Okay, in the post
below I linked to this new AP article
tying Sen. Harry Reid to Jack Abramoff. The article references a number of contacts and contributions relating to the Marianas, Indian tribes, even Malaysia. Each should be looked at. The one about the Marianas Islands and their wage practices is just one. But it's the one that stood out to me. Here below are the passages about the Marianas ...
Reid, D-Nev., has led the Democratic Party's attacks portraying Abramoff's lobbying and fundraising as a Republican scandal.
But Abramoff's records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid's office in 2001 alone.
Most were to discuss Democratic legislation that would have applied the U.S. minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and Abramoff client, but would have given the islands a temporary break on the wage rate, the billing records show.
Reid himself, along his Senate counsel Jim Ryan, met with Abramoff deputy Ronald Platt on June 5, 2001, "to discuss timing on minimum wage bill" that affected the Marianas, according to a bill that Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's firm, sent the Marianas.
Three weeks before the meeting, Greenberg Traurig's political action committee donated $1,000 to Reid's Senate re-election committee. Three weeks after the meeting, Platt himself donated $1,000 to Reid.
Manley said Reid's official calendar doesn't list a meeting on June 5, 2001, with Platt, but he also said he couldn't say for sure the contact didn't occur. Manley confirmed Platt had regular contacts with Reid's office, calling them part of the "routine checking in" by lobbyists who work Capitol Hill.
As for the timing of donations, Manley said, "There is no connection. This is just a typical part of lawful fundraising."
The Marianas, U.S. territorial islands in the Pacific Ocean, were one of Abramoff's highest-paying clients and were trying to keep their textile industry exempt from most U.S. laws on immigration, labor and pay, including the minimum wage. Many Democrats have long accused the islands of running garment sweatshops.
The islands in 2001 had their own minimum wage of $3.05 an hour, and were exempt from the U.S. minimum of $5.15.
Republicans were intent on protecting the Marianas' exemption. Democrats, led by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of California, wanted the Marianas to be covered by the U.S. minimum and crafted a compromise.
In February 2001, Kennedy introduced a bill that would have raised the U.S. hourly minimum to $6.65 and would have covered the Marianas. The legislation, which eventually failed, would have given the islands an initial break by setting its minimum at just $3.55 _ nearly $3 lower than any other territory or state _ and then gradually increasing it.
Within a month, Platt began billing for routine contacts and meetings with Reid's staff, starting with a March 26, 2001, contact with Reid chief of staff Susan McCue to "discuss timing and status of minimum wage legislation," the billing records say.
In all, Platt and a fellow lobbyist reported 21 contacts in 2001 with Reid's office, mostly with McCue and Ryan.
One of the Marianas contacts, listed for May 30, 2001, was with Edward Ayoob, Reid's legislative counsel. Within a year, Ayoob had left Reid's office to work for Abramoff's firm, registering specifically to lobby for the islands as well as several tribes. Manley confirmed Ayoob had subsequent lobbying contacts with Reid's office.
Now, do you notice what gets left unsaid in all this?
What did Reid do in response? That's really the key issue.
Did he intervene on behalf of Abramoff's Marianas clients? The gist of the whole narrative is that Reid was Team Abramoff's go-to guy to kill the bill that would have hurt the Marianas sweatshop owners.
But did he actually rise to the bait?
I rung up Reid spokesman Jim Manley. He said Reid was a "cosponsor of Sen. Kennedy's bill; he spoke in favor of the bill on the Senate; he was a strong supporter of the bill." When I pressed Manley on whether Sen. Reid took any action adverse to the bill or made changes in timing that lead to the bill's demise, he said, "No."
Then I got hold of Ron Platt, the lobbyist referenced in the passage above, on his cell phone while he was down at a conference in Florida. I asked him whether, to the best of his recollection, Reid had taken any action against the Kennedy bill. "I'm sure he didn't," Platt told me.
According to Platt, the purpose of his contacts was to see what information he could get about the timing and status of the legislation. Reid's position on the minimum wage issue was well known and there would have been no point trying to get his help blocking it. That's what Platt says. "I didn't ask Reid to intervene," said Platt. "I wouldn't have asked him to intervene. I don't think anyone else would have asked. And I'm sure he didn't."
Now, obviously, both Reid's office and Platt are interested parties on this question. If there were evidence to the contrary you wouldn't necessarily want to take their statements at face value. But as far as I can tell there is no evidence to the contrary. And that's after speaking with supporters of the legislation who would probably know. They don't seem to think Reid had anything to do with tanking the minimum wage bill. Nothing.
In this case, despite the AP
story's narrative of lobbyist contacts, there doesn't seem to be any evidence whatsoever that Reid ever took any action on behalf of Abramoff's Marianas clients.
Wasn't that worth a mention?