be what is going on here. In a post election interview, Faleomavaega reiterated that he intends to continue to pursue his passion for in foreign affairs and will do his best to cram down the territory's throat his special interest bill to open the port to foreign built tuna boats, despite the opposition of the governor and leaders of the legislature. After all, he owes all his Asian contributors that much and the voters now have posed no objection.

Now, what's the payoff for the union contributions? As soon as congress passes the Employees Free Choice Act (a euphemism for eliminating secret ballots), we can expect the Teamsters to take another run at organizing the canneries and the Communications Workers no doubt will have an eye on the call centers being established once the fiber optic cable is here.

That is only the beginning. With a new administration in Washington and a Congress with swollen Democrat majorities, expect a lot more federal controls and dictation out of Washington. Expect Faleomavaega to expand his control of federal CIP money going to the territory, imposition of a federal court and continued escalation of the minimum wage. He also likely will attmpt to change the way local senators are elected and launch another round of GAO studies, investigations and audits of all facits of government.

It should be a wild ride but ultimately I guess the people will feel so good when it stops.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Faleomavaega's treachery

The blog Faitatala puts the whole tunaboat bill controversy into cold perspective.
In all the rhetoric that has swirled around, Faleomavaega has not answered the basic accusation: that he tried to slip this bill through the process under the radar. The question is why? Is he now prepared to sacrifice his quarter century political career by drawing this line in the sand? He says if re-elected he plans to introduce the bill again. Not a word about hearings. Nothing about consultations. Just ram it through in a raw demonstration of power. I suppose his party's expected swollen majorities in both the House and Senate means he will prevail, unless the voters stop him next week. Why is he so adamant about no hearings or consultations? It's not even the absence of local consultations that has the voters so up in arms. It is the secrecy with which he has operated and his unwillingness to explain why this has been desirable or necessary. Forget his foreign travels, his bad relations in Congress and all the rest. He deserves to be defeated on this issue alone.

Special Interests to the Rescue

Whether or not the Indonesian ambassador to the U.S. brought a suitcase full of cash with him for Faleomavaega's campaign when he visited recently, it looks like the veteran delegate will have all he needs to buy himself re-election. Following a $5,000 contribution earlier in the week by the Teamsters Union, just yesterday Faleomavaega scored another $11,000 from an array of people with Asian names, Asian special interest groups and labor unions. Beyond his secret tuna boat deal, just what interest the Asians have in him is unclear but there is little doubt about the union money.

Last year the U.S. House passed something called the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would do away with secret ballots in union organizing drives. The bill died in the Senate thanks to a Republican filibuster but Democrats have vowed to pass it next year if they have the votes--which they likely will--and a friendly White House--also likely.

The Teamsters some years ago tried to unionize our tuna canneries but were rebuffed. There is no doubt their contribution to Faleomavaega is designed to grease the skids for another attempt after EFCA passes and is signed into law.

Can Faleomavaega's defeat stop this? No, but we don't have to have our own delegate leading the charge to our economic destruction. And maybe after election day there still will be enough Republicans in the Senate to stop the bill or at least exempt us.

What Eni is going to do with all this campaign cash remains to be seen because there is only so many radio and newspaper ads you can buy. No doubt this is for "election day operations." Expect to see an army of paid election day "workers" and perhaps barbecues in every village. (a chicken in every pot?) In some eastern Mainland cities, this is called walking around money.

Will it work once again? We'll find out Tuesday night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Indonesia Controversy Persists

The controversy over Barack Obama's citizenship and what role Faleomavaega may have played in helping to cover up Obama's childhood years in Indonesia jut don't seem to go away. What should be troubling to American Samoa voters is having in Washington a delegate who may be preoccupied not only with his incessant traveling but entanglements over his July, 2007 trip to Indonesia at a time when a new president and a new congress will moving rapidly on all fronts. In such an atmosphere, we need a delegate who not only will stick around in Washington but who will not be distracted by the business at hand. Here is the latest clip up on YouTube this morning:

Monday, October 20, 2008

American Samoa and the Indonesia Connection

The story in the Oct. 20 Samoa News about the Indonesian ambassador’s visit to American Samoa raises lots of questions that beg for answers. Let’s just take them in the order they come to mind from a reading of the article:

The paper says the article is “based on a press release” but does not identify who issued the release. Since there is nothing posted in the press release section of Faleomavaega’s website, we assume the governor issued the release.

On October 8, in the only other media coverage of this story, Samoa News reprinted a letter Faleomavaega wrote the U.S. attorney general requesting the FBI "immediately" investigate this matter but there has been no coverage of any response to the letter by Justice nor any evidence Samoa News asked the local FBI office if it were looking into the issue. The letter to Justice also revealed that the ambassador would personally visit American Samoa to pursue the matter but there was no press coverage of his arrival or his visit.

According to the October 20 story, the ambassador arrived Thursday night and paid a courtesy call on the governor on Friday to “express his sincere gratitude for facilitating the smooth departure of the 42 Indonesian fishermen who were stranded” in the territory. It sounds like the matter already had been resolved before his arrival. If so, why did he bother to travel all the way from Washington, just to personally thank the governor?

The paper also said that when it published the October 8 story it "was unable to obtain any other specific information on the case and was told by government officials that no such ‘case’ existed.” That apparently is still the case but how do you “hide” 42 fishermen from public view on a small island like Tutuila where the coconut wireless works overtime. Apparently it isn’t connected to the media.

The paper goes on to report that Togiola hosted a private dinner for the ambassador on Saturday evening. How private was it? Who was in attendance? Was Faleomavaega there? If this were a private dinner, does that mean the governor did not pay for it out of his protocol funds and that it was not held at Government House? If any government funds or facilities were used, then shouldn’t the governor release the names of the people who attended the dinner?

With so much having been alleged in the blogosphere about Faleomavaega’s July, 2007 visit to Jakarta having included a secret mission for Barack Obama to seal the records of Obama’s childhood time in the country in exchange for muting criticism of Jakarta’s treatment of West Papua, is this seemingly unnecessary visit of the ambassador to American Samoa coincidental? Some have privately suggested that perhaps the ambassador might be bringing cash to help Faleomavaega’s re-election campaign in exchange for continued quiet about West Papua. Might he also have brought some cash to aid Togiola’s election as well? Are diplomats given the “courtesy of the port” or is their luggage examined? Was the ambassador’s luggage searched for large amounts of cash?

Did anyone see these 42 fishermen go out on a plane? It seems to us there are a lot of questions that the local media should be asking. Our betting is that the story dies with today’s release unless the blogs pick up on it and press the issue. Did you notice the release was only issued and published after the ambassador was safely out of American Samoa air space? Curious, very curious.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Faleomavaega's Excuses Don't Hold Water

We are indebted to Tui Fa'amatai, who has shattered Faleomavaega's excuses for leaving Washington during the economic crisis. He also took on Aliimau Scanlan, Faleomavaega's hatchet man. There are four posts. Here are the links:

Eni Answers Salanoa and We Answer Eni (Part I)
Eni Answers Salanoa and We Answer Eni (Part II)
Eni Answers Salanoa and We Answer Eni (Part III)
Answering JR's Attack

Fundamentally, Tui has exposed Faleomavaega as little short than an outright liar. Question is whether the voters will finally see through him.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Faleomavaega and the Indonesian Connection

Stories continue to circulate on the internet speculating that in July of 2007 Barack Obama sent Faleomavaega on a secret mission to Jakarta to persuade the Indonesians to seal up the childhood records of Obama, who was at that time known as Barry Soetoro. In exchange, Faleomavaega supposedly arranged for cash assistance and promised to mute his criticism of the Indonesian government over its policies in West Papua. Faleomavaega did in fact speak more favorably of the regime on his departure according to press accounts of the trip but the rest remains speculation at this moment.

Another interesting occurrance has been pointed out, however, which may or may not be coincidental. Although Obama's record justifiable places him in the left wing of his party, he did not join the Congressional Progressive Caucus when he was elected to the Senate. The CPC is a group of the most leftwing members of the House and Senate and includes the likes of Barney Frank, Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee from the House plus the Senate's only self-identified socialist, Bernie Sanders. Even though his Senate voting record clearly places him in this group, he did not join, perhaps to burnish a more centrist image in preparation for his presidential run. CPC was founded in the early 1990s and Faleomavaega was a charter member. As recently as 2003 he defended his membership in the press when he was criticized for belonging to a group whose views on such issues as abortion, the Iraq war, prayer in school and American flag burning were so far outside the mainstream of Samoan thought.

