Saturday, August 30, 2014


Since it cannot be as a result of his travels, it must be a result of his lingering illness and the inattention of his chief enforcer, Lisa Williams, that resulted in over a month’s delay in his formally filing with President Obama his objections to the expansion of a Pacific conservation zone by presidential fiat.  In Washington style, it is formally known as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument or, by its unpronounceable acronym, PRIMNM (prim nim?).

Obama’s announcement was made on June 17 at Secretary of State John Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference, which Faleomavaega did not attend but was prompt enough to respond in a July 19 press release expressing his concern at having had no prior consultation or warning of Obama’s proposal.  Being left out of the loop must have come as a bitter disappointment to the delegate, who was one of Obama’s earliest and strongest supporters but who does not seem to have derived any benefits from his loyalty over the past five years.  He has a score of photographs with the president but every member of Congress, regardless of party, gets those by standing in line to greet the president at the annual Christmas party, barbecue or other standard White House function held annually.

To get additional face time with presidents, Faleomavaega for years—until he took ill—has been among the small group of House members who arrive at the chamber hours before the annual State of the Union address to grab a seat at the aisle that the President uses to walk to the podium.   The Washington Post reported on this well known practice last year.

It is puzzling why it took nearly a month for the ailing delegate to file a formal letter with Obama pleading with him not to take any action that would harm American Samoa’s economy and culture.  It is quite possible that he misjudged the strength of the negative reaction of the American Samoa business community, the tuna industry, other island governments and regional fishing organizations.  In other words, even if, as a former subcommittee chairman whose jurisdiction included the “global environment,” his heart were with his fellow left-leaning environmentalists, the politics of the situation forced him in the other direction.  It is an election year, after all, and sometimes your constiuency has to come first.

As the September 2 election filing deadline rapidly approaches, Faleomavaega finally has made public his letter to Obama, which he had kept secret, he said, as “a courtesy to the President and to give him an opportunity to respond.”  More likely he was hoping to keep the letter secret to save him the embarrassment of having the public learn that yet again he has been ignored.  Predictably, Obama indeed has ignored him and with the governor now also weighing in with a letter to the president, the pressure to answer both allies and critics alike as to why he was remaining silent must have been too much to bear.

Clearly, courtesy to the president is a lame excuse since he dispensed with such courtesy earlier this year  when he blasted Obama, Kerry and Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton (not the smartest move) for U.S. policy towards India, which he believes is misguided.  In this instance, he most likely was under particular pressure from various elements of the tuna industry, whose executives and boat owners already have contributed heavily to his re-election campaign.  They must believe he has some magic power and influence in Washington because many of their contributions were made in the first quarter of 2014 at a time it was unclear if Faleomavaega even would recover from his illness--with some believing he might even have been in a coma--let alone run for another term.

The list of his major donors, including some who have given the very maximum amount allowable, $2,600 per person, reads like a Who’s Who of the industry: executives from StarKist, TriMarine and Bumble Bee, plus owners of the vessels that deliver the fish to the canneries.  All of them must believe Faleomavaega has the clout to help their industry.  Well, if that were their motivation, as Obama’s PRIMNM initiative shows, they have been sadly mistaken and have wasted their money.  The truth is, from all the statements and letters we have seen filed with the White House to protest creation of PRIMNM, his is the weakest. 

The biggest waste of a campaign contribution may have been the $1,500 donation made by Bumble Bee executive James Hines.  Since Bumble Bee has no operations in American Samoa and Faleomavaega has been critical of the company’s human rights practices, perhaps Hines was hoping he would tone it down.  No such luck.  Faleomavaega will do his own thing, regardless who contributes to him.   In his letter to Obama he expressed “my disappointment that Bumble Bee was singled out and publicly recognized by Secretary Kerry during the Our Ocean Conference.  While it may be true that Bumble Bee advocates for ocean policy, we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to Bumble Bee’s human rights abuses.  Bumble Bee is well-known for using suppliers in Thailand that employ child labor to clean tuna.  Bumble Bee even owns a stake in one of those companies where Asian children and other exploited workers are paid about $0.75 cents an hour to manually cut off the head, fins and tail, and scrape off the skin of a tuna.”  Perhaps when the next campaign finance reports are filed, we will see that environmental interests have made contributions in order to buy his acquiescence.   

Even though he was in town and working “limited office hours” in June, he skipped Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference.  However, he gets another bite at the apple at the Small Island Developing States Conference that opens in Apia on September 1.  It is unclear if he would have an opportunity to address the conference and it is unclear if he would be part of any delegation.  He was not includes in the State Department’s announcement of the U.S. delegation although Samoa News reported that the governor had been invited to be a member of the U.S. delegation.  Nor is Faleomavaega on the list of the American Samoa delegation issued by the governor’s office.   Subsequently, reported  that the governor has decided not to go since, as a member of the U.S. delegation, he would not have a speaking role.  The same might be true for Faleomavaega.

The deadline now has passed for public comments on the President’s proposed PRIMNM.  If he does reverse course or make modifications, it will not be because of Faleomavaega’s weak objections.  Indeed, Obama has pressures from his allies in the environmental community to stay the course.  In an interview with Radio KHJ-FM,  Michael Gravitz of the non-profit Marine Conservation Institute dismissed the concerns of the opponents of the president’s proposal.  

Curiously, there has been no press release at all on Faleomavaega’s website since his August 21 release making public his letter to Obama.  So nothing formal has been said about his travel even though Radio KHJ-FM News Director Monica Miller has reported that she has been told by his office that he would be home at the end of the month and would stay until after the election.  If he were coming down here to file his candidacy papers personally on Tuesday, it is difficult to imagine he would not also be attending much of the SIDS conference as well and if were coming down for SIDS, it is difficult to imagine he would not be here Tuesday to file his papers.

Soon the mystery should be over.

[Note to readers:  You have until Tuesday to vote in our preliminary poll asking who should replace Faleomavaega in Congress.  Once the Election Office releases the names of those who have qualified for the ballot, we will pull down this list of speculated candidates and replace it with a list of those who will be on the November 4 ballot.]

