|| Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to misinformation put forward by the ABCDEF Group, a blog written by an anonymous group that is determined to replace Faleomavaega as American Samoa’s Representative to Congress. The blog’s author refuses to reveal his/her identity to the public.
“While it is not my policy to respond to those who keep their identity secret from the people of American Samoa, I was asked by KHJ Radio to comment about a story posted by the ABCDEF Group which implies that I may have accepted ‘foreign funds from Kazakhstan,’” Faleomavaega said. “Given that I have never accepted funds from a foreign government and considering the slanderous nature of this story, I have chosen to set the record straight and clear up fact from fiction.”
1. ABCDEF FICTION: The ABCDEF Group states, ‘Central Asian countries have never been under the legislative jurisdiction of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee on which he serves and which he chaired from 2007 to this January.’
FACT: Central Asia was under the legislative jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, which I chaired from 2007 to January of this year, and Committee records are clear on this point.
2. ABCDEF FICTION: ‘One of the most curious aspects of Delegate Faleomavaega’s career has been his devotion to issues involving Kazakhstan, a central Asian country he has visited numerous times.’
FACT: There is nothing ‘curious’ about my association with Kazakhstan. As a Pacific Islander, I have a special affinity for the people of Kazakhstan because, from 1946 to 1958, the United States detonated 66 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands including the first hydrogen bomb, or Bravo shot, which was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The U.S. nuclear testing program exposed the people of the Marshall Islands to severe health problems and genetic anomalies for generations to come. The U.S. nuclear testing program in the Marshall Islands also set a precedent for France to use the islands of the Pacific for its own testing program. For some 30 years, the French government detonated approximately 218 nuclear devices at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in Tahiti.
From 1949 to 1991, the former Soviet Union used Kazakhstan as its nuclear testing ground, conducting nearly 500 nuclear tests and exposing more than 1.5 million Kazakhs to nuclear radiation. The cumulative power of explosions from nuclear tests conducted by the former Soviet Union is believed to be equal to the power of 2,500 explosions of the type of bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.
In August 2004, I felt a deep sense of obligation as a Member of Congress who had visited the nuclear test sites in the Marshall Islands and Tahiti to also visit the test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. I was the first American legislator to set foot on ground zero in Semipalatinsk. While in Semipalatinsk, I met with the survivors of nuclear testing where, to this day men, women and children continue to suffer from the horrifying array of disease brought about by nuclear contamination.
As a result of my visit in 2004, I publicly commended Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev for leading the way in combating nuclear terrorism and abolishing nuclear weaponry, and I make no apologies for this. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan was left with a ruined economy, the world’s second largest nuclear test site, and the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal. This arsenal could have helped to resolve the financial problems of a young and struggling Kazakhstan. Also, if retained, Kazakhstan would have emerged as a nuclear superpower.
But despite threats from the Kremlin and vast offers of personal and public wealth, President Nazarbayev, in cooperation with U.S. Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar and under the auspices of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, closed and sealed the nuclear test located in Semipalatinsk, and dismantled the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal which was larger than the combined nuclear arsenals of Great Britain, France and China.
In addition to destroying its nuclear arsenal, Kazakhstan also voluntarily transferred approximately 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to the United States which was sufficient for the production of more than 20 nuclear weapons. At any time, these weapons or uranium could have fallen into the hands of terrorists if not for the leadership of President Nazarbayev and U.S. Senators Nunn and Lugar.
So whatever critics might think of President Nazarbayev, his actions changed the course of history, and I will continue to speak out and commend him for his choice to renounce nuclear weaponry. My position regarding this matter is no different than the position the United States took during a joint meeting between President Obama and President Nazarbayev on April 11, 2010 when President Obama noted that “the U.S. appreciates the leadership of President Nazrbayev and the contribution of Kazakhstan to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.” My position is also no different than the stance taken by former President George H.W. Bush, who welcomed President Nazarbayev to the White House or his son, President George W. Bush, who also welcomed President Nazarbayev to the White House and declared our commitment “to strengthen the long-term, strategic partnership and cooperation between our nations.”
3. ABCDEF FICTION: The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) investigation has uncovered circumstantial evidence that strongly supports some claims that the Kazakh Embassy has used lobbyists to create two separate caucuses dedicated to supporting its interests: the Friends of Kazakhstan caucus and the Caucus on Central Asia. Employees from the lobbying firms hired to create the most recent caucus – the Caucus on Central Asia – have donated thousands of dollars to every member that has served in a leadership capacity of that caucus. According to POGO, ‘One Member of Congress, Delegate Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa, a co-chair and driving force behind the creation of the Central Asia caucus, particularly stands out. In the 2010 election cycle, two of Faleomavaega’s top organizational contributors have been under contract with the Republic of Kazakhstan: Employees and family members from Policy Impact Communications, the lobbying firm hired to create the Central Asia caucus, contributed $4,800, making the firm Faleomavaega’s second largest organizational contributor; and another firm, Steptoe and Johnson, which is the Republic of Kazakhstan’s outside counsel, contributed $2,000 through its Political Action Committee."
