Activities at the April 1 & March 25 Wednesday Strategy Lunches chaired by Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).
Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition introduced Pastor Pal of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), also known as Saipan. Pastor Pal was in Washington to testify at a March 30 Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on new regulations being proposed on the CNMI by Bruce Babbitt's Interior Department. (The Interior Department wants to stop the CNMI from using foreign guest workers to make up for a local labor shortage.) Pastor Pal said that Interior's scheme would be a mistake, because some of these guest workers are from China, and for the past six years Pastor Pal has been giving them Bibles and other religious materials. At least 500 people have since returned to China, he said, taking with them religious materials (including over 30,000 audiotapes) that then have been reproduced for the Chinese people. Pastor Pal reported that, since missionary work is illegal in China, this is one of the few ways to get religious materials to believers inside China. The pastor then urged meeting participants to make certain this "back door into China" for religious believers remains open.
Pastor Pal also alluded to the allegation that Interior is proposing these regulations as a favor for the AFL-CIO, saying that Interior has been making up stories of religious persecution in Saipan and giving them to the media in order to bolster its case for more regulation. "There is no religious persecution in Saipan. This is a lie. The federal Interior Department is telling these lies to shut down the Saipan garment industry. I have no connection with the garment industry. I speak for myself. No Christian should want this work to be stopped." Contact Pastor Pal via Lou or Andrea Sheldon at 202/547-8570.
A press release and letter written by Senator Rod Grams (R-MN) were distributed. They called upon the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior to investigate Interior officials who allegedly have threatened public officials if they do not go along with Interior's plans to increase regulations upon the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI). Said Grams in his letter: "Today I participated in an Energy Committee hearing on the Northern Marianas Islands at which I indicated my intent to follow up allegations that Interior Department officials have violated the Hatch Act as well as public law. Despite supporting evidence backing up my statements in press articles, the Secretary of the Interior, at the hearing, sharply criticized my statement and noted that he would be rewarding the Interior Department official, Mr. Allen P. Stayman, Director of the Insular Affairs Department, for his 'commendable' service.
"Just a few minutes earlier, Mr. Stayman was identified and overheard in a public restroom that Interior would be going after me for the things I said... While I consider that a personal threat against a public official by an employee of the federal government, worthy of prosecution itself, at this time I only communicate this to back up what I believe are a serious pattern and practice of charges... that should be investigated throughly by you...
"Even though public law prohibits federal employees from lobbying for pending legislation, Mr. Stayman not only lobbied... but in an attempt to rally Republican support for the legislation, spent taxpayer's dollars to hire a private investigator and human rights activities to look for "hot button" issues...
"Not only do I believe Mr. Stayman has broken the law, but he has violated the Hatch Act as well by involving himself in partisan politics in this way in a government office."
Contact Steven Behm at 202/224-3244.
Following up on the Interior/Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands issue, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) noted that he, too, has been attacked by Interior Department officials on this issue. Alluding to the fact that the Interior Department gave disputed allegations of worker mistreatment to the ABC News show 20/20, DeLay noted that Congressmen Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Bill Goodling (R-PA) recently invited 20/20 to join them in an investigation into sweatshop conditions in New York City ("20/20's back yard," DeLay said); yet, 20/20 declined. Hoesktra and Goodling's investigation was dramatic, DeLay said, requiring flak jackets and armed guards for the two Congressmen, who found conditions including seven-day work-weeks, poor ventilation, locked doors, barred windows, low pay (sometimes as low as $1/hour), and pay delayed by as much as ten weeks. Contact Rep. DeLay at 202/225-5951. For more information on Hoekstra and Goodling's investigation, contact Paul Boertlein or Arturo Silva of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce's American Worker Project at 202/225-7250 or [email protected].
Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) pointed out to participants that the current total of lawyers working for the White House at public expense on matters involving the president's personal business now totals 49. "Most of the media coverage," he added, "has failed to note an important aspect: It is a violation of federal law to use appropriated funds for personal business. The penalty is prison and/or fines up to $250,000." Istook distributed a memo from the Congressional Research Service providing more details. Contact Rep. Istook at 202/225-2132 or [email protected] (For an April 1 Washington Times story about Congressional investigations into this issue, contact David Almasi at 202/543-4110.)
Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) discussed H.R. 3560, his "Social Security Solvency Act." The bill is designed to end Social Security's long-term insolvency. Under the legislation, 2.8% of a worker's paycheck (taken from the 12.4% currently taken for Social Security taxes) would be placed in Individual Retirement Accounts controlled by the worker. Over time, this contribution rate would rise to over 10%.
According to Smith, the Act would work this way: "Consider the case of a high school graduate who starts working on January 1, 1999 and has a typical career. He starts work at $20,000 a year and he gets a cost-of-living raise plus 2% per a year. Let's assume he earns a 7% rate of return, after inflation... This worker would have $387,000 in his private account at retirement... He would also receive a reduced Social Security check. If his wife has a similar career, she would have a similar account of her own and a Social Security check. If this couple has other savings - such as a paid-off mortgage or a pension - they could easily retire with a sum approaching $1 million between them... A worker earning less would still accumulate significant funds over a lifetime while still retaining a large Social Security benefit. For example, a worker earning the minimum wage - $5.15 an hour - would retire with $199,000 under this proposal."
Rep. Smith distributed a three-page summary and an op/ed about the bill. Contact Rep. Smith at 202/225-6276 or [email protected].
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) discussed S. 10, the Juvenile Justice and Crime bill. The bill is an attempt to deal with the juvenile crime problem without federalizing juvenile crimes. Sessions said the bill would do the following: 1) Streamline the process for trying juveniles in federal court in those rare cases when it is necessary; 2) Provide matching funds to help the states build prisons ("The juvenile systems are overwhelmed," said Sessions. "In Chicago they are averaging six minutes per case. This would help."); 3) Make it possible for the police and court systems to know the prior criminal records of juvenile defendants. Right now, Sessions said, the information too often is kept secret, even from judges during sentencing. "You cannot have juveniles committing crimes and nothing happens," said Sessions, a former federal prosecutor. "It undermines everything we are trying to do [to deter crime]." Contact Senator Sessions at 202/224-4124 or [email protected].*