Friday, August 22, 2014


Although there has been nothing here in the media, Radio KHJ-FM News Director Monica Miller in an August 12 interview with Radio Australia said that she had been told by Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega’s (D-AS) office that he will be coming home at the end of this month (August) and will stay until after the election.  She also confirmed that she would have asked the Congressional Delegation (CODEL) where Eni was had the media not been barred when they stopped here August 10 on a Pacific tour that also took them to New Zealand, Australia, the Northern Marianas and Hawaii (see previous post).

In her first editorial since the delegation’s visit, Samoa News Editor Rhonda Annesley in an August 22 editorial ignored the question of the delegation’s importance, the missed opportunity, the media ban and the delegate’s absence but did write “My thoughts on transparency and accountability in government [are] just that: transparency and accountability.  It is not a moral issue — decency and privacy are not part of its boundaries, because the money you are paid with is taxpayers’ money, and the tasks and services you are being asked to perform for that money are public duties.”

“This is why the public is still waiting for an explanation from Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin and Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga about their health issues.  It’s not personal… it’s not lapisi — it’s public information. GONGGGG  And, if you have a problem with this — don’t run for office, don’t work in government. Instead, work in the private sector, where transparency and accountability do have boundaries, because your fiduciary and work responsibilities are for the owner(s) or shareholders of the company or corporation, not for the public.”

If Miller is correct, she and Annesley soon may have ample opportunity to seek answers from Faleomavaega, although neither of them has communicated publicly whether they have asked the Governor about his extended absence now that he has returned.

While he will have missed the entire congressional August recess back here, traditionally a time for campaigning in an election year, perhaps Faleomavaega needed this time for additional rehabilitation before facing the public.  It would explain his absence from the CODEL led by a committee on which he sits as the second most senior minority member.   

What may be driving the timing is an important international meeting convening just across the sea in Apia. Although it also could be said of the “Our Ocean” conference Secretary of State John Kerry convened in June in Washington, just a short drive from congressional buildings where Faleomavaega has his offices, perhaps he was not well enough to attend that gathering at that time, even though he did attend a social function at the New Zealand embassy at the end of the meeting.

Now comes the United Nations third decennial conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS)  that will run from September 1-4 in Samoa.  Heads of state and government and ministers from around the world will be there and climate change is expected to be at the top of the agenda.  It is the last major UN-sponsored meeting before the Secretary General’s September Climate Summit and the opening of the General Assembly in New York.

 Samoa is expecting 3,000 delegates from 193 member states as well as NGOs, IGOs, the private sector, academia, the media and others.  It is just the sort of meeting Faleomavaega would never miss under ordinary circumstances, particularly as he for four years had been chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment (APGE)when his party controlled the House.  Although Republicans took away that panel’s jurisdiction over global environment that likely would not stop Faleomavaega from attending this meeting.

One cautionary hote, however.  Faleomavaega will not be a "big shot" at this meeting.  As American Samoa is not a member of the United Nations, he likely would be there as a member of the U.S. delegation and, as such, would not have the independence to speak.  When then-Secretary of State Condolezza Rice held a multi-lateral meeting of foreign ministers also in Apria several years ago, Faleomavaega, who was in nearby American Samoa at the time and was chairman of the House APGE subcommittee, asked to be able to speak at that gathering, but was turned down.  In turn, he declined the invitation to attend.

Moreover, the American Samoa 2014 election filing deadline is September 2, so he could take the short plane ride over to Tutuila to make the dramatic, though unnecessary, gesture of personally appearing at the election office to file his candidacy for the November 4 election.   No doubt the media will be in waiting.

There is one thing curious about Monica Miller’s statement to Radio Australia, however.  There usually is no more important month in Congress than a September before a November election.  This year is no exception.  After having heard from constituents at home in August, Congress tends to unfinished business in September on a priority basis, so it can adjourn in October to campaign for the November election, hoping not to have to return in December to tie up loose ends in a lame duck session.

Even though he needs the time to reconnect with voters after nearly a year’s absence, it is difficult to see how Faleomavaega can stay away from Washington when there is so much unfinished business for American Samoa still pending, including the Omnibus Territories Bill, the FY2015 Interior Department budget and an array of other measures of which American Samoa is, should or should not be a part.  Then there also is the matter of President Obama's proposed expansion of a Pacific conservation zone.

Soon we will know.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hall of Famer Ditka Labels Faleomavaega an “Idiot”

Although he did not specifically mention Faleomavaega by name, it is clear that Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach Mike Ditka, now a broadcaster, was including the American Samoa delegate among those he had in mind when he dismissed the drive to get the Redskins owner to change the name of the team.  Faleomavaega has been in the forefront of those in Congress who want to force the team to adopt a new nickname because, he argues, the current name is a slur on Native Americans.

This has long been a cause for the delegate who in July, 2013 before his debilitating illness, decked out in his best Indian string tie (the only kind of tie he has worn for years, now—when he wears a tie at all), delivered an emotional speech on the Floor of the House on the subject with his voice quivering and cracking as he spoke.  He also cosponsored a bill that would cancel the team’s federal trademarks but it has gone nowhere.

Faleomavaega was prompted to speak in part to respond to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who had said earlier in July that the team’s name isn’t a government issue. Limbaugh said if fans were offended by the name, they wouldn’t go to FedEx Field, but because they do, “it obviously isn’t upsetting too many people.”

When he emerged from seclusion this past March to receive his first office visitor, the ASG director of Homeland Security, he said that, while continuing his rehabilitation, he would be concentrating his efforts on American Samoa issues, like establishment of a National Guard unit in the territory.  Yet, in late May, making his first appearance on the Floor for a five-minute substantive speech (he appeared briefly in April to acknowledge American Samoa Flag Day), he again chose the Redskins’ name as his subject, not the National Guard or any other American Samoa issue.

Now, as the NFL is in the midst of its preseason exhibition game schedule, the spotlight has returned to this issue and Ditka was asked about it during a recent interview.

“What’s all the stink . . . ,” asked Ditka?  “It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible . . .  This is so stupid it’s appalling  . . . We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world . . . “It’s all the political[ly] correct idiots in America, that’s all it is,” he continued.  “It’s got nothing to do with anything else. We’re going to change something because we can.”  Faleomavaega was a founding member of the ultra-liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus, although he since has left the group.

While team owner Dan Snyder says he will never change the name (and vigorous at age 49, he most likely will outlive the very sick 70-year-old Faleomavaega), there is no question that public sentiment to have him do so has picked up steam.  There is no doubt that were Congress in session, Faleomavaega once again would have been prompted to take to the Floor, perhaps even to call upon ESPN to suspend Ditka from his broadcast duties. 

