Don Young’s History Fairbanks vs. Don Young

Note: Transcribed from letter signed by Jack Abramoff. Sroll to passages in red text to review Don Young's role:

Greenberg Traurig, Attorneys at Law

January 4, 2001

From: Jack Abramoff
(202) 533-2335

To: The Honorable Pedro P. Tenorio
Governor
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Saipan, MP 96950

Dear Governor Tenorio:

I am writing to inform you of our strong interest in representing the government and people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in Washington, D.C. Our team at Greenberg Traurig, LLP ("the firm") understands not only the policies that are important to the CNMI, but also the opponents and the magnitude of their opposition. We have a clear record of protecting the CNMI's interests, and believe it is critical for the CNMI to engage immediately if we are to be successful again.

A History of Success Working Together

For the past six years, our team has combated and defeated every single attack on the CNMI. We have faced formidable opposition at times, including a hostile Clinton Administration, powerful Members of Congress, labor unions and human rights groups, and negative media stories. Each time, our team worked with the CNMI to develop and execute strategies that protected and furthered the CNMI's interests.

104th Congress (1995-96)

In 1995, the situation looked bleak. A Senate Bill to eliminate the minimum wage and immigration authorities granted in the CNMI Covenant had been approved by the U.S. Senate. Similar legislation was introduced in the House, and both bills enjoyed the full support of the Clinton Administration. Congress and the White House were extremely close to abrogating the Covenant, imposing federal control on local activities, and, as a result, destroying the CNMI's economy.

Our team was hired in 1995, and immediately turned the tide. With our strong ties to the new Republican majority in control of Congress, we launched and intense education and public relations effort that served and continues to serve the CNMI very well. In 1995 alone, we began educating Members of the House Resources Committee and committee staff. We actively lobbied the House leadership to prevent full House consideration of the Senate bill. We cultivated relationships with think-tanks and public policy organizations with invaluable public relations contacts. We enlisted an internationally-renowned organization to conduct a study of the CNMI minimum wage issue. Finally, we spearheaded the effort to create CNMI allies by bringing Members of Congress, key staffers, and influential policy analysts to the islands for visits.

In the end, this all-out public relations and lobbying blitz brought the CNMI back from the brink of legislative disaster. All of our tactics produced enormously positive results. Our efforts with the House Resources Committee allowed us to transform two congressional hearings that promised to be embarrassing to the CNMI into platforms to express local opposition to federal takeover schemes. We worked with the House leadership to assure the bill would not move to the House floor, even if the committee did act. It also allowed us to acquire some very powerful allies, such as Majority Whip Tom DeLay. Perhaps most importantly, our dedication to the public relations aspect of the lobbying campaign helped the CNMI develop a reputation for freedom and local autonomy, two virtues that were very attractive to the new Republican majority. The CNMI soon became known as the "laboratory of liberty," a place where free market principles flourished and worked.

105th Congress (1997-98)

When the 105th Congress opened in 1997, the Clinton Administration refortified its commitment to federal control over the CNMI's immigration and minimum wage laws. The Administration proposed and Senator Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to impose such federal control. In the House, Representative Miller (D-CA) introduced a bill to federalize CNMI immigration and minimum wage rules as well as to prohibit "Made in the USA" labeling on CNMI products. Following Miller's lead, Senator Akaka (D-HI) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. That same year, the Administration released its third annual report on the CNMI, its most critical to date, while the non-partisan Commission on Immigration Reform issued a potentially devastating report that labeled the CNMI immigration policy "un-American" and "antithetical to American values." The following year, the Clinton Administration directly threatened the future of the CNMI when it proposed a $187 million annual tariff on CNMI goods.

Despite these developments, our seasoned lobbying team was again able to prevent anti-CNMI legislation from being enacted. First, we enlisted the CNMI's newly-created allies in the House leadership to oppose federalization, resulting in a letter from House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and House Majority WHIP Tom DeLay (R-TX) to President Clinton expressing opposition to federal takeover legislation. We secured a letter from House Resources Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) to President Clinton expressing opposition to federal takeover legislation. We used our information-gathering expertise to alert allies that Senator Akaka was trying to attach his anti-CNMI bill to another trade bill. We kept the CNMI's opponents from diverting federal funds in the appropriations bills that were designated for the CNMI. We reached out to the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as to anti-tax think-tanks and grassroots organizations, to generate strong opposition to the Administration's tariff proposal. Finally, we won a hard fought victory on the House floor against Representative Miller and others who sought to attach federal takeover language to an appropriations measure. In the end, we successfully prevented any anti-CNMI legislation from becoming law.