FACT: Point one, while I commend POGO for championing good government and investigating ‘corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government,’ at no time has POGO contacted my office to inquire about the Central Asia Caucus, Policy Impact, or Steptoe and Johnson. Neither has the ABCDEF Group. Neither has Samoa News which also posted this false story without the courtesy of asking for my comments.
Had POGO or the ABCDEF Group or Samoa News done due diligence before making or posting false and irresponsible accusations, they would have learned that the Caucus on Central Asia Caucus was not created at the request of a lobbyist or an Embassy. The Caucus on Central Asia Caucus was created by myself and Republican Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, current Chairman and former Ranking Member of the House Committee on Armed Services. Congressman McKeon and I served as the founding co-chairs and our paperwork for the establishment of the Caucus was filed in accordance with the rules of the Committee on House Administration, and before Policy Impact ever represented the government of Kazakhstan. Our paperwork was filed on December 17, 2008 and approved on January 7, 2009.
Republican Congressman Dan Burton, who now serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, and I re-established the Central Asia Caucus in the 112th Congress, after the 2010 election cycle, and after Policy Impact no longer represented Kazakhstan, although it is our prerogative as Members of Congress to create Congressional Member Organizations at any time as long as they are created in accordance with House rules. House rules require that Caucuses must register each Congress. The Committee on House Administration approved the re-registering of the Caucus on Central Asia on February 22, 2011.
As for Central Asia, I will continue to do everything I can to support this part of the world, including serving as co-chair of the Caucus, because, having been subjected to Communism, the people of Central Asia have lived without basic freedom for over 100 years. In my meetings with the people and leaders of these countries, they, like us, want democracy and it is my intent to do what I can to help them as they move forward.
Central Asia is also critical to U.S. security and energy interests. The Central Asian countries supply routes to support U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. Known as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), this supply route is critical to coalition efforts. Simply put, without the support of Central Asia, we have no hope in Afghanistan. And, as long as there are military men and women from American Samoa serving in Afghanistan, Central Asia will have my full support.
Point two, regarding campaign contributions from Policy Impact, I accepted a total of $4,800 in personal campaign contributions from Policy Impact employees and family members, namely William and Tammy Nixon, after Policy Impact no longer represented Kazakhstan, although like all other Americans, William and Tammy Nixon may contribute to any candidate they choose whenever they like as long as their contributions and my acceptance of those contributions comply with federal law. These contributions were accepted in compliance with federal campaign finance laws, and were duly reported for public record.
Point three, Steptoe’s $2,000 PAC donation to my campaign had no connection to Kazakhstan. At the time of its PAC donation, Steptoe represented StarKist, the largest private sector employer in American Samoa and, like any other PAC, Steptoe is allowed to contribute to any candidate it wishes to support as long as donations are made in compliance with federal campaign laws. Steptoe’s PAC donation was made in compliance with federal campaign finance laws, as was my acceptance of that donation, and this donation was duly reported for public record.
4. ABCDEF FICTION: “Faleomavaega long has been the subject of criticism by his opponents for relying on big contributors with Asian names living in California and labor unions with no activities in American Samoa for the lion's share of his campaign budgets.”
FACT: Because I consider it a privilege to serve the people of American Samoa, I made a decision long ago not to burden our people by seeking local donations especially given that as the GAO has also noted, ‘American Samoa has lower income and higher poverty rates than the mainland US.” In general, it has also been difficult for me to ask others who are not my constituents to donate to my re-election, and so I rarely ask for support. However, there are groups of people who often volunteer to host fundraisers for me and some of my contributors are Asian Americans. Like all Americans, Asian Americans have a right to contribute to candidates whose views they support and it is racist for the ABCDEF Group to suggest that ‘contributors with Asian names’ should not be allowed to participate in the electoral process which is a freedom granted to all U.S. citizens.
5. ABCDEF FICTION: ‘His supporters insist donors with Asian names are legal contributors interested in his work on the Foreign Affairs Committee, with some having interest on his position on tuna boats built in Taiwan whose owners want access to the South Pacific through American Samoa. He switched his position recently to oppose the legislative change necessary to clear the way for the boats so it will be interesting to see what contributors drop off his list this next campaign.