This blog takes no position on the Redskins’ name but, given his limited strength and energy, wouldn’t Faleomavaega better serve his constituency by concentrating on American Samoa issues, as he promised he would?  If he must take to the Floor when Congress returns in September, how about an emotional speech on the poverty his island may face if President Obama goes ahead with his plan to create a huge Pacific conservation zone that could force the underpinning of American Samoa’s economy to collapse?

Redskins’ name, Kazakhstan nuclear waste, Cambodian debt relief, Korean comfort women, Bahraini protesters, Hawaiian sovereignty, Easter Island land tenure, West Papua Independence, Armenian genocide.  These are the kinds of issues that have dominated Faleomavaega’s agenda over the years when he hasn’t been traveling.  But, no, Coach Ditka, we wouldn’t describe Faleomavaega as an idiot.  However, we would be harder pressed to refute those who might dismiss him as a buffoon. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


He isn’t dead.  He isn’t in a coma.  He isn’t incapacitated.  He’s been receiving visitors in his office since March.  He’s been speaking on the Floor of the House since April.  He’s been participating in committee hearings since June.  So, whether he was going to be on the House Natural Resources Committee-led congressional delegation (CODEL) to the Pacific or not this month, he certainly had the capability of weighing in on the itinerary and agenda of the trip.

After all, Faleomavaega is the second most senior Democrat on the Full Committee  and the most senior Democrat on the subcommittee of greatest importance to American Samoa: Fish, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs (FWOIA).  Moreover, it is not like this trip was put together hastily at the last minute.  The CODEL is using a military aircraft, and that cannot simply be ordered up from the Pentagon at the last moment like a taxicab.  Even if American Samoa were just a refueling stop added at the last moment, which would have been even worse because it would have meant that the CODEL was not planning to stop there at all, he could have had a say.

So, there can be only a limited number of reasons why Faleomavaega was not a member of the delegation: either his physicians have told him he was not yet medically fit to fly; he did not want the people in American Samoa to see how bad he looks until he regains more weight and strength; or he hoped by staying away he could draw attention away from the visit and downplay its significance in an effort to minimize public awareness of his absence.

Because we could not get any closer to the congressional delegation than anyone else not inside the airport VIP room, and since no one but one congressional candidate has said one word about the visit—not the governor, not the delegate’s chief of staff nor anyone else in or out of the room, we have had to rely on the accounts of others even to find out who was on the delegation.  It appears we were slightly off.  The delegation consisted not of two full committee chairmen, three subcommittee chairman and two Ranking Minority Members, but of two full committee chairmen, five subcommittee chairmen and one Ranking Minority Member.

According to press accounts from other stops, U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) was not a member of the delegation but two others were: Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Rep. Rob Woodall, Chairman of the powerful Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process.  All legislation must pass through the Rules Committee before being considered on the House Floor.

In our previous post we suggested the importance of this delegation but let Northern Marianas Delegate Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan (I-MP) characterize it : “this is certainly the most important congressional group to visit the Northern Marianas at one time.”  He made this comment when introducing the group on Saipan, which they visited over the course of two days following stops at Pago Pago; Auckland, Rotorua and Christchurch, New Zealand; and Sydney, Newcastle and Darwin, Australia.

Whether any of those other cities were refueling stops is unclear but Saipan decidedly was not.  Nor were there any media restrictions for security reasons or otherwise.  Indeed, it is puzzling what kind of security threat the delegation thought they faced here.  We understand that their ribbon cutting ceremony on Saipan was about a two-minute drive from a mosque that serves the island’s primarily South Asian immigrant Muslim community. The delegation also got full coverage in the local papers and several of the members agreed to interviews for the local television station.
Delegation leader U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) told the press that “Kilili exerted a special effort to convince them to come over.  ‘He pressured us again and again,’ he said in jest.”  Perhaps in jest but it did take the kind of persistence that apparently our delegate could not or would not exert.  When you are only working limited hours anyway, energy spent taking to the House Floor to denounce the nickname of the Washington football team or praise the election of new prime minister of India is time that could have been devoted to working with Doc Hastings on the CODEL itinerary and agenda.

On Sablan’s immigration bill that already has passed the committee, Hastings told the press that when he returned to Washington he would be pressing the House leadership to schedule a Floor vote before Congress adjourns.  In contrast, a Senate Omnibus Territories Bill that Faleomavaega in a big showy press release commended the Senate for passing, is thought to have little chance of clearing the House, which has only a dozen legislative days remaining before adjournment for the midterm elections.  That bill also might have drawn Hastings’ attention if Faleomavaega were on the trip to push for it, especially during a stop here.  By now, our local media certainly must be aware of the contrast of the CODEL stops here and in Saipan.  So, it is time for them to ask some questions on behalf of the public they are supposed to serve.
  • Why wasn’t Eni on the delegation?What did the governor and other ASG officials discuss with the delegation while they were here? 
  • Did anyone make reference to Hastings’ statement on the issue and ask for the delegation’s intervention with the White House on the conservation expansion zone question? 
  • Why was press barred from talking to the CODEL in American Samoa but not in the Northern Mariana Islands? 
  • What was the security threat that concerned the delegation? 
  • Who made the decision to bar the media? 
  • Was this really just an accommodation to Faleomavaega?
  • Why haven’t any of the congressional candidates spoken up?
  • Why hasn’t anyone in the public spoken up?

Also contrast Faleomavaega’s weak statement on the conservation zone with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) courageous position on Iraq.  When President Obama announced the zone expansion in June without consulting the delegate, Faleomavaega's office issued a statement quoting him as saying “I appreciate that the President will focus on combating threats of overfishing and carbon pollution in the Pacific and their long-term negative effects on the health of our marine ecosystems and the livelihood of our people . . . [h]owever, while I fully support [his] commitment to protecting our oceans, I am very concerned that the stakeholders, including Territorial Delegates . . . were not consulted in advance about the possible impact some of these initiatives may have . . .”   How about if he had instead said: “I am deeply disappointed the President did not consult with me, the senior member of his party on the Subcommittee on Fish, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs.  I will be requesting the chairman hold hearings on this initiative.”  