However, just about the time Obama joined the Senate, Faleomavaega quietly withdrew his membership from the CPC. Coincidence? Maybe. But there are some who think he may be hedging his bets in case he loses this election so that he might be in line to be named assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific. In a debate with his opponents last week, he made a point of telling the audience that he was a strong Obama supporter. This is unusual because presidential politics usually do not play a role in local campaigns since American Samoa does not vote in presidential elections and candidates for office, including congress, do not run under national party labels. Was his public endorsement meant to send yet another signal to Obama? There has been speculation that he stayed away from the local Democratic party's national delegate selection caucus last spring (he was in New Zealand inspecting a new visa system) because he knew he would not be able to pry away any delegates from Hillary Clinton, who the governor and the party establishment was backing. Interestingly enough, however, Faleomavaega did show up for the caucus in Hawaii, which claims Obama as a native son and where Obama's sister is active.

Whatever favor he may be currying with Obama, to ensure that he doesn't lose this election in American Samoa Faleomavaega is expected to be flush with contributions from his usual sources: party leadership groups, labor unions and Asian related special interest PACs. So far, none of these groups appear on his FEC reports but they are expected to be after the October 15 public release of quarterly receipts and disbursements. Meantime, people are said to be nervous on island that the Indonesian ambassador to the U.S. who is due this week in Pago Pago might be carrying large amounts of cash for Faleomavaega to distribute around the island on election day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior

We have been looking over the stories, press releases and ads for the congressional race in recent weeks and have been struck by how Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior for some reason focuses his fire on one of his two opponents, Aumua Amata. No matter that the governor, the fono leaders, the other opponent, one of the other candidates for governor and a variety of members of the fishing community are opposing his secret tunaboat amendment, Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior seems to relish concentrating his attacks on Aumua Amata. Sounds to me like maybe she is breathing down Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior's neck.

One thing we have noticed in particular is Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior's habit of referring to Aumua by her full name in virtually every instance Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior mentions it. Other than to show contempt for her--or at least her name--we are not certin just exactly what point Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior is trying to make. Our point in doing the very same thing here, of course, is to demonstrate just how childish Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior looks. After all, Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior now is at retirement age. Isn't it about time for Congressional Non-voting Delegate Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin, Junior to grow up? Or maybe retire?

Faleomavaega the Foreign Affairs Expert?

Faleomavaega has made no secret of the fact that he is more interested in foreign affairs than insular policy. He even put out a statement that he turned down the chairmanship of the insular subcommittee when it was offered to him in December 2006 in favor of accepting the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and International Environment Affairs. Those who are apprehensive about Gov. Sarah Palin, with no foreign policy experience, being a heart beat away from the presidency ought to be almost as concerned that Faleomavaega is but a couple of heart beats from the chairmanship of the full Foreign Affairs committee. Fortunately the two members more senior than he is are younger and in better health. Then again, the late Tom Lantos also looked pretty healthy.

It is no secret that there are a lot of Democrats in the foreign policy establishment who are hoping the perpetually exhausted and lame, and often incoherent Faleomavaega either retires or gets beat because he is a loose cannon that no one can control. No one is ever quite sure what is going to come out of his mouth. Mercifully, he travels a lot, so diplomats in Washington can breathe a sigh of relief but when he is around, people brace themselves. And he also periodically demonstrates his ignorance or at least lack of preparation .

The former president of the Marshall Islands is Kessai Note, has a last name that is pronounced as in "vote." But Faleomavaega addressed him at one Capitol Hill gathering as President "No-tay." Blame it on sloppy staff work if you will but when Note came back into town a year later for chair the Pacific Island Leaders summit, Faleomavaega again introduced him at a gathering as No-tay.

Moreover, at a Papua New Guinea independence day reception, Faleomavaega was invited to speak as the senior congressional representative in attendance. The PNG ambassador notably cringed when Faleomavaega used the ceremonial occasion to bang on Indonesia for its policy towards West Papua, even though Indonesian and U.S. diplomats were in the room and his views do not match the policy of either government. The ambassador also must have noted that Faleomavaega referred to his country as "the Republic of Papua New Guinea" when PNG is a member of the Commonwealth that recognizes the Queen of England as its head of state, so it is in fact not a republic at all.

We also have seen a lobbyist's confidential memo to his clients on Korean issues from a couple of years ago in which he calls Faleomavaega a lightweight that the then-chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), tolerated primarily because he always count on Faleomavaega to sign up for committee trips, and that would give the trips bi-partisan cover.

Now, more recently, the noted Turkish intellectual, Ali BulaƧ, attended a congressional hearing and wrote an article, "Impressions from the United States," on the World Bulletin blog. Let his words speak for themselves: "Last week, a special session on the Georgian crisis and relations with Russia was held at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried gave a speech at the meeting and answered questions from committee members. Democrat Eni Faleomavaega, one of the members of the committee, asked this question: 'Was Turkey invited to NATO?' Fried replied, 'Sir, Turkey has been a NATO member for 56 years.' Read it here: How embarrassing. Especially since Faleomavaega was one of the co-sponsors of the ill-fated resolution that passed the committee last year that condemned Turkey for genocide policy towards Armenians during World War I. The protests from Turkey and Turkish Americans were so strong that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the measure pulled from the House calendar.

So much for all the foreign affairs expertise Faleomavaega clearly has not accumulated over nearly 20 years in the House.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Faleomavaega's vicious attack

As the name of our group suggests, we are for anyone but Faleomavaega. But the filing deadline is well past and that "anyone" boils down to two alternatives: one is his previous opponent, Aumua Amata, who in 2006 held him to the fourth closest race in the country against any Democrat who won a House seat and a retired army enlistee, Rosie Lancaster, who it appears spent her entire career as a paper shuffling personnel specialist and has no Washington experience. Lancaster, who previously was a volunteer on Aumua Amata's campaign, is a paper shuffling bureaucrat at the community college. Since Lancaster's campaign seems to be going nowhere, let us focus on Aumua Amata.

About 10 days ago, her campaign chairman, the respected Senator Salanoa Aumoeualogo, in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis issued the following statement:

As everyone who has been following the national news knows, the United States is in the midst of the worst financial crisis it has faced since the Great Depression over 75 years ago. The federal government is taking urgent action to correct the problems, which affect the world economy, including the U.S. territories.

Last weekend the Bush Administration met with Congressional Leaders and made a proposal that will require congressional action. This week this issue is squarely in the hands of Congress, with both political parties in both houses working around the clock to develop a consensus solution. Underscoring the seriousness of the crisis, Sen. McCain on Wednesday announced he was suspending his presidential campaign to return to Washington to work on the legislation.

One of the reasons the process continues unresolved is that various senators and representatives have different ideas on what should be in the bill being drafted. In situations such as these it is of paramount importance that we be vigilant so that any legislation passed by Congress does not have unintended consequences for American Samoa.

To minimize the possibilities that national legislation would be harmful to our territory, Congress created a non-voting delegate seat in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning with the 1980 election. Having that seat is particularly crucial at a time like this. Therefore, I was shaken to learn that as this crisis was developing last weekend, our delegate left Washington to return to Pago Pago and remains here now.

No matter how talented or well connected his congressional staff may be, they are no substitutes in Washington for the physical presence of the delegate, the only one who is permitted to attend high level meetings where key decisions are debated and made. We need only look back to 2007 to see the ramifications of having our delegate absent from Washington when crucial decisions are being made. The plans to abolish the industry committee and automatically raise our minimum wage were formulated and announced while our delegate was not in the capital. As we now have seen, the change in law has threatened our fragile economy and may have further consequences we are not yet able to foresee.

If Senator McCain were able to suspend his campaign, then surely our delegate could suspend his and return to Washington on the earliest possible flight and remain there to protect our interests until Congress has adjourned. Except in the direst case of personal emergency, it is imperative Faleomavaega fulfill his responsibilities as our Member of Congress. The situation demands no less.

end of statement

A few days later, Faleomavaega issued a response that for anyone who understands who Samoan politics is practiced, would stand on end the hairs on the back of your neck. Line by line we have dissected this statement, which is filled with lies, half truths, misstatements, mischaracterizations and distortions. Over the course of the next few days, we intend to post his statement along with our analysis. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Secret Agent Faleomavaega?

Although we did not make much of it at the time, we did find it strange that after years of severely criticizing Indonesia for its policies towards its West Papua province, Faleomavaega pronounced himself satisfied with the approach Jakarta was now taking towards West Papuan self-determination as he departed the capital on a visit in July, 2007, even though he was refused permission to visit the province.