On the public relations front, our efforts once again paid enormous dividends. We were able to blunt the negative aspects of the Commission on Immigration Reform's report and to use the positive references to our benefit. In addition, the independent study our team commissioned on the CNMI minimum wage was completed. The study warned against further increases in the minimum wage, a clear public relations victory for the CNMI and helpful ammunition for our allies in Congress.

106th Congress (1999-2000)

In the 106th Congress, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) and House Minority Whip Bonior (D-MI) introduced legislation to increase the federal minimum wage and to apply it to the CNMI. Senator Murkowski, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, re-introduced legislation to federalize CNMI immigration procedures. Worse yet, Senator Abraham (R-MI) and Representative Franks (R-NJ) introduced legislation to deny the CNMI use of the "Made in the USA" label and to impose tariffs on CNMI goods. Several unions and human rights groups conducted an active lobbying campaign in support of these bills. The Franks bill eventually garnered 234 cosponsors, more than a majority of House Members.

Working on behalf of the Western Pacific Economic Council, our team not only stopped all anti-CNMI legislation from being enacted, we helped to secure $1.4 million in extra CNMI appropriations for infrastructure improvements in Tinian and Rota. We were instrumental in first delaying Senate consideration of the Murkowski bill. We then stopped it cold in the House. We also helped to beat back a Democrat amendment during consideration of the minimum wage that would have included the CNMI in the next wage increase. Finally, we increased our education and outreach efforts by coordinating a successful CNMI House leadership delegation visit to Washington.

As this history makes clear, our record has been marked by one common denominator: success. The CNMI's authority to control its own immigration and wage laws has been protected. Its ability to export its goods freely to the mainland has been preserved. And its physical development has been aided by the infusion of federal assistance.

The team that helped CNMI prosper in the past just became stronger. We have joined Greenberg Traurig, a firm that is home to a group of powerful Democrats that will complement our Republican firepower. Indeed, Greenberg's Democratic lobbyists are very close to many of the strong opponents of the CNMI. We are confident that they will be able to help turn many of these forces away from active opposition to the CNMI. This support will be critical because the battles will not simply go away in the wake of the recent election.

Future Threats

While the election of President-elect Bush should dramatically alter the approach of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, the Congressional elections made the situation more precarious. As we saw in the past, the Congress has the discretion to alter the Compact provisions related to minimum wage, immigration and tariffs. Fortunately, the combination of our past team from Preston Gates and the strong Democratic lobbying force at Greenberg Traurig make us uniquely qualified to protect the CNMI from a range of assaults, which could intensify due to an evenly divided Senate and a slimmer margin of Republicans in the House.

The threats to the CNMI going forward are numerous, but familiar:

  • Tariff/tax issue: One of President-elect Bush's top priorities is to pass major tax reduction and reform legislation. The eventual vehicle would be a likely place for opponents of the CNMI to attach a provision imposing tariffs on CNMI goods. As in years past, these opponents undoubtedly will do so under the guise of raising revenue for other pet projects. However, the result is the same: destruction of the CNMI economy as we know it today.
  • Minimum wage: The fact that Congress did not enact minimum wage legislation last Congress means that this issue is likely to return as soon as this month. With Democrats picking up seats in both chambers in the recent election, proponents of a minimum wage increase for the CNMI have seen their leverage grow enormously. We fully expect Senator Kennedy and Minority Whip Bonior to include the CNMI in their minimum wage proposals again and to raise this issue immediately.
  • Presidential transition: Although we do not expect President-elect Bush to be as hostile to the CNMI as was the Clinton Administration, the potential exists that this Administration could be unduly influenced by anti-CNMI zealots (remember that the opponents of the CNMI, including some Republican members and staff, have been working tirelessly for three years to build significant bi-partisan opposition to the CNMI).
  • Change of House Committee Chairmen: House rules have force longtime CNMI friend Chairman Don Young to give up his chairmanship of the Resources Committee. The loss of Chairman Young's authority cannot easily be measured - or replaced. Chairman Young had an outstanding knowledge of the CNMI and was able to prevent movement of anti-CNMI legislation from his Committee. Ardent CNMI opponent Representative George Miller (D-CA) is expected to have more influence on the Committee in Young's absence. We have been working with Young's replacement, Representative Jim Hansen (R-UT) and he is positively disposed toward the CNMI, but we have lost major institutional memory and friendship.
  • Senate makeup: The US Senate will be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The changes that will result from this new parity - smaller margins on important committees and a greater willingness to compromise on minority party initiatives - all portend trouble for the CNMI. For example, leading CNMI foe Senator Akaka (D-HI) is certain to play a leadership role in the important Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's decisions and legislative initiatives.
  • Federal takeover of CNMI: We are convinced that Chairman Murkowski (R-AK) will use last year's passage of his takeover bill in the Senate to show momentum for efforts in the new Congress to put the federal government in charge of CNMI immigration policy. Although we erected a roadblock in the House to stop the bill from moving, this bill remains a real threat to the CNMI economy. We also expect Representative Miller to press for hearings in the House on his federal takeover legislation. Again, with Young's departure, Miller's influence will grow and the likelihood of action on his bill will increase.
  • "Made in the USA" legislation: This punitive measure gained the support of a very large and diverse group of Members of Congress last year. If re-introduced and supported in a similarly broad manner in the 107th Congress, this legislation might become attractive to both Republican and Democrat leaderships for floor action to show that they can work together in bipartisan fashion. We already have learned that Representative Dingell (D-MI) and Senator Hollings (D-SC) plan to introduce the "Made in the USA" legislation previously authored by Representative Franks (R-NJ) and Senator Abraham (R-MI). As you probably know, the labor unions have been the most vocal advocates of this legislation. Their clout is certain to increase after the recent election, in which they helped union-friendly Democrats gain seats in both chambers of Congress.
  • Federal appropriations/CIP and infrastructure improvements: Important infrastructure projects in the CNMI received federal funding in the last Congress, but not without a fight. Some would have rather used those funds for additional projects on the mainland. Others sought to cut the funding in an effort to reduce overall spending. Once again, the other U.S. territories likely will attempt to claim CNMI CIP grants for themselves. Securing compact impact aid for the CNMI also promises to be a challenge. In all of these areas, future funding cannot be assured and is less likely to materialize unless an experienced team is in place to make sure the need is adequately explained at the right time to the right people.

These challenges are real and must be overcome. They are not, however, insurmountable. Working at the direction of your government, our battle tested team of attorneys, lobbyists, and public relations specialists can continue to stop the anti-CNMI forces in Congress, and help to establish strong ties between the CNMI, the new Presidential Administration, and the new Congress.

Strategy and Tactics

Our first priority will be to continue to foster a close working relationship between the CNMI and decision-makers within the US Government. This relationship can produce many beneficial results, including protection of local control over immigration and wage and labor laws, and continued federal financial assistance. A carefully coordinated and precisely targeted government, media, and public relations campaign in Washington D.C. will build on our vast well of "political capital" useful in every public policy decision affecting the CNMI.

To achieve this goal and to combat the aforementioned threats, the CNMI needs a team that can hit the ground running. Greenberg Traurig has that team in place. Working with your government, we will:

  • Be the most effective advocates of the CNMI in Washington. Because nearly everyone on our team has worked in the past for the CNMI Government, we do not have a "learning curve" that every other firm would face. We know the issues that are vital to the CNMI, and we have a strong record in protecting CNMI's interests.
  • Educate the new Administration about the CNMI. The transition from one Administration to the next presents the greatest opportunity to educate the Executive Branch about the CNMI's critical issues. We will have an opportunity to inform key players in the Bush Administration. Fortunately, we know many of the people who are working for the Bush transition team, especially at the Interior Department, and are well-positioned to help educate them about the CNMI.
  • Strengthen CNMI's relationships in the Congress. We stand ready to increase support for the CNMI within the 107th Congress. This effort will include bolstering existing relationships, as well as educating and reaching out for new congressional champions. In the end, we will have a broad and diverse group of Members who will be ready to defend the CNMI against all possible threats. Various tactics may be employed to strengthen and expand upon these relationships, including: coordination of visits to the CNMI by leading Members, key staff, and other public opinion makers; positive floor statements about the Commonwealth in the Congressional Record; and "Dear Colleague" letters to spread the positive developments and rebut the attacks of the anti-CNMI crowd.
  • Develop alliances with non-government groups to bolster CNMI support within the government. Our team is experienced at working with nationally known think-tanks and other policy groups to find common interests on policy matters. Non-profit, idea-driven think tanks can be a tremendous asset when trying to influence a debate within Congress or the Administration.
  • Make sure the right people make the right decisions. Whether an issue is to be decided through executive or legislative action, we ultimately will make certain that friends of the CNMI will have influence. We already have strong ties to the leadership in both the House and Senate and to the chairman of the relevant committees of Congress. We expect to have a similarly strong connection with the highest level of officials in the Bush Administration. We can make sure the right people have all of the facts and are able to make the right decision.