Gabbard, on the other hand, on one of the recent Sunday national talk shows forthrightly said the U.S. counterterrorism mission is adrift and needs to be refocused to target and dismantle the Islamic State.  She criticized President Obama’s response to the threat posed by the Islamic State, recalling how a White House official said last week that U.S. air strikes in Iraq “are not an authorization of a broad-based counter-terrorism campaign” against the extremists. “So if our mission is not to take out the Islamic extremists who continue to threaten and wage war against us, then I think we've got a real problem here," she said. 

Brave stuff for someone who is a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which by its nature always backs the president down the line on policy issues and who also is on the House Armed Services Committee where, as a freshman legislator, she is expected to do the same.  Perhaps while he was recuperating in that Honolulu hospital room last year, someone removed Faleomavaega’s cajones and passed them to Gabbard.  Tough stuff for our macho, male-dominated Samoan society to swallow.

Falemoavaega’s impotence has not been lost on the groups--even his own local Democratic Party--that oppose Obama’s conservation zone expansion: they are abandoning him in droves.  All of them have filed their arguments directly with the White House, not through Faleomavaega’s office.  We have no doubts that his enforcer, Lisa Williams, has had or will have strong words with AS Democratic Party Chairman Ali’imau JR Scanlan—and probably the others--about that violation of protocol.   Apparently she comes unglued when she loses control.

If the question were asked of his office, they could always claim that the White House asked for the responses but protocol in American Samoa in the past always has been to submit them through the congressional office so a cover transmittal letter of support could be added.  They cannot claim that it had to be done this way because he is of a different party than the president or that he has a different position than the petitioners or because of the short fuse for reponses coming during a congressional recess since he is staying in Washington “because of the press of congressional business.”

We are only a couple of weeks away from the candidate filing deadline for Congress.  Although he, himself, has made no formal announcement nor have we received any word on when he intends to return to the territory, we can assume the “press of congressional business” will keep him in Washington until adjournment.  However, the way he has handled this conservation zone matter and the visit of the CODEL raises more questions about his fitness to continue, no matter how well he heals between now and election day.

To date, we have avoided calling for him to step down before the end of his term but since he still has not told anyone what ails him after almost 10 months, how will anyone know if he would be fit enough to serve another term.  What happens if he suffers a relapse?  Can we afford to be without a full time, fully functioning delegate?   After all, on the eve of the 2012 election he publicly announced, as quoted atop this blog, all the surgeries he had had and conditions he had suffered in recent years and asked for everyone to vote for him again anyway, regardless of what his future health might be.

Then, nine months into his new term, he took ill again, this time with a condition he has declined to identify.  Perhaps the time has come for him to reassess his situation and rather than file for reelection, announce his resignation and recommend the governor hold a special election concurrent with the general election to fill his vacancy, thus giving someone else a chance to start building seniority ahead of the enlarged Republican majority expected to be elected in November and take office in January.

To look after our affairs in Washington, can we afford two more years of a sick, old man in the minority who seemingly no one much listens to anyway?

Saturday, August 16, 2014


In the first commentary since the departure of the Congressional delegation last Sunday, Samoa News Editor-in-Chief Rhonda Annesley, in an August 15 signed editorial questioned whether Faleomavaega legally can run for re-election this November without setting foot in American Samoa in over a year.

“I have a simple question:” asked Annesley, “Can Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin legally run for office, without having to step on American Samoa soil?” 

Since only Congress can establish the eligibility of its members, the answer would seem to be yes, he can, but the question certainly is reasonable since, until recently, even prospective voters—including those serving abroad in the military or attending school—could register to vote only in person in American Samoa and only during the period the election office has the rolls open.  The cost of coming back to the island was a severe hardship for scholarship students who might have turned 18 only while away at school and virtual impossible for members of the armed forces—especially those deployed in combat zones.  A change in federal rules to ease overseas voting forced American Samoa to loosen its requirement.

However, Annesley shared our lament in our earlier post that he might campaign for re-election as an absentee candidate, rhetorically asking: “Can he run a “talofae” [sympathy] campaign — ‘I have served you faithfully for 28 years, I am recovering… please… vote for me one more time?’”  Sarcastically viewing it as a bad idea, she concluded: “Hey, I’ll vote for him… if he’s running… I’m all about ‘talofae’… GONGGGG!” [Gong meaning not]

The impact of having an ailing delegate continues to be felt.  Had he been a member of the Natural Resources Committee-led visit here last weekend, there should have been no question that American Samoa would have been more than just a refueling stop.  Or, perhaps, despite his very high seniority, he simply lacked the clout with the Committee to get them to stay longer, calculating that it would be better to stay off the delegation and not telegraph his inability to get a longer, substantive stop than to hope the delegation would get in and out of the territory with little public notice.  So far, it appears he has succeeded since only this blog has made much ado about his absence and we do not believe we are read much at the village level.  We cannot substitute for local media coverage.

In her editorial, Annesley revealed that she had been away ill herself for the past two weeks, so she gets a pass for her paper under-reporting the significance of the visit and what might have been accomplished—especially with the Obama conservation zone expansion. Perhaps she will make up for that in the week to come.  Be that as it may, however, if Faleomavaega’s condition has proven one thing, it is that we need more than him in Washington to look after our interests.

Local Democrats Bypass Delegate on Conservation Zone Issue

Indeed, the delegate’s political weakness in Washington was further demonstrated by a Saturday story in Samoa News about the local Democratic Party writing a letter to President Obama to appeal for a reversal of his decision to expand the Pacific conservation zone.   A letter from a political party to a President is unusual and such a letter written while one of its members is a sitting member of Congress is even more unusual if not unprecedented.  Clearly, even though his party has endorsed him for reelection, they clearly have lost confidence that Faleomavaega on his own--whether because of physical weakness of political weakness--can get Obama to turn around on a major decision threatening to negatively impact the territory. 

It was perhaps sensing just how uninfluential Faleomavaega is in Washington that prompted the local Democrats to weigh in with a letter bypassing him and instead going directly to Obama.  Protocol in the past has been to write to Faleomavaega and ask him to convey concerns to Executive Branch.  But there is so much at stake and clearly Faleomavaega is not firing on all cylinders that a typical approach through his office is too much of a risk.

