Bob Schaffer and the real CNMI story, Part 9
This is the ninth in a series of articles responding articles in the Denver Post by reporter Michael Riley which attack former Congressman and current Senate candidate Bob Schaffer for a fact-finding trip Schaffer took to the Northern Marianas Islands (“CNMI”) in 1999. It is the third of four notes responding to two articles (one in the Post and one in the Rocky Mountain News) regarding the reappearance of Allen Stayman, a pro-union political partisan who attacked the CNMI from his office in the Clinton Administration's Interior Department and then from a position as a Democratic Senate staffer.
“Catholics United” (against Republicans) and Sister Mary Stella
Another participant in the media stunt at Bob Schaffer’s campaign office was James Salt, an “organizing director” of a liberal 527 called “Catholics United”. Salt’s only campaign contribution I can find was for a Democratic candidate for Congress and his organization is now running ads attacking John McCain for not “defending all human life”, despite the fact that McCain is anti-abortion while Obama is not only pro-abortion but hasn’t seemed that opposed to infanticide. In other words, “Catholics United” is, like Allen Stayman, all about getting Democrats elected regardless of the unethical, misleading, or illegal methods required. Salt’s other work all appears to be for Democrats or liberal organizations, including doing communications work for Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who is such an important backer of Barack Obama that some thought she might be his running mate.
Salt read a statement from “Sister Mary Stella” of the Sisters of the Good Shepherds in which the nun chastises Congressman Schaffer for his views on CNMI issues. Indeed, my research shows that Sister Mary Stella is passionate about and active in issues of human trafficking, including testifying before the US Senate about it in July, 2007.
However, at the time of Bob Schaffer’s visit, there were two main issues surrounding the CNMI and human trafficking was not one of them, at least not one that even the majority of the critics of the CNMI were discussing. One major question was “forced abortion”, a claim for which I have found no substantive evidence, and absolutely no evidence either substantive or not of that ever having been common practice in the islands. The only “forced abortion” claims I have heard of were anonymous and/or about a worker who had an abortion in China, not in the CNMI.
An investigation by the Catholic News Agency, including contact social services providers in the CNMI, “confirmed Schaffer’s assertion that evidence on forced abortions is lacking.”
The other major question was whether working conditions in the CNMI amounted to “sweatshop” conditions. On this score, Schaffer, as I have reported before, was probably the only Congressman to have a publicly-admitted impact on making an improvement, being partly responsible for the closure of the “Little MGM” factor on the island of Saipan because of its poor working conditions.
Therefore, it is highly relevant to quote some of the testimony of the same Sister Mary Stella Mangona, of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources on February 8, 2007:
The CNMI has suffered from a negative reputation based on the conditions existing in "sweat shop" garment factories which were exposed in the 1990s. Indeed there were heinous abuses at the time. Complaints were filed. Due process, along with the pressure generated by high-profile news media (the 20/20 story, for example), resulted in dramatic improvements. Changes were mandated. Some of the worst violators closed their CNMI factories. By 2003, I had seen a significant change in amelioration of the problems presented. The information about improvements in working conditions, however, never received the same level of publicity as the reports of the original violations. Among those relatively few people who even know of the existence of the CNMI, even to this day the reaction to mention of Saipan tends to be something along the lines of "Isn’t that that terrible place with all those sweat shops?"
Sr. Stella proceeded to relate a story about some foreign workers who were treated fairly by the CNMI government after being deceived by a Hong Kong-based employer. To be sure, Sr. Stella did not believe that all was (or is) sweetness and light in the CNMI and she still had (and maybe has) serious concerns about CNMI immigration law, which you can read in the testimony linked above.
In other words, even this politically-active nun seems to be admitting that the primary issue which critics of the CNMI pretended to care about (most of them were simply fronts for unions who didn’t like competing against the CNMI’s lower wages) have improved dramatically and that the CNMI no longer deserved a reputation as a place of sweatshops. (Remember, this testimony was from 2007…that will be relevant later in this document.)
Now, while one must always hesitate in criticism of clergy, particularly of a nun, Sr. Stella does not seem to be beyond controversy herself. A fascinating letter to the editor of one of the CNMI’s main newspapers in February, 2008, criticizes not only Sr. Stella, but also our villain-of-the-week, Allen Stayman. The letter, by Mr. Gergorio Gruz, President of a Saipan social advocacy organization called Taotao Tano, criticizes Sr. Stella for “calling people racist” and asks “since when has the Catholic religious organization get (sic) involved in politics? After careful studies and research on the activities of…Sisters of the Good Shepherd, (Sister) Stella Mangona…we had concluded that these organizations are all federally funded and it is crystal clear and obvious that there has been a collaboration and collusion efforts to instigate the passage of the fast-tracked federal legislation H.R.3079.” (S.2739, mentioned above replaced H.R.3079.)
The Ghost of Stayman Returns After OIA
Cruz’s letter is fascinating because it mentions Allen Stayman as well as Sr. Stella, with this paragraph: “The untimely departure of Mr. David Cohen of Department of the Interior’s Insular Affairs also raises questions whether he had a falling out with Senate staffer Allen Stayman. We must all remember that Mr. Cohen is a sincere and passive person, who probably could not handle the injustices left behind from instructions by the Good Shepherd, Allen Stayman.” And later in the letter: “Innocent people were used and victimized by the Good Shepherd, Allen Stayman, in his quest to federalize our local control of immigration. We must remind you that a lot of misdeeds, lies, controversies, and misconceptions have taken place here in our homeland…”
David Cohen was U.S. Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary for insular affairs. He stepped down in early 2008; Cruz’s letter suggests a reason, but I have no way to verify the implication. Cohen spoke at a conference for Island Government Finance Officers in December, 2007. Quoting from a Mariana’s Variety newspaper article on his keynote speech: He said “in most of the insular area economies, there is an unsustainable imbalance between the public and private sectors.” A strong private sector propels a healthy economy, he said. This way “jobs are created and taxes are collected to fund essential services for the public.” One can imagine how someone like that would be on the wrong side of someone like Allen Stayman whose motivation was precisely to destroy the CNMI’s garment industry, which was the islands’ biggest or second-biggest employer. It is ironic that Cohen was speaking in Hawaii of the destruction which Stayman and friends were about to wreak on the CNMI economy.
The final installment in this series explains the vindictive pointless destruction of the economy of the CNMI, whose citizens are American citizens, by the servants of Americas unions.
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