Human Rights Activists, Officials Challenge Schaffer

While all eyes were on Washington and Wall Street yesterday, Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, was confronted with a dicey situation of his own. As the Denver Post reports:

A former Clinton administration official made an unusual incursion into Colorado’s U.S. Senate race Monday, denouncing Republican Bob Schaffer for helping to derail anti-sweatshop legislation when he was in Congress eight years ago.

Allen Stayman, who led a White House effort to reform immigration and labor on the Northern Mariana Islands, held a news conference and described Schaffer as “a leader” in carrying out a plan hatched by jailed former lobbyist Jack Abramoff to shield sweatshops from U.S. immigration and labor laws. [Pols emphasis]

He pointed out that despite being a relatively low-ranking member of the House Resources Committee, Schaffer twice led hearings that Stayman said were largely aimed at discrediting reform efforts and attacking him – a strategy that was laid out by Abramoff in a secret memo nine months before the first hearing occurred in September 1999.

“Abramoff is toxic in Washington, and they are trying to attach Abramoff to everyone who is running for election,” Schaffer said Monday. “I’ve never met Abramoff; I’ve never had any interaction with him.”

The charges involving Schaffer’s role aren’t new, but the appearance of a figure directly involved in the events – and toting a 4-inch-thick stack of documents – was clearly aimed at swaying voters at a critical time in the state’s tight Senate race…

Schaffer was not in the office yesterday, reportedly meeting with the Rocky Mountain News’ editorial board–which means they were discussing the Rocky’s impending endorsement in the Senate race.

We’re guessing Schaffer would rather have been discussing something else, as the Rocky continues the Abramoff story:

A human rights activist unhappy about Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s stance on conditions faced by workers in the U.S. Northern Mariana Islands accused the former congressman of delaying reforms while in office.

Wendy Doromal accused the former congressman of being a “foot soldier” for now disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was hired by the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to help thwart guest worker reforms.

Doromal, an activist who once taught in the territory; James Salt, communications director for Catholics United; and Allen Stayman, a Senate staffer and territorial affairs expert, held a news conference outside Schaffer’s campaign headquarters and demanded he apologize for delaying reforms…

Schaffer’s campaign later noted that Stayman once was investigated – but never charged – after he wrote a memo on official Interior Department stationery urging the Democratic National Committee to attack politicians who fought reforms. Federal law prohibits using federal resources for campaigns or lobbying.

“He should be in jail rather than working for the U.S. Senate,” said Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager.

Stayman made a point Monday of noting he paid for his trip to Colorado and used his vacation leave.

Schaffer, who served three terms in Congress, took a trip to the Marianas in 1999 that was paid for and arranged by groups with ties to Abramoff. Schaffer’s campaign has said he wanted to see for himself if reports of atrocious working conditions at foreign-owned factories were true, but critics said the trip was part of Abramoff’s strategy to woo Republicans to his point of view on labor reforms.

Schaffer has said he did complain about a garment factory, which he was told was shut down. But Schaffer has said he didn’t see forced abortions, prostitution or other abuses that Doromal and others said they uncovered.

Stayman, one of the government officials pushing for reform, said he was targeted by Abramoff. Stayman said he was subpoenaed to appear at a committee hearing led by Schaffer, whom he described as the House ringleader fighting changes… [Pols emphasis]

Perhaps the only saving grace for Schaffer is that this happened on a day dominated by other news, which fortunately gave him a way to change the subject. But this is more nasty exposure to a story that leaves Schaffer with no positive angle, and only suspect claims in his defense–why hasn’t Schaffer given more information about the garment factory he claims he “heard was shut down” after his visit? That’s the only good thing he can point to when the record of hearings he presided over in Congress–not to mention the Abramoff-faciliated trip to Saipan–speaks clearly to his participation in a scheme that staved off labor reform in the Marianas Islands and helped make Jack Abramoff a rich man. And other than his assertion there’s no evidence of it.

We heard yesterday about something else: activist Wendy Doromal claims to be in possession of a letter from Abramoff, written from federal prison, that contains more information about the CNMI scandal and an abject apology from Abramoff to Doromal personally. The press is aware of the existence of this letter.

By the way, October begins tomorrow. Which should come as no surprise.

2 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Middle of the Road says:

    Pot meet kettle…

    “He should be in jail rather than working for the U.S. Senate,” said Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager.

  2. twas brillig says:

    “I did not observe a forced abortion.” — Bob Schaffer.  

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