The story of the letter, written by party chairman Ali’imau JR Scanlan, inexplicably appears buried in the paper’s sports section rather than somewhere in the “A” (news) section, if not on page one, where all previous stories related to this issue appeared this week.  Possibly the editors were embarrassed to be publishing an article written by Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law, who is not only an editor and writer for the paper but the territory’s Democratic National Committeewoman.  Of course, the paper carried no disclaimer of those facts.  Perhaps the editor, if not the writer, was aware that such an article would embarrass the delegate by telegraphing that the party was working around him, not following standard protocol of going through him.  It looks like the writer put party over family ties on this one.

Fono, Tuna Community, Chamber Also Bypassing Faleomavaega 

It is not lost on the American Samoa Democrats and other groups who are appealing directly to the White House, including the Fono, the American Tunaboat Association and the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce that compounding the problem of Faleomavaega’s continuing incapacitation, his usual allies in Congress are gone or going.  Sen. Danny Akaka (D-HI) has retired, former Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) was defeated, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the closest member to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) are retiring after November and Sen. Dan Inouye (D-HI), who years ago was bestowed with an honorary matai title for his help on our issues, has passed away.

Speaking of Inouye, the primary defeat on Saturday of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), an Inouye protégé, to fill Inouye’s unexpired term, has thrown the Hawaii Democratic Party into disarray, which also further weakens Faleomavaega politically because he has fewer and fewer long term allies in that state on whom he can depend to move his issues.  Moreover, there is not a single impartial national political analyst who believes the Democrats have any chance of regaining control of the House this year and many believe the way current district lines are drawn, Democrats probably cannot return to power until 2022 following the redrawing of lines after the next census.  If he were still alive and in office, Faleomavaega would be almost 80 years old.

Faleomavaega and Sablan

Contrast Faleomavaega, if you will, with his colleague from the Northern Marianas, Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan (I-MP).  Sablan is on the trip and, as we speculated in an earlier post, the Northern Marianas are getting more than refueling stop treatment.  They have not even arrived yet but already there is one newspaper story about the dinner the governor is hosting for the group on Sunday evening.  Then on Monday morning, the delegation will be special guests at the opening of the permanent Garapan public market.

Had he been given the opportunity, Governor Lolo certainly would have done the same and no doubt a ribbon cutting or other special event could have been whipped up as well.  The Northern Mariana Islands are almost a twin to American Samoa:

  • both attained self-government through an elected governor the same year (1977);
  • both territories are similar in population size;
  • both have a substantial foreign-born population;
  • both are still very dependent on federal assistance;
  • both also have non-voting delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives who are members of the Democratic caucus;
  • both delegates are members of the House Natural Resources Committee. 
The differences?  CNMI’s delegate is healthy and on the job full time.  Moreover, he concentrates on issues of direct relevance to CNMI and as his second committee serves on Education and the Workforce, not foreign affairs.  His travel has been limited largely to returning to his islands, which he does frequently according to his website; he is not distracted from his focus by adventures into such things as Asian politics, Hawaiian sovereignty or the nickname of Washington, D.C.’s National Football League team.  Only in his third term, Sablan already has substantive legislative achievements (Faleomavaega has none) and is the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Insular subcommittee, which means he would be in line to become chairman if the Democrats took back control of the House.

So, as the CODEL works its way through its visit to CNMI, gently guided by Delegate Sablan, we shall see what our leaders, our media and the candidates for Faleomavaega’s job have to say.  Frankly, our politicians should be enraged and offended that our territory has gotten such short shrift by such an important and influential group of House members.  There are ways to express this without blaming the delegation.  It is the fault of our delegate. If he is not up to the job and his staff cannot get his job done for him, he needs to quit hanging on.

Faleomavaega and Gabbard

Finally, if you want further contrast in Washington, compare Faleomavaega to U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI):

  • both have Samoan and palagi (Hunkin; Gabbard) blood;
  • both were born in American Samoa;
  • both were raised and spent their formative years in Hawaii;
  • neither has built a personal famly home here;
  • neither has spent substantial time here over the years;
  • both have served in the U.S. Army in combat zones (Faleomavaega-Vietnam; Gabbard-Iraq);
  • both are Democrats and are members of the House Democratic caucus;
  • both are on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and its subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific (AP);
  • Faleomavaega is Ranking Member of the AP subcommittee and, while he was incapacitated, Gabbard (despite serving 12 fewer terms than Faleomavaega) was next in line and in his absence did fill that role at hearings;
  • both have interest in issues involving India and serve on the Congressional India caucus; when the new prime minister was elected, Faleomavaega sent a congratulatory message; Gabbard got him on the telephone;
  • both are members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).
Unlike Faleomavaega, who remains largely unknown in Washington after almost 13 terms, Gabbard, who is almost 40 years younger, has taken the town by storm.  Before even being sworn in, she was appointed as a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee; Faleomavaega once ran for a seat on the DNC from American Samoa but was defeated; if Faleomavaega wanted to take some solace from Gabbard’s achievement, it came at the expense of  U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA).  Honda, who was dumped in facor of Gabbard for the DNC’s A-P vice chairmanship, was behind elevating then-freshman U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) to succeed him as CAPAC chairman over Faleomavaega, who had loyally served as vice chairman to Honda for seven years. 

The selection of Chu also broke with past precedent of alternating the chairmanship between Mainland members and island members.  When Faleomavaega left the vice chairmanship after this humiliation, CAPAC gave the number two slot to Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D).  Bordallo's predecessor in the House, then-Rep. Robert Underwood (D-GU), served as CAPAC chairman in only his third term; Faleomavaega never has.

Gabbard, who also serves on the Armed Services Committee (a natural choice, given the huge military presence in Hawaii) also has been in high demand by the national media, particularly on military and veterans’ issues.  When the VA health scandal broke recently, Gabbard was on numerous national news shows.  As Iraq comes back into the news, Gabbard—who is on of only two Members of Congress with combat service in Iraq—also can be seen frequently on numerous national talk shows.  She even has been on in connection with the two hurricanes that recently passed through Hawaii.   As far as we can tell from our research, Faleomavaega never has been on a national news show--not even during his four years as AP subcommittee chairman--except for the Comedy Channel's Colbert Report.  [With apologies to Rhonda Annesley--GONG].

So, while Eni limps around, if he is moving much at all, Tulsi Gabbard has more than taken up the slack and lack of Samoan visibility in Washington while the American Samoa Democratic Party, the Foono, ATA and the Chamber all have gotten into the act, this time bypassing the delegate rather than shoring him up.

