mad in pursuit journal

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS, AT THE intersection OF morality & corruption

"Made In America"

Here's a little scandal that rarely makes it to the news.

The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — way out in the Pacific, between Hawaii and the Philippines — is U.S. territory. They produce clothes that are "Made in the U.S.A." but they don't have to adhere to U.S. labor laws or immigration laws. So... sweatshops full of Chinese women and girls. Rumors: child prostitution and forced abortions among sweatshop employees.

It's an old story, lost in a flurry of 2005 stories about Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff. Apparently the Clinton Administration was going to tighten up the labor laws there and the CNMI paid $9 million to Abramoff to kill the legislation. Tom Delay gets on board and the legislation is killed.

As part of Abramoff's lobbying, Tom DeLay took a trip with his family and some staff members there in 1998. While there, as ABC News caught on tape, DeLay extolled the factories as the way capitalism ought to operate. When he returned he declared the Clinton Administration efforts to raise wages and clamp down on immigration dead on arrival.

Along the way Abramoff associate Rabbi David Lapin got a no-bid $1.2 million to promote "ethics in government."

Another overview here. The story is still playing out in at least one political campaign, in California, where the Republican incumbent is accused of getting Abramoff money to do nothing about the sweatshop issue.

The story sticks with me because of its sleaziness. And the fact that the biggest loudmouths about morality usually turn out to be the most corrupt.


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