Others apparently have not dismissed this trip so lightly because the blogosphere has come alive with speculation that this trip was more consequential than might seem at first blush. First, the facts. Both Faleomavaega and Barack Obama spent a good portion of their time growing up in Hawaii. At a time when vitually all of the elected Democrats and party leaders in American Samoa were supporting the presidential bid of Sen. Hillary Clinton, Faleomavaega was backing Obama. Indeed, among House members, he was one of Obama's earliest supporters. Faleomavaega did make a trip to Indonesia in July, 2007 and even though he was refused access to West Papua, he did say he was satisfied with the progress the national government was making with the province. Those are the dots.

Now, a number of theorists have connected those dots and are asking if Faleomavaega's trip as the Asia subcommittee chairman was a cover for a secret mission he was making on behalf of Obama. The purpose of the trip? To get Indonesian authorities to seal the education records from Obama's early years living there. The payoff? The records get sealed and Faleomavaega backs off the criticism of the government's record in West Papua. Is there any truth to these allegations. This blog has no idea. There are a lot more questions being asked and this blog has more details on this matter: Bloggers are demanding Faleomavaega release his records of the trip but there is no evidence he is paying any attention to them. If there are new developments, we will post them.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Has Faleomavaega Lost His Mind?

Or am I missing something here?

The huge international financial crisis has preoccupied virtually everyone in Washington for the past 10 days. Last weekend the Bush administration crafted a plan to bail out Wall Street and handed it over to Congress for consideration. Virtually everyone in Congress has been on hand to protect their interests while trying to reach consensus on a solution. By Wednesday, even Sen. McCain suspended his campaign to return to Washington to work on the issue. Barack Obama also joined him in Washington.

I was astounded to see that while Congress was beginning to burn the midnight oils in Washington last weekend, Faleomavaega was coming down the stairs from the Sunday night Hawaiian Airlines flight. Clearly, I thought, he was home for Fuimaono's funeral. Fui gave him start in politics and as a paramount chief presided over a huge clan with lots of votes. Faleomavaega no doubt would be delivering a major eulogy.

So, I was surprised to learn he actually left Wednesday to "return to Washington" (according to KHJ News), a day before the funeral. Then I saw a statement by Senator Salanoa on criticizing Eni for not remaining in Washington to protect our interests and concluded he must have bowed to pressure for him to return to his duty station.

Then I read this morning's paper. My astonishment is now complete. According to Samoa News, Faleomavaega is NOT in Washington (where the crisis continues) but in Missouri for the retirement ceremony of Command Sgt. Maj. Falaniko.

Has he lost his political mind? His place is in Washington but a political case could be made, I suppose, for attending the Fuimaono funeral. He tried to attend the funeral of High Chief Fai'ivae last year while Congress was in session until the Speaker demanded he stay in Washington. I have trouble understanding his rationale for being neither in Washington nor at Fuimaono's funeral any more than I could understand his decision to miss the coronation of the King of Tonga and Secretary Rice's summit with Pacific foreign ministers in Apia in order to hand deliver a birthday card to a Chinese billionaire in Hong Kong. Something doesn't compute.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Faleomavaega has another fake hearing

Well, our boy is at it again. Last week while world financial markets were crashing all around everyone, Faleomavaega orchestrated another toy hearing--this time on Capitol Hill. Perhaps he was stung too much by his laughable "field hearing" on minimum wage earlier this year, so he retreated to the safety of Capitol Hill to hold a hearing on the establishment of a federal court in American Samoa. If you weren't in the hearing room, you could watch it on the internet. Once again he was in shirt sleeves with not even the hint of his trademark bolo tie anymore--thus completely flouting the business dress code of Washington and embarrassing the territory in the process.

But I digress. No one really understood the purpose of this hearing. There is no legislation being considered and even if there were there is only about a week before Congress adjourns. There is hardly time to consider any new initiatives, even if he were to try to move it through the process as a secret amendment, as he did with his tunaboat bill. Moreover, like minimum wage, this issue is not the province of the insular subcommittee. It would need to go to the judiciary committee for consideration. Perhaps Eni saw this as something he needed politically back home and asked subcommittee chairman Donna Christiansen to do it as a favor but there has been no subsequent publicity other than a press release from Eni that says he now favors the AS Chief Justice's approach: a federal prosecutor rather than a federal court.

The whole hearing took less than 90 minutes and Eni announced at the outset they would have to hurry it up because the witnesses from American Samoa had a plane to catch. Huh? This hearing was scheduled for months. Surely the Senate President and House Speaker could have scheduled a Friday plane out, since there would still have been plenty of time to catch the Sunday plane home from Honolulu. If they really did have to leave, it could only have meant they had other things to do on the west coast or elsewhere on the Mainland (raise campaign funds?) since you have to take a morning flight out of Washington in order to get all the way to Honolulu in one day. Maybe they were all going to Vegas. Who knows?

All I know is a lot of taxpayer dollars were wasted on three faipules going all the way to Washington for 90 minutes of everyone reading prepared statements and a few questions. Thank goodness the governor and chief justice weren't fooled. They sent in written statements and didn't waste their time with a trip to D.C. at the height of the political campaign.

Nonetheless, if Eni's release means he is backing down on the court and will give it a rest until the people want it and ask for it through their local leaders, it is all to the good. Hopefully, Eni will be defeated in November and this whole nightmare will come to an end once and for all.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Faleomavaega's Summer Travels

July and August can be dreadful months in Washington, weather-wise, so it is no wonder people are eager to leave the Nation's Capital, even those who are in Congress and Congress is in session. Of course, Congress was in recess over the Independence Day holiday, so finding Faleomavaega back home was not especially unusual, since it is an election year, after all. He returned to Washington but soon was home again because, even though Congress again was in session, it was no surprise to find Eni on hand for the opening of the Pacific Arts Festival, given his long involvement in regional affairs.

Moreover, his penchant for travel even while Congress is in session and his position as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment virtually dictated he would be near all the action at a time all the region would be represented in American Samoa at a major Pacific event during which U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice would be holding a summit with Pacific foreign ministers in nearby Apia and the King of Tonga would be crowned in nearby Nuku’alofa.

It was shocking, then, when there were no press releases out of Eni about his involvement in either the summit or the coronation. Instead he surfaced back in Washington to take part in a meeting of Asian and Pacific American leaders with Sen. Barack Obama. It did not seem logical that he would pass up the summit and the coronation for such a routine political meeting so it could be surmised that he might have been summoned back to Washington for some critical vote in either the Natural Resources or Foreign Affairs Committees on which he sits.

This happened once before when the Speaker did not approve his request to travel back to American Samoa for an important chief’s funeral while the House was in session because his vote was needed in committee on a key energy bill. He issued a face-saving press release explaining his absence from Fai’ivae’s funeral because of the Speaker's "request," but nothing this time; nor did there appear to be any critical votes last week in either committee.

It all became clear when reliable sources revealed that Eni and his chief enforcer, Lisa Williams, demanded a speaking role for him at the summit and, when the State Department refused to let him speak, he chose to boycott the meeting. The good news is that, unlike 1990, when he was not invited at all to participate in President Bush 41’s historic summit with island heads of government in Honolulu, this time he did not try to wreak the gathering by urging island foreign ministers to boycott it.

Perhaps Eni would have been able to speak if Lisa Williams had not played hardball, once again overplaying her hand (the woman ranks right up there with Saddam Hussein when it comes to miscalculations), but the State Department also is well aware of Eni’s well-deserved reputation (among Republicans and Democrats) as a “loose cannon” and likely was not prepared in any event to give him a platform to make unscripted remarks that might embarrass either Secretary Rice personally or the U.S. in general.

After all, they have a file drawer full of statements he has made over the years attacking his own government, even when standing on foreign soil. Those outbursts may have played well in the media but not in Foggy Bottom. And there still are a lot of people around who remember how Eni held 10 heads of Pacific governments and 400 or so other people virtually hostage last year in the National Geographic Auditorium to listen to him and a variety of Washington politicians he corraled give long winded speeches prior to the annual Pacific Night reception. Yes, likely it was payback time.

Yet, why did he go back to Washington when the King’s coronation was but a few days later? Surely he had not been left off the guest list. And surely Nancy Pelosi would have designated him the “official” representative of the U.S. House of Representatives for the event, as she has done to give him political cover on other occasions. And there are a number of voters of Tongan descent in American Samoa. But it all was soon to come clear.

The gavel adjourning the House had yet to bang before Eni was in the air back to Asia once again, this time to Hong Kong, where he personally delivered birthday greetings from 20 members of Congress to Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing. Just last year at Mr. Li’s invitation, Eni spoke at the privately funded Shantou University in Guangdong Province. It is difficult to imagine Mr. Li’s 80th birthday taking priority over a once-in-a-generation coronation in the Pacific’s only monarchy of a man the delegate has known for decades but perhaps some of Mr. Li’s wealth has found its way into Eni’s campaign treasury via the numerous Asian contributors listed in federal reports as having given generously to the Samoan legislator.