So, yes, he can run again even if he does not come home before the election.  But why would he want to?  And why would we re-elect him? 

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Oh, to have been walking on Monday down the corridor of the congressional building that houses Faleomavaega’s offices. Visitors might have been surprised to have heard the sound of champagne corks popping and hands slapping in “high-fives” as the delegate’s chief enforcer, Lisa Williams, and her communications staff surely must have been celebrating the quiet Sunday arrival in Pago Pago then less than 90 minutes later the departure of a high ranking delegation of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  The group flew in and out without ever having seen the place or having had to entertain the question “Where’s Eni?”  So, the island went back to enjoying a typically quiet Sunday afternoon of church and family activities.

To add to what must have been the sheer delight of Faleomavaega’s staff, the media did not even make any mention of his absence in their coverage, despite the irony that he is the senior Democrat on the visiting House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs (FWOIA) and the second most senior Democrat on the Full Committee, whose chairman headed the delegation. 

Did you read that, folks?  To repeat it with emphasis, the House subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs.  Sink in yet?

The media chose, instead, merely to shrug it off as a short refueling stop for yet another transiting “CODEL” while noting that the press was barred for “security reasons,” although Samoa News did acknowledge in passing that the exclusion was unprecedented.  If his staff’s mission were not to let this delegation’s visit serve as a platform for raising more questions about Faleomavaega’s extended, nine-plus month absence from the territory, they succeeded.  Totally.

Without fear of any contradiction, it is not an overstatement to say that the Natural Resources Committee, and particularly the FWOIA subcommittee, whose chairman and Ranking Member also were on the trip, is the single most important committee to American Samoa in either the House or the Senate.  The local media did a grave disservice to its readers and listeners not to point that out.  For the sake of our readership in the territory, we will.

While not reflected in its title, the Committee on Natural Resources (which for many years was called the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs) has primary legislative jurisdiction over all federal matters involving the U.S. territories.  So important is this committee that all delegates from the five Caribbean and Pacific U.S. territories, including American Samoa, are automatically assigned to serve on it; rarely has any of them left it.  Moreover, considering the current major issue of President Obama’s expansion of the U.S. Pacific conservation zone, which could have devastating impact on our local fishing industry, the subcommittee that oversees fisheries and oceans as well as insular legislation, could not be more important to us.  Yet, the media says nothing and the people slumber.

Exactly who was on the delegation?   For starters, the chairman of the Full Committee, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), was the leader.  When Obama announced expansion of the conservation zone in June (without any consultation with Faleomavaega), Hastings issued a statement opposing it.  Yet, if the local media covered his objection at the time it was announced, we missed it.  In their coverage of the stopover, neither Samoa News nor KHJ-FM made any mention of it.  Moreover, if the governor discussed the problem with Hastings, he has not told the press and four days now after the visit, it has to be wondered if the media has even asked.

[While it is possible, though not likely, Faleomavaega’s input on the conservation zone was not sought because of his illness and extended absence from the House, despite his having been an early and ardent supporter of Obama’s first nomination, perhaps he can take solace in the knowledge that many House Democrats are complaining the President is ignoring them, according to a story in The Hill.]

To further underscore the magnitude of the media disconnect between the visit and the issues, Samoa News in its August 13 edition (two days after the departure of the CODEL) carried a story top of page one left side under the headline “Marine Sanctuary Expansion Looms”  and published yet another page one story the following day .  These stories describe efforts underway to write letters of opposition to the President and a resolution working its way through the Fono.  Yet not a word on Doc Hastings’ opposition, which supports ASG’s position.  Not a single word.  Here is the chairman of the powerful committee that has legislative jurisdiction over the issue and his fisheries and oceans subcommittee chairman.  Was the delegation briefed on these efforts and was their support enlisted?  If so, why has the governor not said anything?  If not, why has the media not asked?

If it were not so serious for the future of our economy, this tactical misfire would be comical.  In its way, it is reminiscent of an amusing video well circulated on the Internet of police racing into a bank to stop a robbery in progress but in their effort to get into the bank overlooking right in front of them the robbers in the getaway car, which maneuvers between the cop cars to escape undetected.  Other questions that seemed to have slipped the minds of our reporters:  Why was this only a refueling stop?  Why was the media barred?  Why did the delegation not even leave the VIP room?  What did the governor discuss with them?   Are these not questions the media should be asking?

The delegation also included Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture which, among other things, is the committee of jurisdiction over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly known here as food stamps, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, both of which are of fundamental importance to American Samoa. 

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was also on the delegation.  He is one of the so-called “cardinals” who chair the 13 subcommittees of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations.  Kingston’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has funding responsibility  for these departments and agencies: Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and other related agencies including the Social Security Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.  It also oversees workforce safety and development, health programs, social services, education, and retirement security, and related functions.  We receive funding from virtually all of these bodies.  Is that not worth a question or two? 

Kingston, whose congressional district is home to the Chicken of the Sea processing plant in Lyons, GA, also is the House member who tried to reduce the “Buy American” content percentage for tuna in the agriculture appropriations bill.  Is that not something about which the people might like to know more?  The jursidiction over Labor also includes minimum wage.

Then there was Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.  Might not Utu Abe Malae have wanted to spend some time with him.  Or Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), who is the Ranking Member of the Agriculture subcommittee that handles legislation on rural development, including telephone service?  Might not the ASTCA officials have wanted time with him?  Or Del. Gregorio Sablan (I-MP), the Ranking Member of the Fish, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular subcommittee?

So, now the big question on our minds if not on those of our crack local reporters: Where was Eni?
Readers of this blog well know there is nary a congressional delegation to anywhere in the world that he has missed in a quarter century in office--until he fell ill last October.  Since that time, all we know of his travels is that he was evacuated to Hawaii for medical treatment, then to somewhere on the Mainland for “rehabilitation,” and finally to Washington, where he apparently continues rehabilitation to this day.

As we previously reported, his district director, Fai’ivae Alex Godinet (who, with the governor, was at the airport to greet the delegation), recently announced Faleomavaega would seek re-election, on his behalf asked for and received from the local Democratic Party endorsement (unanimous) for that purpose.  He apologized for Faleomavaega not being at the meeting, with a story characterizing him as saying “due to the work load and the work schedule with the congressional office in Washington DC, Faleomavaega is unable to make the party's meeting.”  More recently,  Radio Australia confirmed with Faleomavaega’s sister Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau, ASG’s Director of Education, that Faleomavaega would be a candidate, saying “He is doing fine and he has decided to run,” and adding, "He is busy in Washington doing his work there.”


