Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Foreign Funds May Have Been Funneled to Faleomavaega
From ABCDEF Group:
One of the more curious aspects of Delegate Faleomavaega's career has been his devotion to issues involving Kazakhstan, a central Asian country he has visited numerous times. Central Asian countries have never been under the legislative jurisdiction of the Asia-Pacific subcommittee on which he serves and which he chaired from 2007 to this January. The mutual love relationship has been so great that the Kazakh government once even took out an advertisement in the Washington Post to sing Faleomavaega's praises. Now it may be coming more clear.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is a thirty-year-old nonpartisan, independent, watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO, which, according to its mission statement, investigates "corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government," has turned its attention to Kazakhstan's cozy relations with members of Congress.
The POGO investigation has uncovered circumstantial evidence that strongly supports some claims that the Kazakh Embassy has used lobbyists to create two separate caucuses dedicated to supporting its interests: the Friends of Kazakhstan caucus and the Caucus on Central Asia. Employees from the lobbying firms hired to create the most recent caucus—the Caucus on Central Asia—have donated thousands of dollars to every member that has served in a leadership capacity of that caucus.
According to POGO: "One Member of Congress, Delegate Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa, a co-chair and driving force behind the creation of the Central Asia caucus, particularly stands out. In the 2010 election cycle, two of Faleomavaega’s top organizational contributors had been under contract with the Republic of Kazakhstan: Employees and family members from Policy Impact Communications, the lobbying firm hired to create the Central Asia caucus, contributed $4,800, making the firm Faleomavaega’s second largest organizational contributor; and another firm, Steptoe and Johnson, which is the Republic of Kazakhstan’s outside counsel, contributed $2,000 through its Political Action Committee."
Faleomavaega long has been the subject of criticism by his opponents for relying on big contributors with Asian names living in California and labor unions with no activities in American Samoa for the lion's share of his campaign budgets. A few maximum contributions from these special interests will buy a lot of election day plate lunches for voters. He always seems to be able to tap these same sources time and again for all the money he needs to ward off stiff challenges. His supporters insist donors with Asian names are legal contributors interested in his work on the Foreign Affairs Committee, with some having interest on his position on tuna boats built in Taiwan whose owners want access to the South Pacific through American Samoa. He switched his position recently to oppose the legislative change necessary to clear the way for the boats so it will be interesting to see what contributors drop off his list this next campaign.
Meanwhile, there is no telling where the POGO investigation is going. The full details of the scandal can be read here: LINK.
One thing is almost certain: don't hold your breath waiting for Samoa News, where Faleomavaega's sister-in-law is an editor, to report on this issue. Expect this to be swept under the rug the way they have minimized almost every controversy involving Faleomavaega over the years.
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Saturday, April 9, 2011
Faleomavaega Praises Reelection of Dictator despite International Community Views
From ABCDEF Group:
Caspionet, the state run national satellite television channel of the Republic of Kazakhstan has seized upon the comments of one person, Faleomavaega, to declare on its website, that “the US Congress believes that the early elections in Kazakhstan demonstrated transparency and freedom of choice.”
Caspionet goes on to say Faleomavaega noted that this transparency and freedom of choice “was because of the officials of the country and especially Nursultan Nazarbayev.”
Caspionet quotes Faleomavaega as saying: “For a country like Kazakhstan with some 40 religious organizations, 65% Muslim and 20% Russian Orthodox, I think speaks well to the fact that it has rather tremendous religious freedom, allowing the people to express their own personal religious preferences.”
Oh, my, my.
Of course, the respected international Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) saw it a bit differently. According to a Reuters News Agency report, “Kazakhstan's presidential election revealed the same shortcomings as past polls,” with International observers noting “that reforms necessary for holding genuine democratic elections have yet to materialize."
Reuters went on to quote Ambassador Daan Everts as saying "Regrettably we have to conclude that this election could and should have been better." Everts is Head of the long-term election observation mission deployed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
Faleomavaega’s continued fawning support for Kazakhstan's long serving dictator comes as no surprise, as he has lent his backing to the Kazakh president in the past and has also warmed to other dictators as well, including Fiji’s Frank Bainamarama.
But his comments here are so completely at odds with the findings of international observers, and are so embarrassing, one has to believe that Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is an editor, will quickly and quietly bury them. Prediction: you will only read this story here. The links to the Reuters and Caspionet stories are provided above, lest you think we are exaggerating.
NYT: Feud in Kazakh President’s Family Spills Into U.S.
POGO/Truthout: Kazakhstan Family Feud Entangles Members of Congress
POGO: Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Requesting an Investigation of Possible Unlawful Foreign Funding of Members of Congress
HFP: The Tsunami and Mufi’s Samoan Connection