Now it’s off to where? The summit is over, the coronation concluded yesterday and the last of the Arts Festival participants leave Pago Pago this weekend. Will he come back to file his petitions for re-election? He is expected to be in Denver for the Democratic National Convention August 25-28 so it’s possible he will come down on the Sunday, August 30 flight to file his petitions personally on the Tuesday, September 2 deadline. But it’s equally possible he will drop in here on his way back from Asia to Denver or, given his past history, make an insane journey from Hong Kong here then back to Asia before going to Denver. Wouldn't you love to have his frequent flier miles?!

Why back to Asia? Well, he already has announced he wants to have “consultations” in Korea with the new owners of StarKist over the August recess. Perhaps we also intends to do a little negotiating with the new owners to buy into the Taiwan purse seiner building scheme he is promoting, even though the bill he needs to make the plan very profitable seems stalled in the Senate right now.

He also has said he will be traveling to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait because on a previous trip there he committed to “helping the people.” Precisely what kind of help he intends to give is unknown and how he intends to deliver it is a mystery since Thursday Island is part of Australia, a country not currently being serviced by USAID.

But his travels over the three weeks between Hong Kong and Denver should be easy to track, thanks to the availability of the internet and Eni’s inability to keep his mouth shut. Don't bother to Google. We'll let you know.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Faleomavaega Running Scared

Want some evidence Faleomavaega is running scared in his bid for re-election this fall? This week was Flag Day, the most important secular holiday on American Samoa's calender. Despite the fact that Congress was in session--with many bills of great importance to the territory pending--he spent the full week at home campaigning. Not only did he miss Congress in session, he skipped the Pope's visit to Washington and the White House visit of the first Samoan Division 1A football head coach. His involvement with the Pope may have been marginal, but he surely would have been at the White House for the historic visit of Navy's head coach. Moreover, as chairman of the Asia-Pacific subcommittee of the House Foreign Affair Committee, he has jurisdiction over U.S.-Korea relations but he also skipped the visit to Washington of South Korea's president. That omission is particularly significant since he has scheduled hearings on U.S.-South Korea relations for this week coming up.

Why skip all these seemingly important events? Because he knows the voters don't care about any of it and he has two challengers hoping to unseat him this November.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Faleomavaega Looks Silly Chairing Hearing

You know the old question: "What if they gave a party and no one came?" Well, that pretty much sums up the time wasted on an Asia-Pacific subcommittee hearing on Central Asia last week. Rather than summarize the proceedings, I will let the words of Joshua Kucera speak for themselves. Writing for the respected on-line journal, the Washington, DC,-based freelance writer--who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East--had this to say:

Poor attendance at the hearing suggested that Central Asia is a waning priority among members of Congress. Only two members showed up to the hearing: Eni Faleomavaega, the chair of the subcommittee and a Democrat from American Samoa, and Ruben Hinojosa, a Democrat from Texas. Both showed shaky knowledge of the region, mispronouncing the names of many of the countries in the region and frequently digressing on issues that [Assistant Secretary of State Richard] Boucher said were outside of his portfolio, including missile defense in Europe, the possibility of a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing, and excessive profits of oil companies.

You won't read about this hearing in local media.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Media Downplays Faleomavaega Hype

Last week Faleomavaega sent out a press release hyping the historic occasion of him presiding over a session of the Committee of the Whole on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. It reminds me of a joke about an airline company's public relations department in the early 1960s headlining a story "XYZ Airline Becomes First U.S. Carrier with All Jet Fleet." It is only when you read deeper into the story that you learn that the historic event occurred when the airlines last two prop planes collided in mid-air, killing 134 people.

There may be hope for the local media at long last. Samoa News recognized that Faleomavaega's chairmanship of the Committee of the Whole was not the big deal he made it to be and carried a truncated version of his press release in its "Community Briefs" section of the paper.

Yes, Faleomavaega no doubt was the first Samoan to preside over the Committee of the Whole. Of course, he neglects to point out that only two Samoans ever have served in the House and his predecessor, the disgraced Fofo Sunia (D) was not given that "honor" by the Democrats in charge during his seven years in the House before being forced to resign as part of a plea bargain that included 11 months in prison for his part in a ghost payroll scheme. Rather he focuses attention on the fact that Republicans did not give the gavel to any of the delegates during their 12 years in power. Of course, he fails to mention that whichever party is in power presides over all House sessions and all the delegates were Democrats during that period.

He notes that he could have chaired the committee during the 1993-94 session but "time ran out" before he had the opportunity. More likely, his travel schedule was so heavy he wasn't in town long enough to accept an invitation. That is probably why, despite his seniority, he only now, well into this session, was able to mount the dais.

The fact is, presiding over the House is a chore that majority members mostly try to avoid. The Speaker, who is supposed to preside, rarely does so. Presiding chores usually are rotated among junior members. So, on the few occasions he was in Washington during 1993-94, Faleomavaega probably ducked for cover. Why now, this year? Probably to build his credentials back home, where he now has two announced opponents and faces yet another tough race. The dissatisfaction and restlessness of the electorate is growing.

With good reason.

A final comment. Samoa News also carried a photo on its website with a caption about Faleomavaega presiding over the House. There is no way to tell if the photo was taken the day he presided because the backdrop was the seats in the House not the dais. We hope it was a stock photo rather than one from that day because he was attired in open collar with his trademark bolo tie. While such neck wear is permitted on the Floor, it is not encouraged, especially for someone not of Native American heritage. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who is of Native American heritage, always dresses in standard Western business attire, for example.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Faleomavaega Fiddles While Pago Pago Burns

It is getting more unbelievable by the day. As I suspected, Eni's strategic decision to publicize his bombshell of switching positions on the next wage raise by releasing the news just ahead of the long Easter weekend worked as he planned. By the time the daily paper published again on Monday, it was all forgotten. Not a peep all week thereafter. Same with the island's most listened to newscast, which also was on a three day weekend hiatus.

To further underscore that Samoa News really does not understand, they buried the ramifications in a page one story in today's paper wrapping up the governor's weekly radio call in show on Saturday. The headline of the article is "Governor appeals to Eni for help for displaced workers." But the story should have been headlined "Canneries Set To Leave" because the real news is in this quote:

Togiola also revealed that he was informed by the canneries that if the next 50 cent hike goes into effect, the canneries will leave the territory and the administration is working with the canneries to prevent this from happening.

The startling news was handled as almost an after thought. One might think in view of the circumstances that Faleomavaega would have cleared his Easter recess schedule (formally called a "district work period" by Congress), either to be home to explain what is going on, work with the canneries and governor to find a solution or to stay in Washington to redouble his efforts to find a solution to the problem.

But it's all business as usual for our wandering delegate. According to story datelined Majuro yesterday, Eni just spent six days in the Marshalls conducting a field hearing. Six days. Can you imagine? The recent field hearing conducted in American Samoa was confined to a single afternoon. The subcommittee got in on a Thursday night, paid some courtesy calls on Friday morning, held a hearing for three hours Friday afternoon, called it a day and went over the Western Samoa for the rest of the weekend until plane time. In contrast, The Marshalls gets six days of his time.

But will the American Samoa media cover any of this? Don't count on it!!

Meantime, Samoa News this morning also reports a newcomer is jumping into the congressional race. Some retired military enlisted officer who works in an administrative job at the college. They must be high fiving and breaking out the champagne in Eni's office. It's just what he hoped for when he rammed through a bill to let him win elections by a plurality. The anti-Eni vote now can be split between the newcomer and veteran politico Aumua Amata, thus giving Eni yet another term to continue his globetrotting. And so it goes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Faleomavaega Knuckles Under to Miller, Kennedy

Before everyone scurried out of Washington for Easter recess, Delegate Faleomavaega switched his position on another minimum wage hike in American Samoa in what can only be described as an effort to curry favor with two powerful members of Congress: Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA). The two men, who chair the the committees that oversee wage legislation in their respective chambers, co-wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on March 14 saying her department's study of the potential effects of additional wage raises in American Samoa and the Northern Marianas provided insufficient justification to halt the increase scheduled to go into effect in May in the two territories.

Only two weeks earlier, Faleomavaega was the lead witness in a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee (which has jurisdiction over territorial issues), in which he testified in favor of a bill to halt such an increase. At the conclusion of the hearing, a sympathetic Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) promised to do all he could to pass legislation to freeze the minimum wage at the current level.

It would come as no surprise if Bingaman felt betrayed by Faleomavaega's change of heart, which was guided no doubt by his fear of Kennedy's and especially Miller's power in Congress but it really should come as no surprise because this is at least Faleomavaega's fourth and perhaps fifth different position on the issue since it first arose over the 2006 Christmas holidays before Democrats took formal control of Congress.

