And for more on the most corrupt of U.S. territories, see William Betz’s excellent Web site, www.saipansucks.com
Burns changed vote on bill about the Marianas islands
By JENNIFER McKEE Missoulian State Bureau
HELENA – U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., met with a Marianas official who had close ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the weeks before Burns received an Abramoff-related $5,000 contribution from the Marianas and reversed his earlier position on a bill about the islands.
The politician, Gov. Benigno Fitial, has said he will cooperate with the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into potential bribery of public officials involving Abramoff, a man Fitial once described as a “close friend,” according to Pacific Magazine, a Hawaii publication that covers the Pacific region.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands is a U.S. territory near Guam. Citizens there are U.S. citizens, although the island is exempt from many U.S. standards, including minimum wage.
In the late 1990s, some 58 percent of the island’s population were noncitizen immigrants, drawn to the island’s garment manufacturing jobs, government reports show. At the time, workers in the factories earned a minimum of $3.05 an hour, below the U.S. minimum wage of $5.15.
Burns voted against a bill in May 2001 that would have strengthened U.S. oversight over the commonwealth’s labor and immigration laws. A little more than a year before Burns had not opposed an identical measure.