It looks like the Pacific Island component of the Jack Abramoff story is coming back to the fore. So let’s review one part of that story.
Abramoff’s first big gig was to defend the garment industry in the Marianas islands from any laws which would prevent them from running sweatshops that produced goods with the ‘Made in the USA’ label.
One of the biggest of these operations is that of Tan Holdings, owned by Willie Tan. The way their highly lucrative garment operations worked was to import labor from China and other Asian nations, set them up in barracks working up to 90 hours a week, and pay them third world wages. These clothes could then be stamped “Made in the USA” and imported into the states duty-free because the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands is a US territory.
That gave the Tan operations and others on the island a clear competitive advantage against genuine third world garment sweatshops, which can’t use the “Made in the USA” label, and actual garment factories in the USA which have to abide by 20th century labor standards.
You see, there’s a niche for everyone in this world.
In addition to inhuman working conditions and terrible wages, the garment workers brought to Marianas were subjected to other fun stuff like beatings and forced abortions.
Anyway, Abramoff’s job was to fend off repeated efforts through the 1990s to crack down on the working conditions on the island which approached something similar to indentured servitude. And he got Tom DeLay and other Republican members of Congress to vociferously champion the cause of Marianas island sweatshops.
One of the things Tan did for Abramoff was to pay — along with two of Abramoff’s Indian clients, the Choctaw and the Chitimacha — the fees for the skyboxes Abramoff rented at sports complexes around DC.
These are the skyboxes he used to give away freebies to congressional staffers like Mark Graul, chief of staff to Rep. Mark Green of Wisconsin as well as host fundraisers for sundry pols.
Here’s the exchange of emails between Abramoff and Willie Tan in which Abramoff hits up Tan for his quarterly payment.