Among others, American Samoa's tuna industry is likely to be furious at Faleomavaega's new position which he expressed in a letter to Governor Togiola transmitting a copy of the Kennedy/Miller letter to Chao. Saying "As indicated in their letters, the bottom line is we need more specific data and information before we put a hold on another 50-cent increase on our minimum wage."

This bombshell was dropped in time for the Thursday edition of Samoa News but not in time for any immediate reaction. Owing to the Easter holiday, the paper won't publish again until next Monday, leaving all those whose legs were cut out from under them time to stop the bleeding before reacting in public.

In the meantime, add one more crucial issue to the growing list of issue over which time grows shorter and shorter for Faleomavaega to demonstrate he can exercise any substantial influence. In the past, early in his career, he could argue he was too junior. In the middle of his congressional career, he could argue we was in the minority. Now he is a senior Member in the Majority and a subcommittee chairman. The time to produce has come or be exposed for the fraud so many insiders know he is.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


In response to a brewing controversy over the racial attitudes of the pastor of his church, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama this week delivered a masterful address on the subject of racial divisions in America. Yet, even though American Samoa Congressional Delegate was one of his earliest and strongest backers in the face of institutional support of Hillary Clinton in American Samoa, Obama totally ignored Pacific Islanders in his speech.

Three times in his remarks Obama referred to minorities in the U.S. but each time omitted Pacific Islanders. In the first instance Obama referred to "problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all. " Referring to his pastor's church, he went on later in the speech to talk about "a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old." Finally, he talked of "schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children."

Nowhere is there any indication that he recognizes that Pacific Islanders matter, too. Hillary Clinton announced some time ago that she was appointing American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono as a national co-chairman of her advisory council on Asian and Pacific Americans. We have seen no similar announcement that Faleomavaega has been appointed to any role in the Obama campaign. Obama may be building coalitions, as he stated, but it is apparent that Faleomavaega need not apply for a role with a group that is not part of it.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Faleomavaega Disrespects Senate

Samoans are very tolerant of new palagis who are unfamiliar with Samoan customs. But they are less forgiving of people who are expected to know better. No palagi who understands the customs would show disrespect by walking into a fale with shoes on and standing on a fine mat, for example.

Well, Washington has its customs, too. U.S. Senate rules require male senators to wear coats and ties to be admitted to the floor of the Senate. While Senate rules do not cover attire in committee hearings, business dress is customary throughout official Washington. It need not be written because it is expected.

For many years now, Faleomavaega has discarded conventional neck ties in favor of American Indian style bolo ties although even Members of Congress with Indian heritage stay with Washington custom. But more recently, he has pushed the envelope a bit further by discarding suit coats as well as neckties in favor or shirtsleeves and bolos. He has even chaired subcommittee hearings that way. Well, if it is his subcommittee, presumably that is his prerogative, even if it does show some disrespect for witnesses who are testifying before him.

In his controversial first trip to Indonesia last year, the local media there reported that Faleomavaega caused a minor uproar by showing up to meet the President in a bolo tie and sandals. This did not go over well with the protocol conscious Indonesians.

One might have thought that such a controversy might have made an impression on the traveling delegate but if it did, he did not apply the lesson to his home base in Washington, DC.

Although he did not express it or betray any annoyance at yesterday's hearing, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman could not have been pleased when he saw that the leadoff witness in his minimum wage hearing, Faleomavaega, appeared before his subcommittee in bolo tie and shirtsleeves.

Faleomavaega appeared as part of an all-male panel that included the governors of American Samoa and the Northern Marianas. Even though the governors arguably could have appeared in native garb as "national dress," all were clad in conventional western style business suits with neckties.

Indeed, when he took office in 2006, the governor of the Northern Marianas, Ben Fitial, decreed that high government officials henceforth would be required to wear dress shirts and neckties, a move that caused some considerable grumbling in the semi-tropical climate of Saipan.

It is difficult to understand why Faleomavaega would persist in so arrogantly flouting custom, especially when he is appealing for Senate consideration of a bill he has introduced in the House. True, it has been said that Faleomavaega has never passed up a buffet table, it is not as if he has gained so much weight that no one makes suits for his size.

It is unlikely Bingaman's decision on the bill will be predicated on Faleomavaega's attire, but it does contribute to the overall negative impression the delegate continues to make in Washington, where he has had little legislative success in his two decades in office.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Faleomavaega disses own government on foreign soil

Following World War II, Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenburg (R) as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations coined the phrase "partisan politics stops at the water's edge" to signal Republican cooperation with the Truman administration in the building of a post-war world to combat the spread of communism. The axiom that American politicians not criticize their own country's policies while traveling abroad has largely been honored in the years since, especially by those politicians who are in leadership positions.

So you can imagine the surprise and disappointment U.S. diplomats must have felt when they woke up to a story on New Zealand's Pacific Radio News website on February 19 headlined "US CONGRESSMAN REINFORCES VIEW WHITE HOUSE DOING LITTLE FOR PACIFIC." The story says that during his four-day visit to New Zealand the previous week, "U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega says he's more convinced the White House is doing little for Pacific nations." He went on to praise New Zealand and said the U.S. could learn from New Zealand's example.

Besides being a cheap shot designed to curry favor with Kiwi Politicians and pander to Kiwi public, what is particularly troubling about the Democrat Congressman's criticism of the Republican administration is that the U.S. hosted in Washington a summit of Pacific heads of government last May, with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice making a specific point of declaring the meeting to be the opening of the "Year of the Pacific" for the U.S. Faleomavaega played a prominent role in the Washington program, hosting a meeting on Capitol Hill, sponsoring a reception, emceeing the Pacific Night program and bringing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the event to speak to the heads of government.

What makes his criticism such a cheap shot is that he is now the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Global Environmental Affairs. Yet, except for a couple of hearings that gave him a platform to continue his ranting and raving about the Bush administration, there is little evidence that he has done anything to help put meat on the bones of the "Year of the Pacific." After all, Congress is a coequal branch of government and, with his party in control of both houses, he has had every opportunity to propose and shepherd through the process legislation that would accomplish the goals he espouses for U.S. involvement in the region. If you want to criticize, show you have influence by getting a bill passed and then let President bush sign or veto it. If he vetoes it, then you have a basis to criticize (albeit hopefully not while traveling abroad).

Instead, the delegate has contented himself with moving a resolution condemning Japan for its treatment of Korean women during World War II, backing a resolution condemning Turkey for conducting a genocide of Armenians nearly 100 years ago, opposing U.S. sales of F16 fighter jets to Taiwan, interfering in internal elections in the Marshall Islands, poking his finger in the eye of the Indonesian leaders over its refusal to relinquish control over its provinces on the island of New Guinea, and praising the leadership of the late Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh.

And, of course, travel, travel, travel and more travel. The delegate seems to have forgotten he is no longer in his years in the wilderness as a junior, back bench, opposition, non-voting delegate with little power and few responsibilities. Those circumstances gave him the opportunity and latitude to spend as much of his time as his electorate would tolerate to travel and criticize. And as the ample record demonstrates, he has done plenty of both over the years, especially during the period Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.

Now he has a different imperative as a front bench, majority party subcommittee chairman. He has the opportunity to show leadership on the issues he says he feels so passionately about. So far he has squandered it. Clearly, he has more fun when he can burst into a room, toss a turd into a punch bowl and quickly leave.

His constituents are tiring of his act.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Faleomavaega on his people: Let Them Eat Cake

Well, the big day is tomorrow: American Samoa's first ever Congressional hearing. The "delegation" from Washington arrives on tonight's Hawaiian Airlines flight. What, no military plane? Nope. A special plane could not be justified because Eni could attract only one member of Congress to come: the subcommittee chairman, Virgin Islands Congresswoman Donna Christiansen. Of course, there will be Eni, too, but we're having a congressional hearing tomorrow with no real congressmen. There will assorted staff members along for the ride but the good news is that without a bunch of long winded congressmen making opening statements, there ought to be a lot more time for witness testimony.

According to a news story on Radio KHJ this morning, Education and Labor Committee staff who are tagging along want to hear from wage earners, particularly those who favor the increase. And Faleomavaega said that since time was short and not everyone will be able to testify, those who do not get heard should submit their statements for the record.

Since the main purpose of this trip is to hear testimony on the effect of additional minimum wage hikes, a full day of hearings should provide plenty of time but, wait, they aren't starting the hearing until 1 p.m. No doubt they will finish in time for the cocktail hour. But, ah, you say, since they don't have a military plane they can't go back to Honolulu until Sunday night, so that should give them plenty of time to hold additional hearings on Saturday and maybe use the time on Sunday to visit various facilities on the island to get a better look at the territory's most pressing needs. After all, this is the subcommittee of jurisdiction (except, ironically, it does NOT have jurisdiction over minimum wage).

