For Immediate Release: August 4, 1999
Contact: Amy Ridenour at 202/543-4110 x110 or [email protected]


Administration, Democratic Party Should Cooperate in Investigation of Interior Department Officials, Says Group

Recent newspaper reports in the Washington Post, Washington Times and elsewhere about overt, illegal partisan political activity at the U.S. Department of the Interior require a full investigation, says The National Center for Public Policy Research.

News reports indicate that one or more Interior officials used office time and resources, in violation of the law, in an effort to unseat at least four Members of Congress and one U.S. Senator.

According to the August 3 Washington Times, Interior official David North, policy director for the Office of Insular Affairs, asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for information on how to assist Democratic candidates, and sent a copy of the memo to his boss, Allen P. Stayman, then director of Insular Affairs.

The Times says government investigators report that Mr. North drafted press releases for Democratic candidates, provided derogatory information about Republican members to campaigns and reporters, and wrote letters to the editor for constituents to submit to local newspapers.

The matter is under investigation by the House Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), to determine whether Mr. North's activities violated the Hatch Act, the Anti-Federal Lobbying Act and/or the Privacy Act.

The Resources Committee has subpoenaed records relating to this scandal from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC, reports the Times, initially refused to cooperate with the subpoena, and, as a result, the Resources Committee has scheduled a contempt vote for August 4.

In various memos written by official David North and reviewed by the Resources Committee. North cites a policy disagreement with Republican lawmakers over legislative matters dealing with the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. possession near Guam. The Office of Insular Affairs coordinates federal policy toward the CNMI and several other U.S. possessions.

The Administration supports labor union attacks on the garment industry of the CNMI, which, although not unionized, is monitored by OSHA and other federal agencies to ascertain it is in compliance with U.S. labor laws. OSHA has reported that garment factories on the U.S. mainland have twice as many violations per inspection (5.3) as do CNMI garment factories (2.1).

Republican lawmakers have tended to support the growth of the garment industry in the CNMI because, in 1980, 80% of the CNMI government's funding came from subsidies paid for by taxpayers on the mainland. Today, since the growth of the CNMI garment industry, excluding some capital improvement and emergency funding, the government of the CNMI takes no tax money from the mainland. This is largely because the local garment industry pumps $130 million annually into the local economy.

Pressed by labor unions, which oppose non-union garment factories, the Department of the Interior during the Clinton Administration has sought to raise the minimum wage in the CNMI to make the CNMI non-union factories less competitive. By CNMI law, as of July 1997, each garment factory guest worker must receive a cash wage of at least $3.05 per hour and receive free housing, transportation, food and medical care, which costs employers the equivalent of $4.75 per hour. When the CNMI voluntarily joined the United States after World War II, Congress promised that it could set its own minimum wage rates.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan Capitol Hill think-tank established in 1982. It has received no cash contributions from the government of the CNMI nor any business operating in the CNMI. Contact Amy Ridenour at 202/543-4110 x110 or visit http://www.nationalcenter.org on the Internet.

 

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