Congress is in summer recess and there are no committee hearings or other business going on in Washington.  Virtually every member of the House and Senate is back in their districts or states working and campaigning if not traveling abroad in congressional delegations such as the one that stopped here Sunday.  So the question remains: given the importance of this delegation, given his membership and seniority on this committee and given his proven penchant for travel, where was he?  What possibly could be of more importance than being at close quarters with these important Members of Congress on his home soil and elsewhere for a couple of weeks, particularly when most of them are ruling Republicans, to whom he has little regular access in Washington?

To its credit, Radio KHJ did air a short story about one congressional candidate being at the airport to greet the delegation that gave a little insight on the discussions and the Samoa Post published a longer story on Thursday, but it is an on-line newspaper with limited circulation.  Samoa News published nothing.  It is likely the candidate who did show up got word of the visit through an extensive network of contacts in Washington, while the other five announced aspirants to Faleomavaega’s seat were in the dark.

Why all the secrecy and lack of access?   It seems reasonable to assume that Faleomavaega still has health problems that preclude his travel.  Otherwise, anyone who travels as much as he does would have been on this delegation.  Perhaps in hopes his absence would go unnoticed, it is reasonable to speculate that he asked the delegation to keep their visit low key.  It appears he has succeeded.  It has been four days now and there has been no commentary by Samoa News even though the editor recently published a signed editorial that expressed great frustration at Faleomavaega’s absence from the territory for over nine months without explanation.

In fact, this trip might have been a welcome test for him as to whether his absence would continue to be unnoticed.  The press coverage suggests it has.  His strategy well may be to stay away from American Samoa altogether and campaign from his arm chair (or wheel chair?) in Washington through newspaper ads and softly voiced radio commercials begging voters to forgive him for his absence and pleading for one final term to complete his vital work on behalf of the people.  

Why not?  It could work. Anyone who has seen his recent photographs knows how bad he looks.  We would welcome the opportunity for him to come home so we could see for ourselves. However, without strong media or public criticism over his extended absence, he very well may calculate he will lose fewer votes by being away than by letting people see how old, ill, infirm and immobile he is.  He surely has our media bamboozled.  And he has the system just as he wants it because of how he fine-tuned it. 

His reelection prospects are vastly aided by the one and only American Samoa-related bill he has had enacted into law during his time in Congress: the delegate election plurality bill This law, passed a decade ago, which detractors derisively have labeled the “Faleomavaega Perpetual Reelection Act,” amended the federal law establishing our congressional seat to eliminate the requirement that a candidate win a majority of the vote in order to be elected.  Now only a plurality is needed.  In a multi-candidate race, the incumbent could win reelection with substantially less than a majority of the vote.  In the past, the top two vote-getters would face each other in a runoff.  That would have been dangerous for Faleomavaega in his current condition.

Faleomavaega has a very loyal support base in vote-rich Leone and the surrounding villages in Tutuila’s Western District.  The more opponents he has, the fewer votes he needs to win as long as he holds those Leone votes.  It is no accident that the well paid director of his district office is a senior high chief in Leone.  Petitions are circulating now and it is speculated he may have as many as nine opponents this year.  We will know on September 2 when petitions are due in the election office.

One other reason he has gotten away with only minimal criticism about being absent for so long both here and in Washington is that public attention has been diverted by the coincidental absence of the governor, who also has been ill and away for much of this same period.  However, Governor Lolo, who took ill in Washington in February and then recuperated in Hawaii—also without much explanation, returned to duty last week after five months away, so it will be interesting to see if public attention and the media spotlight now will turn on the delegate, especially as we move into high campaign season after Labor Day.

Lolo’s illness has fueled speculation that he may retire after a single term, thus prompting his predecessor, former governor Togiola, to get into the race for Congress.  There are those who believe that Togiola would like to use the congressional seat to regain public visibility and as a springboard back into another run at governor in 2016.  None of this conjecture has found its way into media coverage, of course, just the coconut wireless.

The on-line version of the August 1 Samoa News editorial “Gong Show: Another word for politics — Samoan style”  that asked Faleomavaega to come clean with the public on his health and intentions prompted one reader to urge the paper not to publish his propaganda in the meantime, to which the webmaster replied “Hey we're not stupid.”
When the media asked why they were barred from the congressional stop, they were told it was for security reasons and was requested by the delegation.  Perhaps so, but this is a taxpayer funded trip and we have our doubts.  We also will be following with interest the other stops this delegation is making in New Zealand, Australia and especially the Northern Marianas.  With the Northern Marianas delegate a member of the delegation and this being an election year for him as well, we would be very surprised if he would limit media coverage when the group is on Saipan.  Moreover, the robust Saipan media would not tolerate it.  Let’s hope our media watches on-line (as we will) and reports to the people.

Even though it has been four days since the “Faleomavaegaless” delegation was here, maybe we will hear yet from the Samoa News editor again but the way the paper and the radio station finessed his absence from this visit—which could have been far more consequential than it appears to have been, he seems to believe the local media is stupid, even if they do not.  Who can blame him?  He got away with it and the media deserves Gong Show treatment for it.  Drink up that champagne, Eni’s staff, drink up.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Democrat Nod Goes to Faleomavaega in a Slick Maneuver

Former Governor Togiola Tulafono (D), a Clinton delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Tua'au Kereti Mata’utia (D), the Governor’s Deputy Senior Policy Adviser and other candidates for Congress who identify themselves as Democrats must have been furious when they learned that the local Democratic Party, which is chaired by a former chief of staff to Eni Faleomavaega, endorsed the ailing House member, who was an Obama delegate to the 2008 convention, for an unprecedented 14th term in Congress in November.

The notice of a July 23 party meeting was in the newspaper but it is unclear if it were billed as a meeting to nominate or endorse candidates for this year’s elections.  Moreover, without access to the party bylaws or rules, there is no way to know what requirements there are for notifying party members and potential candidates that an endorsement meeting will be held, or even if there were any such a requirement at all.