Not so fast. A story in this morning's Samoa News says that Eni is taking the group over to Apia for the weekend. What? The subcommittee has no jurisdiction over foreign affairs either but the subcommittee Eni chairs does. So maybe he just wants to show off. It looks like Chairman Christiansen is not going to have an opportunity to see much more of American Samoa than did the Majority Leader and Minority Whip, when they blew through here in January on a refueling stop from new Zealand. You will recall Eni missed that visit, because he was off inspecting fish farms in Israel with a bunch of U.N. ambassadors. This time he will be in Apia with the CODEL, essentially saying about his own constituents: let them eat cake.

So what is this all about? Window dressing. A favor to a fellow Democrat by Donna Christiansen in an election year. After all, her subcommittee has NO jurisdiction over the bill Eni introduced to freeze wage hikes. That bill has been referred to George Miller's committee. Miller is nowhere to be seen. And she doesn't have to worry about criticism for meaningless travel. She routinely wins reelection by lopsided margins (while the other small island territorial delegate is so popular, she runs unopposed). The only one who has trouble getting reelected is Eni, hence the help.

And so it goes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Faleomavaega Aide in Hanoi

Hard on the heels of her boss's controversial December Hanoi visit, during which he toasted murderous dictator Ho Chi Minh as a "great man," Faleomavaega's top staffer, Lisa Williams, is herself in Vietnam today on a fact finding trip. According to one press report, Williams, after visiting children who are victims of Agent Orange, said "We will return...The US needs to do more." Williams, who enjoys a close relationship with Faleomavaega, has been identified over the years variously as his chief of staff, communications director and, since acquiring a subcommittee chairmanship, the staff director of his Asia-Pacific panel. Congressional salary reports indicate she splits her time and pay between the subcommittee and his personal office. Moreover, Federal Election Commission reports show that she also gets paid for doing his political fundraising. Perhaps she will be leaving Vietnam in time to link up with her boss in Honolulu in the next day or so. Stay tuned.

Faleomavaega Turns Back on AS Dems; Embraces Hawaii

Although he could not find time to attend the presidential nominating caucus of American Samoa's Democratic Party, which Hillary Clinton won over Eni's candidate, Barack Obama, he has no trouble squeezing out a time in his busy, globe trotting schedule to be in Hawaii for tonight's Obama rally ahead of tomorrow's caucuses. Just as he no doubt realized the deck was stacked against him in American Samoa on February 5 and chose to hide out in New Zealand with a "scheduling conflict," his schedule seems to have a lot of clear time on it for Hawaii. The taxpayers again are picking up the tab, of course, because Faleomavaega is part of a Congressional delegation (CODEL) that is on its way to American Samoa for minimum wage hearings on Friday. The Obama rally is this evening (Monday) and the next plane to American Samoa is not until Thursday. So, the time will be filled with PACOM briefings and probably National Park Service facility inspections, none of which likely will be scheduled so as to conflict with any political events.

And just as he knew his man was going down in American Samoa, he knows the Hawaii-born Obama is heavily favored to win the caucuses here tomorrow, even though the powerful Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is backing Hillary Clinton. It should be no surprise Faleomavaega is spending more of his time in Hawaii than American Samoa because this is where he grew up. Although it is not required by federal law or the constitution, he has no dwelling in American Samoa that he can call his home. He and his wife reportedly co-own property in Nevada, where she has resided in recent years (no point in being in Washington or American Samoa--the two places Faleomavaega rarely can be found) since pulling up stakes in Washington. Since she moved out of the D.C. area, however, she does go to American Samoa every election season so that voters can see that, despite swirling rumors to the contrary, they still are married.

Turning his back on his party in American Samoa should not particularly prove politically costly to him because party leaders don't like him anyway. Samoa News and other local media never seem curious to ask party officers when they will be endorsing Faleomavaega for re-election. Why? Because they won't. And he knows it, so he does not ask for party endorsement. A number of years ago when he was still winning comfortable victories for his House seat, he also ran for Democratic National Committee for the territory. He lost. Big time. Same reason a lot of people believe he will never run for governor. They believe that his winning margin is made up by people who vote for him to keep him off the island. Out of sight, out of mind.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Faleomavaega Slow to Call for Probe

A two-week only Samoan baby boy died at the Honolulu airport on February 8 because of some bureaucratic paperwork snafu that delayed his exit from customs and immigration for a quick trip to a hospital that was awaiting his arrival for heart surgery. Even though customs and immigration is a federal matter, it took until February 13 for Faleomavaega to formally request the Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees these responsibilities, to conduct an investigation of the circumstances leading to the baby's death.

Since he is said to have in Washington last week, not traveling, there is some speculation that Faleomavaega dragged his feet so as not to upset Hawaii's congressional delegation, especially Senator Dan Inouye, on whom he relies heavily to dig him out of messes he frequently creates for himself in Congress (largely out of the eye of the Samoan public).

If so, this would not be the first time he has put Hawaii, where he grew up, ahead of local interests. When Governor Togiola was battling Hawaiian Airlines a couple of years ago over treatment of Samoan passengers and lack of service to the territory, Faleomavaega was nowhere to be found. Again he was thought to be appeasing Hawaii's powerful members of Congress, who were likely not pleased to see the state's flag carrier attacked.

Baby Futi was to be buried in Hawaii this weekend. Unless it interferes with yet another fabulous foreign junket (Congress is in recess--not that it matters), it can be expected that Faleomavaega will be in Hawaii for the funeral with his arms wrapped around the casket and tears flowing onto the coffin. He has learned how to do that with some considerable skill from accompanying to American Samoa the bodies of every Samoan soldier killed in Iraq. His local staff knows where to place the chalk marks for the media cameras.

Someone may ask why we can't say something nice about the fact that Faleomavaega did call for the investigation, even if it took five days. Well, okay then. At least that is better than the governor's office, which has had no public comment at all yet, and the attorney general, who said he sees no grounds for an investigation by his office.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Faleomavaega Buckles Under Pressure

Fresh from the setback of his presidential candidate, Barack Obama, to Hillary Clinton at the American Samoa delegate selection caucus, Faleomavaega has folded his cards on holding a hearing on his bill mandating the secretary of Interior to force the governor to hold a referendum on three controversial issues: direct popular election of senators, establishment of a federal court, and making American Samoans full U.S. citizens.

Members of the legislature, senators in particular, have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to Faleomavaega's interference in what they view as being local prerogatives and last week openly debated whether to boycott the hearing, which was to take place on February 22. No doubt sensing there would be fireworks not only from the legislators but the public as well, the beleaguered delegate beat a hasty retreat and requested House Insular subcommittee Chairwoman Donna Christiansen (D-VI) limit the hearing to minimum wage only. His press release announcing the scrubbing of the hearing lamely cited lack of time but no one was fooled.

Legislators also claimed Faleomavaega's proposal of the college as the venue for the hearing was an effort to attract a younger audience that might be more favorable to his proposals. With the hearing scrubbed the need for the college was moot and the two sides settled for the "neutral" Lee Auditorium for the wage hearing. The legislature wanted the hearing at their building.

Faleomavaega's prestige has suffered yet another blow at a time when his principal opponent in 2006, Aumua Amata, has announced she will run again. In her announcement, she noted her race was the fourth closest in the country in 2006 against a Democrat elected to the U.S. House.

Should be interesting.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Faleomavaega on Insane Travel Marathon

Wow. Faleomavaega flew back to Washington from New Zealand (did he wave at American Samoa as he flew by?) last week in just enough time for the new president of the Federated States of Micronesia to pay a courtesy call on him. Sources tell us that he could hardly keep awake during the meeting and was barely able to walk. Moreover, we learned that not long afterwards he was scheduled to travel to Colombia. What is he going to do there? Shake his fist at the tuna factories or head into the jungles to march shoulder to shoulder with rebel groups, as he is wont to do in West Papua? Fortunately, American Samoa and the other territories remained part of the stimulus package, even though it had to move to final passage ast week without his watchful eye. Luckily, the ignorant comments of a Republican Florida congresswoman, who described territorial residents as foreigners, did not derail the bill. It will be recalled that on a previous occasion when Faleomavaega again was traveling, his own leadership mandated a disastrous minimum wage hike for the territory in reaction to comments made by yet another southern Republican congressman. We have not seen a press release on the Colombia trip but would not be surprised to see him describe himself as being "on assignment." Interesting. No one ever says just who exactly is doing this assigning, what the actual assignment is, who he makes a report to or what is supposed to be the resulting action. Congress doesn't work that way.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Faleomavaega Suffers Major Humiliation

It now makes more sense as to why Faleomavaega would extend his visit to New Zealand and skip his party's presidential delegate selection caucus, which was held February 5. It very well could have been that his sister-in-law, Terry Hunkin, sent him a signal that the candidate they were backing, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, was going to fall short and lose to N.Y. Senator Hillary Clinton in the territory's balloting. Terry Hunkin, American Samoa's outgoing Democratic National Committeewoman, also serves as state chairman for the Obama campaign.

