Abramoff Emails Link Mehlman to Mariana Islands

The House Government Committee has just released e-mails from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff which indicate that Abramoff tried to use his connections with then White House Political Director Ken Mehlman (who is currently the chair of the Republican National Committee) to have State Department employee Allen Stayman fired. Stayman was advocating for labor reforms to improve the working conditions within sweatshops in the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is exempt from US minimum wage requirements and most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The emails show that Abramoff, who was working as a lobbyist for the Northern Mariana Islands and its garment factories, asked Ken Mehlman to fire Stayman, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mehlman has denied he had a role in firing Stayman, but, although the State Department fought the firing, Stayman was fired within four months of the sent emails, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ms. magazine wrote a long investigative report showing how Abramoff worked to prevent labor law reforms to raise the minimum wage to US levels, eliminate long work hours, and stop high “recruitment fees” that workers must pay upon hiring. By maintaining these poor working conditions for a predominately female workforce, Abramoff served his clients, the Northern Mariana Islands and their sweatshops.

The emails show numerous ties between Abramoff and the White House; previously, Abramoff’s ties had been thought to be mostly with Congress. The Los Angeles Times reports that Abramoff had more than 400 contacts at the White House. The White House has denied any close relationship with Abramoff. The e-mails also indicate several other allegedly unethical dealings between Abramoff and high-level White House officials.

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Los Angeles Times 10/15/06; Associated Press 10/15/06; Financial Times 10/15/06

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