Okay, this admittedly has a lot of moving parts. Let me see if I can get all of this straight.
The New York Times runs a story this morning about $1.2 million in unaccounted for work done by a Rabbi David Lapin to "promote ethics in government" for the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CMNI), a U.S. territory. Tom DeLay and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff are at the center of this one.
Here's some background:
1. The Northern Marianas have weaker labor laws than the mainland U.S. and the garment industry likes it that way. They bring in labor -- some would say slave labor -- from China and other Asian countries, and pay them a pittance while exploting them. Some go into prostitution.
2. CMNI hired Jack Abramoff to lobby for them and paid him roughly $9 million to prevent the Clinton Administration from stregthening labor and human rights standards.
3. 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.
4. Abramoff also funneled more than a million dollars, it appears, to David Lapin, who is a conservative rabbi, for promoting ethics in government. Rabbi Lapin later ran a school, now defunct, that was supported by Abramoff. CMNI cannot account for what David Lapin did for the islands.
5. Who is Lapin? First off, he's the brother of Daniel Lapin, the principal of Strategic Business Ethics, a West Coast consulting operation. (Isn't that rich!) More importantly, Daniel Lapin introduced Abramoff and DeLay in 1994, just after the GOP won the House.
(Need a scorecard yet?)
6. Why would Tom DeLay care about some islands halfway around the world? Well, clearly there's the Abramoff connection. The more Abramoff made, the more he could contribute to conservative causes and campaigns to further DeLay's big money agenda. The second reason is more direct: ENRON.
7. Enron hired Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, to lobby for their interests in a new power plant in CMNI. When Enron lost to a Japanese bid, Buckham got DeLay to try to re-open the bidding. Enron was one of Tom DeLay's biggest benefactors. Buckham, it should be noted, is the linchpin to a lot of sleaze in and around DeLay's operations, a Washington source tells me.
Island intrigue. Slave labor. Prostitution. Enron. No-bid contracts. Unaccounted for millions. All with Tom DeLay at the center. Lovely.