Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Faleomavaega Exposed as Bahrain’s Shill in Congress

The New York City based non-profit, Pulitzer Prize-winning corporation ProPublica, which describes itself as an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, has published a major investigation into American Samoa congressional delegate Eni Faleomavaega’s activities on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

In an exposě entitled “Meet Bahrain’s Best Friend in Congress,” ProPublica investigative reporter Justin Elliott revealed that Faleomavaega has taken two, all-expenses-paid trips to the oil-rich Persian Gulf Kingdom and has received major campaign contributions from a Washington lobbyist on Bahrain issues. Indeed, the campaign donations of that lobbyist and his wife amounted to over seven percent of Faleomavaega’s receipts in the 2010 campaign cycle.

Elliott did miss his mark by suggesting that Faleomavaega spends most of his time on American Samoa and Pacific Island issues, however. Readers of this blog are well aware that Faleomavaega has a well-deserved reputation as a globetrotter who hardly ever passes up a foreign trip, especially when it is all-expenses-paid. Indeed, when he chaired the Asia-Pacific subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, his caucus widened the panel’s jurisdiction to include “global environmental issues,” which gave him license to travel all over the world and to access to the committee’s piggy bank for four years.

ProPublica is also inaccurate in stating the delegate “has no history of commenting on Middle East affairs.” To the contrary, he has made numerous trips to that region and made impassioned speeches on the House Floor opposing the Iraq War and President Bush’s surge. Neither of these oversights, however, does damage to ProPublica’s thoroughly researched report on Faleomavaega’s support of Bahrain and conclusions as to why he has done so.

Whether or not there is enough material here for someone to file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee, there is enough in Elliott’s report for others to examine whether campaign contributions and/or free trips abroad have played any role in other stances he has taken over the years, including his fulsome praise for Kazakhstan dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev.

It will be interesting to see if the ProPublica investigation gets any play in American Samoa’s only daily newspaper, Samoa News, where Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law is an editor while at the same time holding the position of the territory’s Democratic National Committeewoman. More likely, especially in an election year, this story will be swept under the rug or limited to a hyperlink in its on-line edition, which is read more overseas than it is on island. Faleomavaega can be expected to attack the story but he will not be able to fall back on the charge that it is a right wing hit job because ProPublica’s chairman has a record of support for liberal organizations and the organization’s top two editors are a former managing editor at the Wall Street Journal and a former New York Times editor.

The story can be found here: http://www.propublica.org/article/meet-bahrains-best-friend-in-congress

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