Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer swears he's never met Jack Abramoff. But his track record of serving as a key ally for one of Abramoff's star clients, the Northern Mariana Islands, makes it clear that the two had a surprising overlap of interests over a number of years.
Read More →
This weekend, The Denver Post detailed how Schaffer had beautifully orchestrated Abramoff's lobbying strategy for the islands in a September, 1999 Congressional hearing.
Schaffer told the Post that his "were questions that occurred to me at the time listening to the testimony." But it's apparent from the course of the hearing that's not true.
In a 1998 memo, Abramoff had laid out that strategy, which concentrated on attacking Interior Department officials who had been advocating stricter immigration and labor laws on the islands. Flying lawmakers on junkets to the islands, Abramoff wrote, was "one of the most effective ways to build permanent friends on the Hill." The September hearing occurred just weeks after Schaffer's Abramoff-organized trip to the islands.
Perhaps even more remarkable, though, was the form that Schaffer's attack took against Interior officials. Human rights activists had arranged for Nousher Jahedi, a Bangladeshi laborer who'd been robbed by human traffickers on his way to the Northern Marianas, to appear at the hearing.
Schaffer's aggressive questioning of Jahedi brings to mind comments that Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) entered into the Congressional record in 1997 -- comments that were shown to have been prepared by Jack Abramoff. Hall said that one of the key test cases of abuse on the islands, the testimony of a fifteen year-old girl who'd been forced to work for a local nightclub, was being distorted. She "wanted to do nude dancing." Hall has also said he never met Abramoff.
In his prepared statement, Jahedi told the committee that he'd paid a $7,000 "recruitment fee" to get a job on the islands, a U.S. territory, but that his recruiter had robbed him of $1,700 at gunpoint in the Philippines, and then demanded an additional $29,000 when the group of Bangladeshis finally reached the islands. When they could not pay, they were turned loose and found themselves "homeless and destitute."
Schaffer led the questioning of Jahedi. In a clearly choreographed allotting of time by the Republican members of the committee, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), a key Abramoff ally who chaired most of the hearing, ceded all of his questioning time for Schaffer to grill Jahedi.