We will need to pursue all of these tactics (and more as needed) in order to defend the CNMI's interests. But, if we are to be successful, we need to begin our work together now.

Why Greenberg Traurig?

Quite simply, we believe that we are more qualified to represent the CNMI than any other firm in Washington. Because of our work the past six years at Preston Gates, we have the only team of lobbyists with vast experience in dealing with the CNMI issues.

We have very strong relationships with all of the potential decision makers in both the Administration and Congress. Indeed, our standing with the new Administration promises to be solid as several friends of the CNMI will soon be taking high-ranking positions in the Administration, including within the Interior Department. We have a demonstrable network of policy makers and media powers who have gone to bat for the CNMI in the past and will do so again.

Finally as mentioned above, we have only become stronger with the merger between our Preston Gates team and the highly qualified lobbyists and professionals at Greenberg Traurig. We are confident that we will be able to improve our strong efforts in securing federal appropriations. More importantly, we will be able to expand our influence with leading congressional Democrats, including some who have opposed us in the past. (I have attached a profile of the firm for your review).

Why Now?

To be successful, it is essential that we begin our effort immediately. As we have seen each year for the past six years during which we have been engaged in this battle, the enemies of the CNMI move quickly at the beginning of a new Congress. We, too, need to strike fast. Already we have been informed that the sponsors of the new "Made in the USA" bill are poised to work with the labor unions and human rights groups to pass the bill early in the 107th Congress.

In addition, we must move quickly to educate the new Administration. As I write to you, important hiring and staffing decisions are being made and initial policy debates are taking place that might set the tone for the entire tenure of the Administration. This is a critical time for the CNMI to get their voice heard within the new decision-makers in the Executive Branch. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

Finally, we must engage now because the first 100 days of a new Administration is customarily a time of significant legislative activity. In addition to the "Made in the USA" bills, various bills will likely move in the early months of 2001 that could become vehicles for opponents of the CNMI. The CNMI Government cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch as its opponents use this time to pursuer their destructive agenda.

Fees

The battle in Washington on behalf of the CNMI is time consuming and expensive. There are usually several fights brewing at the same time, and there is a need to be constantly combating the slanderous efforts of the CNMI's opponents while trying to build a base of support among powerful Congressmen and policy makers. Consequently, the only way we have been able to succeed against all predictions in keeping the federal government from taking over control of immigration and minimum wage was to assign enough professionals to the task. Since attorneys' and lobbyists' time is assessed in hourly billings, the effort to defend the Commonwealth has been costly. On average, over the past five years, the monthly cost (amount of time spent, not actually billed to the CNMI) has been over $175,000. There are months particularly when hearings or legislation is scheduled, when the cost has exceeded $300,000 per month.

We know that the CNMI has been for the last few years in a budget crisis. Consequently, our previous firm agreed to reduce its bill per month to $100,000 for the government and seek some additional funding from the private sector to ensure the effort did not lose too much money. Notwithstanding the sign reduction of fees, we never skimped on the services we provided. I am pleased to notify you that our new firm, Greenberg Traurig, is also willing to agree to a reduced fee for the term of our engagement and will accept a flat payment of $100,000 per month, including costs and fees.

I hope that, for all of the reasons above, we can work with you again. We look forward to hearing of your interest in engaging Greenberg Traurig as soon as possible.

Sincerely,


Jack Abramoff
Senior Director of Government Relations
Greenberg Traurig, LLC.


 

 

 

* Data incomplete; this is a work in progress. Visit often to review Don Young voting patterns as our research is further developed.

 

Listing of Don Young’s Mariana Island donations

Date

Amount

Donor

Donor Address

Donor’s Employer

6/23/1997

$500

Babauta, Juan

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

12/8/1997

$500

Babauta, Juan

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

6/19/1998

$500

Babauta, Juan

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

11/2/1998

$500

Babauta, Juan

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

6/9/2000

$500

Babauta, Juan

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

5/31/2001

$250

Babauta, Juan

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

2/17/2004

$500

Tenoria, Pedro

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

5/26/2004

$500

Tenoria, Pedro

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

3/4/2005

$500

Tenoria, Pedro

Washington, DC

Northern Marianas Govt./Resident Rep

 

 

This web site was not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. Paid for by: Fairbanks Versus the Congressman for All Alaska; 3875 Geist Rd., Suite E PMB #175, Fairbanks, AK 99709