In retrospect, it probably should have been no surprise that Clinton defeated Obama 57 percent to 43 percent because that is about the level of support Faleomavaega (whose real name is Eni F. Hunkin, Jr.) himself has been getting in elections in recent years. The level of his personal popularity was reflected in the caucus results.

Nonetheless, Faleomavega risked his prestige on a very public backing of Obama and he and his chief political operative, Lisa Williams, have been handed a humiliating defeat in his own party.

If Clinton does go on to win the nomination and be elected president, Faleomavaega can expect to be frozen out for the duration of the Clinton presidency. At least that has been the historical pattern of the Clintons, who have been known to punish their enemies severely. Should he lose his congressional seat, he should not expect the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretaryship for territories as a consolation prize either.

The Democratic presidential race remains too close to call and if Obama prevails, Faleomavaega could find himself vindicated. However, he may have been irreparably damaged at home politically in the process.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Faleomavaega is Super Tuesday No Show

After President Bush delivered his State of the Union Address on Monday, January 28, Congress remained in session one more day, then went on recess so that Members could return to their districts to prepare for "Super Tuesday" on February 5. Twenty four states and American Samoa are conducting primaries, caucuses or conventions today to select their delegates to the two national party conventions later this year.

Does that mean that Faleomavaega winged his way home to spend a week trying to persuade local Democrats to vote for Barack Obama, the candidate he has endorsed for his party's nomination? No way. As we wrote earlier, he headed for New Zealand to, um, discuss the visa pilot program for the independent sate of Samoa and learn about the Maori Language Commission. That was a week ago. Where is he now? He's still there!! One wonders how he is spending all that free time.

It seems he is staying on for Waitangi Day observances on February 6, which is February 5 just across the dateline in American Samoa, which still leaves a lot of down time. So it looks like he is taking a pass on the caucus, although you can bet he will be front and center at the convention itself.

It also therefore looks like the epic "Battle of the Titans" won't occur since Governor Togiola Tulafono, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, will be absent from the caucus as well. He continues to be laid up in a Honolulu hospital recovering from complications resulting from surgery first performed in Pago Pago in January.

Incidentally, in contrast to the Northern Marianas, the American Samoa governorship has not been kind healthwise to its holders. Both territories first elected governors in November 1977. Six men have held the office in CNMI while American Samoa is only on its fourth. The first CNMI ex-governor to pass away only did so in 2007 while all the former governors of American Samoa are gone. Moreover, all of American Samoa's elected governors suffered significant health problems while in office.

The American Samoa delegates have not fared much better. There have only been two but the first left office in disgrace and served federal prison time for a ghost payrolling scheme. The second one, Faleomavaega, despite all his world travels, is not all that healthy either. Despite foot surgery he can still barely walk and also has had heart bypass surgery. Nonetheless, he gives no indication he ever will retire even though he turns retirement age this year.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Faleomavaega on the Road Again

Boy, it sure didn't take our roving delegate long to hit the road again. President Bush gave his State of the Union address Monday evening and Congress was in session all day Tuesday until mid-evening before recessing until February 6.

According to a story in this morning's Samoa News, however, Faleomavaega arrived in New Zealand Wednesday afternoon, American Samoa time. In order to get to Auckland that quickly, he must have been heading to the airport out of Washington no later than the bang of the gavel (or maybe earlier?).

What great purpose is served by this little trip? Well, it seems, according to the story, Eni was to visit the "U.S. Consulate Office for an update on the visa pilot program, which was launched in 2006." Um, hello? Don't they have telephones for that sort of thing. You would have thought that maybe that could have been handled by staff over the phone.

Ah, maybe that was only coincidental to the main purpose of the long, arduous journey to New Zealand. The story said he also planned "to meet with other New Zealand officials including the Maori Language Commission to replicate some of their work here as one effort to preserve the Samoan language. Faleomavaega said any information obtained from this meeting will be shared with officials in the territory." No phones at the Commission office either?

Well, since Congress is not back in session until Feb. 6, maybe Eni was just passing through New Zealand early en route back to American Samoa to get ready for the Feb. 5 delegate selection caucus, at which he and Governor Togiola will see who has the most influence. Eni is backing Barack Obama and Togiola is backing Hillary Clinton.

I guess there is no reason to stay in Washington longer than absolutely necessary. Question is who laughed hardest at this latest absurdity: the administrative staffer who filled out the travel justification form, the press secretary who drafted the press release, the news editor who inserted the story into the paper or the readers. Since he can barely walk anymore (probably from those long walks through airport terminals over the years) as it is, if the voters ever really start to howl about his travel, maybe he can announce he has restless leg syndrome and check into the Betty Ford Clinic. Why not? It wouldn't produce any bigger laugh than this story does.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Faleomavaega Will Try to Halt Wage Hike

Watch the pattern, folks. Faleomavaega is going to try once more the kind of maneuver that has sustained his career for nearly two decades: create a mess by neglect, then rescue the situation with the help of Hawaii's senators and take credit for averting a crisis.

Following the release of a U.S. Department of Labor study that suggests the rise of American Samoa's wage rates to U.S. parity would be devastating to the territory's fragile economy, Eni has announced he is introducing legislation to exempt American Samoa from future automatic wage hikes and return instead to a bi-annual survey to determine what would be sustainable.

He will beg his leadership to do this for him on the basis of its importance to his political survival then will turn to the Senate's twin Hawaii octogenarians, Inouye and Akaka, to carry his water in the upper body.

Will it work? Who knows? He has failed so far to get timely enactment of the 30A wage credit the canneries say they need to remain profitable and once again will need to get a bill passed that will make the credit retroactive to January 1, when the previous provision expired. Another 50-cent wage increase is due in May. It would be pretty tough to get that made retroactive. Getting voters to fork over their increase wage or to be forced into a reduction after a brief rise would be a disaster in an election year.

Maybe Eni will have to curtail his foreign junketeering at least between now and May to shepherd his legislation through Congress. Will he skip his party's presidential delegate caucus in the territory on February 5, especially after Hillary Clinton has made reference to it? He has endorsed Barack Obama, while Governor Togiola and the local party leadership have endorsed Hillary Clinton. The results of the caucus will be a test of his prestige and influence.

If he does make a quick trip home and then go back to Washington, he is going to have to turn right around to come back for the House Insular Affairs Subcommittee hearing he has orchestrated for February 21 and 22.

Poor Eni. He may be forced to stay on the job more than he likes.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Faleomavaega Out of Position Again

No surprise that our worst fears again are realized. Last January while Congress was furiously working on raising the minimum wage, Faleomavaega was out of town. Result? American Samoa was included!

Did he learn his lesson? Nope. Last week while Congress was furiously negotiating an economic stimulus package that includes a tax rebate for everyone, he was again out of town.

Perhaps he negotiated American Samoa into the package by phone. Apparently not.

He has issued a press release about a letter he has now sent to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and others asking them to "clarify" the effect of the bill on the territories. Read clarify to mean "territories forgotten." So, once again he has to play catch up and then if he succeeds he can triumphantly claim he has saved the day--even though he's only cleaning up a mess he himself has made. Reminds me of the guy who was banging his head with a hammer., When asked why he was doing that he replied: "Because it feels so good when I stop."

By the way. Steny Hoyer. Steny Hoyer. Unusual first name. Say, isn't that the fellow who was in American Samoa just a week or so ago as part of a fact finding tour that Eni skipped so he could tour Israel with a bunch of island ambassadors to the U.N.? I think so. Apparently, American Samoa did not leave enough of an impression on him to remember us when it came time for the stimulus package. Perhaps if Faleomavaega had been on that junket instead of looking at desalinization projects in the Middle East we might not have to be playing catch up once again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Faleomavaega AWOL again

Most people understand that even when Congress is out of session, only the House floor is dark. The routine business of Congress goes on unabated: hearings, meetings, negotiations, constituent work, fact finding travel and all the rest. This week was no exception (the House comes back into session next week).

The big news in the morning papers today was the completion of negotiations between Congress and the Executive Branch yesterday on a federal stimulus package to counteract the country's economic slowdown. Most House members were in town to make their views known.

