Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eni to Use Palau to Test influence

Before a stunned audience at the Department of the Interior’s annual insular investment in Honolulu last week, Faleomavaega announced he would undertake an effort to move primary congressional jurisdiction from the House Committee on Natural Resources to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In effect, this move, if successful, would strip Palau issues from the Natural Resources subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, on which Eni sits as a senior majority member, to the Foreign Affairs Asia, Pacific and Global Environment subcommittee that he chairs.

Since the House would be unlikely to move jurisdiction over Palau from Natural Resources to Foreign Affairs without moving jurisdiction for the other Freely Associated States at the same time, Eni is making a real power play that has enormous ramifications for him. Were he to succeed, it would amount to a major humiliation for Madeleine Bordallo (D), his fellow delegate from Guam who chairs the insular panel, and would send chills up and down the spine of State Department officials, who prefer to handle diplomatic relations with the Micronesian states but not administer funds for them.

In light of Eni’s sneak attack, ironically launched in Honolulu, it also will be interesting to see just how enthusiastic Bordallo will be to look after American Samoa’s interests in her subcommittee from now on. After subcommittee assignments were announced following last November’s election, Eni was quoted in the news as saying that now that Madeleine was positioned to protect territorial interests for everyone on Natural Resources, it gave him wide berth to do the same on the Asia-Pacific subcommittee. Since his subcommittee has not a stitch of responsibility for territorial issues, of course his assertion is laughable on the face of it. Nonetheless, Samoa News swallowed hook, line and sinker his contention that his keeping an eye on U.S. foreign policy in the region somehow would benefit American Samoa and he would not need to be all that vigilant on Natural Resources.

Were he not to succeed in this bold move against Bordallo, Eni would suffer another major humiliation in Washington, coming hard on the heels of his recent embarrassment at the hands of his colleagues on his unsuccessful attempt to change the wording of a House Resolution on Taiwan. Of course, just as in the case of the Taiwan issue, any further loss of Eni's prestige and influence likely would be confined to Washington--which is important enough, since that is his theater of operation--because it is likely the major media outlet at home, Samoa News, will continue to suppress news unfavorable to its knight in shining armor. As noted here before, Eni’s (whose real family name is Hunkin) sister-in-law, Teri Hunkin, is an editor at the paper.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Taiwan issue, some critics have wondered if Eni were a witting front man for Beijing on Taiwan matters, with one blogger astutely noting that the roving congressman also was caught toasting Communist strongman Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi in December, 2007. As we have pointed out, Eni was an early member of the radical leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus founded by enrolled Socialist then-congressman Bernie Sanders in the early 1990s and only dropped his membership quietly three years ago during a close election campaign after he was criticized publicly for his association. Eni is decidedly to the left of not only the population at large but his own Mormon political base.

Now some other blogs also are beginning to question whether he is a communist. The Doctor Bulldog and Ronin Blog, for example, republished from a list of “known socialists and commies in our government” that included Eni, although TyskNews has updated the list and dropped him. The spotlight is beginning to shine on congressional socialists because of rising conservative concern that Obama Administration budget proposals are driving the government in the direction of socialism.

Whether or not he is a socialist or a closet communist, there is no doubt that Eni is to the left of center and much more liberal than his constituency. There also is rising concern here that his support of Big Labor’s Check Card proposal will open the door to unionization of our tuna canneries. Coupled with the minimum wage increase that has been forced upon the islands, the days of the canneries could be severely numbered.

Are these seemingly separate questions somehow connected? From seizing control of Micronesia policy to minimum wage, card check and his secret amendment to permit foreign bottoms a backdoor way to fish in South Pacific EEZs, we think they may be. As events play out, we think the dots will begin to connect. Readers here will know what is happening but the general public here will remain clueless, thanks to media suppression of the news.

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