FACT: All of my donors are legal contributors and their information is on file with the Federal Election Commission. Regarding tuna boats built in Taiwan which were 51% U.S. owned, as long as they were indirectly supplying tuna for Chicken of the Sea operations in American Samoa, I supported their efforts which indirectly provided jobs for our cannery workers because no tuna meant no cannery and no cannery meant no jobs. When Chicken of the Sea closed its operations in American Samoa and these boats no longer indirectly delivered fish to our canneries, I changed my position about these boats because my allegiance is and always has been to the people of American Samoa, not to who does or does not contribute to my campaign.
6. ABCDEF FICTION: ‘From ABCDEF Group: Faleomavaega Praises Reelection of Dictator. Caspionet, the state run national satellite television channel of the Republic of Kazakhstan has seized upon the comments of one person, Faleomavaega, to declare on its website, that “the US Congress believes that the early elections in Kazakhstan demonstrated transparency and freedom of choice.”
Caspionet goes on to say Faleomavaega noted that this transparency and freedom of choice “was because of the officials of the country and especially Nursultan Nazarbayev.”
Caspionet quotes Faleomavaega as saying: “For a country like Kazakhstan with some 40 religious organizations, 65% Muslim and 20% Russian Orthodox, I think speaks well to the fact that it has rather tremendous religious freedom, allowing the people to express their own personal religious preferences.”
FACT: On April 4, 2011, the U.S. Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan was among the first to congratulate President Nazarbayev on his re-election. I also congratulated President Nazarbayev. While stating that ‘the election is not without criticism,’ I commended President Nazarabayev for inviting more than 1,059 domestic and international observers to monitor the conduct of the electoral process. These observers included an OSCE Election Observation Mission (EOM), 400 short-term observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as well as independent observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and other international and non-profit organizations.
While I appreciate that concerns of international organizations that want to hurry democracy along, the truth is, Kazakhstan only achieved its independence some 20 years ago. Encouraged by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who wrote the foreword to President Nazarbayev’s most recent book The Kazakhstan Way, President Nazarbayev has taken bold steps to bring Kazakhstan out from under the yoke of communism, and I applaud him for his march towards democracy.
As Archibald MacLeish noted, “Democracy is never a thing done. Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing.” While not equating Kazakhstan and the United States, President Obama, in his conversation with President Nazarbayev ahead of the nuclear summit held in April 2010, remarked that even the United States is still ‘working on’ democracy. In fact, if you look at U.S. history, even though the 15th amendment provided African Americans the right to vote in 1870, their rights weren’t fully realized until 1964.
While more work needs to be done in Kazakhstan, according to polling data from an independent firm hired by the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan during the George W. Bush Administration, 90% of the people of Kazakhstan support President Nazarbayev and more than 63% have a favorable opinion of the U.S., and I believe this is due, in large part, to President Nazarabayev’s leadership.
Since 2001, President Nazarbayev has proved to be a key ally of the U.S., providing over-flight rights for operation Enduring Freedom. Kazakhstan has also made its rail and motor roads available for transshipments needed for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. For the sake of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, including military men and women from American Samoa, I will continue to support President Nazarbayev on the many cooperative efforts underway between the U.S. and Kazakhstan as outlined in a phone conversation between President Obama and President Nazarbayev on April 30, 2011.
In a readout of President Obama’s call to President Nazarbayev, the White House stated that ‘the two presidents discussed our many cooperative efforts regarding nuclear security, including securing nuclear material from the BN-350 reactor, and reviewed progress on meeting goals that the two presidents established during their bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit last year. President Obama also thanked President Nazarbayev for his support for our mutual efforts to foster security and prosperity in Afghanistan. In this call, the two presidents also discussed issues of democracy, affirming that greater political modernization must now accompany Kazakhstan's economic modernization. The parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan in 2012 offer an important opportunity for greater democratization, a goal President Nazarbayev affirmed in his recent inauguration address.’
I applaud both President Obama and President Nazarbayev for affirming greater democratization and I stand with them as they work together to bring this about in one of the world’s tougher neighborhoods.
“Having said this, I will not comment further on the Anyone But Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega Group whose agenda is to mislead the people of American Samoa who re-elected me to represent them in the U.S. Congress. While I defend the rights of my opponents to exercise their freedom of speech, I oppose any who operate in secrecy and, unfortunately, this is how the ABCDEF Group chooses to operate. However, I hope that our people will know and understand my views on this and other matters, despite the ABCDEF Group’s tactics. Should the ABCDEF Group ever decide to step out of secrecy and into the light, I will welcome honest, open and free debate.”
“As for POGO, I believe they owe my office an apology for failure to get the facts before making false claims about me or my colleagues. I thank KHJ Radio for seeking my comments,” Faleomavaega concluded.