At the same time, this morning's Samoa News carried a photo and story about Faleomavaega giving a talk to a local third grade class yesterday. If he had to be away from Washington, at least he was home. If there is little or nothing in the package for American Samoa, you will not hear a peep out of him and not from the sad sack local media either. If American Samoa does benefit, you can bet there will be a press release, carried in full in the local papers, even if he was 10,000 miles away when it was negotiated and had not a thing to do with it. Life goes on.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Faleomavaega energy bill fraud

You have to give Faleomavaega credit for making news out of no news. Several regional outlets, including the respected Pacific Magazine, picked up his January 17 press release about the energy bill that President Bush signed on Dec. 19 last year. And it really didn't have all that much to do with American Samoa. Here is what he said:

“I am especially happy that the new law included ocean thermal energy conversion, a concept that was included in a bill I introduced in the House earlier last year, and I am thankful to Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership for recognizing the importance of ocean thermal energy conversion as a potential alternative source of energy.”

Notice he didn't claim responsibility for the provision on ocean thermal conversion, only that he was happy the bill included a concept he introduced in a bill in 2006.

He goes on to express hope the governor and legislature will take advantage of the bill. What leadership! What a fraud! But once again, he got away with it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Faleomavaega displays racist side in Ho Chi Minh issue

For years people have described Faleomavaega as being "anti-haole," especially when it comes to the French, but let's call it what it is: Faleomavaega is a racist. That really came out in his long response to the two Vietnam War veterans who wrote stinging letters of criticism to the editor of Samoa News after Faleomavaga issued a press release in which proudly proclaimed that he called Ho Chi Minh a "great leader" during a recent trip to Hanoi. In a way it was unfortunate that the two vets just happened to be haoles who are married to Samoan women and have lived in the islands for many years. This fact has given Faleomavaega and his sycophants the opportunity to attack the critics by their race and divert away from the issue of whether Ho deserves to be called a great leader.

In a follow up letter to the editor, one of Faleomavaega's goons wrote:

"There is a fine line between freedom of press and being disrespectful of a Samoan leader in your letters to the editor. You are entitled to your opinions. However, since you have chosen to live in American Samoa, I encourage you to take a little time to live and learn the epitome of the Samoan culture, 'respect.'"

In a second letter he wrote:

"you are obligated to your opinions and you have that freedom even in the Samoan culture. Have you done a sanity check about your position on the issue as well as how the Samoan people feel about your approach? The last time I checked our leaders were elected by the majority. I know you have been around several of your wife's extended family meetings and village council meetings to appreciate the decision-making process in those settings. You can say whatever your heart dictates as long as you know your place and the language to use in those meetings. As you have known in those meetings, nobody talks out of line."

In the past, letters like this have been enough to end discussion, but in this issue, this approach appears to have backfired. More letters against the position of both Faleomavaega and his backers have been published, and this time from Samoans. This issue does not appear to be going away. Whether Eni will cut his losses and apologize remains to be seen.

Falomavaega on Mideast junket

Those of us who have followed Faleomavaega's bizarre 20-year career have come to learn that the longer and more convoluted a press release, the more he is trying to defend an indefensible position by preemption. You are encouraged to go to his House website to read his full explanation of why he was running around Israel when two of the most important members of the U.S. House of Representatives (where he works--in case you forgot) were in Pago Pago.

His press officer must have had trouble suppressing a smirk writing this one, in which he has our roving delegate claiming he missed the opportunity of showing the House majority leader first hand what the territory's unmet needs are because he needed to be traveling with a bunch of Pacific Island ambassadors "to discuss ways to advance the relationship between Israel and Pacific Island nations" says the press release.

The biggest joke,of course, is that he says this junket was at the behest of Hoyer. Among other things, he addressed the group, which was billed as an "educational exchange" and looked at some desalinization projects. Please note that he was the ONLY member of Congress on this delegation. Everyone else was a Pacific Island Country ambassador to the U.N.! Last time I looked, "international tour guide" is not listed in the job description for congressmen.

What in God's name does he take the voters for? Look hard and long and read slowly and closely. If anyone can find a shred of benefit or potential benefit to American Samoa from this pure junket, please post a response to this blog.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Faleomavaega breaks with local Dem. Party Leadership

In an almost united front, American Samoa Governor Togiola and the entire leadership of the local Democratic Party the day before the New Hampshire primary announced their support for Sen. Hillary Clinton as next president of the U.S. That leaves out Del. Faleomavaega, who has announced his support for Sen. Barack Obama. It is said that the local Democratic Party does not have much use for Faleomavaega and several years ago rebuffed his efforts to be electe4d national committeeman. It is not publicized at all, but it is believed it has been some years since he has sought the party's endorsement for re-election out of fear they will vote down the proposition.

Faleomavaega AWOL for CODEL Visit

In Washington speak that probably got its start in the military, a traveling delegation of Members of Congress is called a CODEL for short. Well, a very high-powered CODEL made it to Guam and American Samoa during the period between sessions over the Holidays. Led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD)and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), a bipartisan group of a dozen House members made a day and a half visit to Guam as part of their swing through parts of Asia, Australia and New Zealand. According to press coverage on Guam, both Hoyer and Blunt gave credit to Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo for insisting on a Guam stop and praised her for her tireless efforts for Congressional action on Guam issues.

We understand that the itinerary did not orginally have a stop scheduled for American Samoa but after complaints by Faleomavaega, a refueling/rest stop in Pago Pago was added after New Zealand.

A big page one photo in the January 10 issue of Samoa News shows Lt. Gov. Ipulasi Sunia greets the CODEL leaders: Hoyer, Blunt and Bordallo. What's wrong with this picture? Well. No governor for starters. He's still in the hospital following emergency surgery over the weekend. And I'm sure there is some squirming on Hoyer's staff since fellow Democrat Sunia is under federal indictment for alleged procurement illegalities when he was government treasurer. But also absent from the photo? Faleomavaega!! The wandering delegate had a conflict. He's off touring the Middle East at the moment, thank you. But he did send his best regards.

Faleomavaega Praises Uncle Ho; Creates Firestorm

On yet another overseas junket, our wandering delegate, Faleomavaega, this time turns up in Hanoi in December, 2007, where he sings the praises of Ho Chi Minh as a great leader who only wanted to end French oppression of his people.

Needless to say, this characterization of Uncle Ho did not go down too well with American Samoa's sizable community of Vietnam veterans. The rhetoric has been incendiary.

Unlike the situation in which then-Sen. Leader Trent Lott, in praising Strom Thurmond
on his 100th birthday, offhandedly and jokingly suggested the country should have elected the then-segregationist president in 1948, Faleomavaega issued a press release (on Pearl harbor Day, no less)with his pro-Ho remarks.

Not terribly bright, but it gets better. After a couple of sharply worded letters to the editor criticing the delegate's position on Ho, Faleomavaega issues another press release containing his own letter to the editor in response, in which he fully defends his prasie of Ho. Not to let an opportunity go by, in the same letter he slurs President Bush and Vice President Cheney over their military service or lack thereof. So much for the passionate bi-partisanship he so fervently avowed during his years in the wilderness when Democrats controlled neither Congress nor the White House--although last time I looked, Bush/Cheney has a year to go.

Faleomavaega thwarted in Papua

People who have been around Washington long enough remember a Virginia U.S. Senator named Bill Scott. Not considered by many to be the sharpest tool in the box, some publication one year named him one of the 10 dumbest members of Congress. As if to prove the point, Scott held a press conference to deny he was dumb.

Well, it often seems Faleomavaega follows the Bill Scott school of press release writing. You will recall that after his most recent re-election, he announced that Papuan self-determination towards independence would be the top priority on his agenda in the new Congress (not American Samoa's problems, of course--but that's a story for another day).

So, on one of his frequent overseas junkets during the summer, he went to Jakarta with the expectation of traveling on to Papua for some self-determination seminar. Only thing is that the Indonesian government wouldn't give him permission to go. So he left, saying he was nevertheless satisfied with the progress Indonesia was making with its troubled province. Immediately after he cleared Indonesia airspace, the central government rounded up all the dissidents Eni wanted to meet and hauled them in for some, um, routine questioning.

Fast forward to December, now. Indonesia is hosting in Bali the latest International Conference on Climate Change. Of course, our lead junketeer is front and center. Okay, we'll give him a break this time. After all, he is the chairman of the House subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and Global Environment.

This time he makes a big deal about having gotten permission to travel to Papua while he is in the country. Only problem is the government hardly lets him out of the airport in Papua.

Naturally, when he returns to Washington he issues a press release about his failure to get to see people in Papua. Maybe they didn't like his bolo tie.