Democrat Nod Goes to Faleomavaega in a Slick Maneuver
From ABCDEF Blog August 6, 2014
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: “GovTrack.us, 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.