However, it was a slick maneuver in which the party chairman read a letter from Faleomavaega’s district office chairman in his capacity as the campaign committee chairman saying Faleomavaega would be seeking re-election and would like the party’s endorsement.  Had they known about it, Togiola and the others very well might have liked to have competed for that endorsement.   The party chairman then called for a vote and, according to Radio KHJ-FM, the dozen party attendees present (out of 600 people said to be members) unanimously endorsed Faleomavaega for re-election.  Again, without benefit of knowing party procedures, it is not possible to ascertain what constitutes a quorum for such an action.

What makes this move so slick is that Togiola almost surely would have reminded party members of his fealty to Clinton, who is favored to be the party’s 2016 presidential nominee and current front runner for election to succeed Obama, who cannot run again.  Clinton is reported to keep a list of past supporters and Togiola no doubt would have reminded his party mates that he is on it and Faleomavaega is not.

Faleomavaega’s emissary apologized for the delegate not appearing in person, citing the press of congressional business but skeptics continue to wonder if the delegate's continuing health problems prevented his return for the meeting; he has not set foot in American Samoa since suffering an as yet undisclosed illness last October.  His letter, however, does now make it clear who picked up the congressional campaign packet from the election office.

Interestingly, Radio KHJ ran the story of the endorsement meeting while Samoa News did not.  Anyone familiar with Faleomavaega’s looks will see from what is obviously a more recent photograph than KHJ heretofore had been using, that the delegate has lost substantial weight and looks every bit the age of the elderly man now in his eighth decade that he is.

However, Samoa News Editor-in-Chief Rhonda Annesley on August 1 published a signed editorial  that included a public note to the delegate: 

“Eni: At least give those poor six people who have declared themselves as running for your seat some relief. ARE YOU RUNNING OR NOT? And for the voters, WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU SUFFER FROM? A stroke, food poisoning… what are you in ‘re-hab’ for — drugs? Too much ava? Not enough air? WHAT?

"Here’s a thought for all you ‘public’ figures in public offices — WE, THE VOTERS, HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW HOW COMPETENT YOU ARE — MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY — TO CARRY ON YOUR DUTIES THAT WE VOTED YOU IN TO DO!“ [emphasis hers]

Samoa News has been somewhat schizophrenic in its coverage of Faleomavaega since he took ill: sometimes running his press releases as if he were going at full steam in Washington and other times gently raising the health question.  This time, however, it seems that, as the election approaches, the editor has thrown down the gauntlet. So far, there has been no response out of Faleomavaega’s office. 

It also well may be that Samoa News has decided the time has come to hold the delegate’s feet to the fire.  In the comments section of the Internet edition of the paper, under the editorial one reader pointed out that Faleomavaega actually did announce for re-election at the July 23 party meeting.  The webmaster responded “We're well aware the local dems have endorsed Eni, after all the Dem's committee woman is our copy editor (and Eni's sister-in-law). However we have not heard it from the congressman and until we do, it's not a story Samoa News chooses to publish.

In fact the webmaster is correct.  The endorsement request read by party chairman Ali’imau JR Scanlan was signed not by the congressman but by the delegate’s district office director, who also serves as his campaign committee chairman.  How cozy.  The webmaster went on to say that “[w]e assume he will run, but have had no official word. In the meantime, if the PR his office releases is of vital interest and the only source for the info we will publish it, whether he is running or not. That's the advantage of being the incumbent. If it is just propaganda BS we don't use it, whether it is an election year or not. Hey we're not stupid.”

A quick look at recent back issues shows that the paper indeed has not published a number of his press releases, particularly those relating to his foreign affairs work rather than his work for American Samoa.  In one instance, when publishing a story based on his release about a bill passing the Senate that has provisions for American Samoa, Samoa News took the unusual step of editorializing in the headline that it would not likely pass the House, thus taking the wind out of Faleomavaega’s sails.   The headline on the Faleomavaega release read “Senate Passes S. 1237, Omnibus Territories Bill with Faleomavaega's Provisions for American Samoa Included”   but the Samoa News headline read: Omnibus Territories Act passes Senate,unlikely to pass U.S. House.

His release stated “While passage by the Senate is a victory, the Omnibus Territories Act still needs to be passed by the House, and I look forward to working with my colleagues as we try to move this forward.  I will keep the people of American Samoa updated as the matter progresses, and I offer my sincere appreciation to the Senate for supporting the Territories…”   While carrying his quote, Samoa News concluded its story: “, a website that tracks legislation and legislators in the U.S. government, gives the Omnibus Act a 36% chance of being enacted.”   So, maybe now that the stakes are so high with the election approaching, Samoa News plans to adopt a consistent "get tough" approach to covering him.

So far from Washington, this blog could not be published without access to all the material available on the Internet.   It appears Samoa News realizes it has access to the same resources to check the veracity of Faleomavaega's claims while KHJ now has a Washington correspondent to do the same.   That could be bad news for Faleomavaega, who has gotten away with murder in previous elections, especially if he tries to hide out in Washington until the last moments of the campaign.  He had better hope for a late adjournment of the House or be prepared to explain why he isn't on the first plane back home the moment the adjournment gavel bangs down.

It is also worth pointing out that Faleomavaega gets an extra benefit out of this party’s endorsement that in itself is a story worth Samoa News covering.  The information is all at hand on the Internet.  Under Federal law, candidates for the Congress may take no more than $2,600 from an individual and $5,000 from a political committee per election.   What few people here realize is that in lieu of primaries, nominating conventions and caucuses (such at the Democrats’ July 23 gathering) count as a separate election.  So, all those donors who already contributed the maximum amounts to him earlier this year or last year after he filed for re-election on January 31, 2013 now can again give him their maximum amount again. 

In other words, the individuals who gave him $2,600 already now can give him another $2,600.  According to Federal Election Commission records, he already has amassed over $40,000 in contributions, much of it from maximum donors.  He ought to be able to go back to these same folks and be able to double the size of his treasury overnight.  Keep an eye on the FEC website.

At the same time, those candidates who are running as independents have no intervening election, so their donors will be limited to the maximum amount once only.  Now it becomes obvious why it was so important for Faleomavaega to have the formal endorsement of his party.  Togiola and Tua'au are attorneys.  It would come as no surprise to find that they are looking through the American Samoa Democratic Party rules to see if all the endorsement procedures were followed correctly.  Much is at stake.