- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Sen. Frank Murkowski, Alaska Republican and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is furthering the Clinton legacy. To the dismay of his colleagues, he is backing Allen Stayman, a partisan Clinton bureaucrat, for a top post in the State Department. An investigation by the House Resources Committee underscores Mr. Stayman's unfitness for the job, and the outrageousness of Mr. Murkowski's support.

Rep. Don Young, former chairman of the House Resources Committee, recently completed his investigation of Mr. Stayman, who headed the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) under Bill Clinton. Mr. Young's committee uncovered Mr. Stayman's campaign funded by taxpayers on government time against Republicans opposed to forcing federal labor laws on the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI).

Earl Devaney, the Interior Department's inspector general, told the House Resources Committee last year that Mr. Stayman's behavior was the "most egregious … I've seen" in 30 years. Mr. Stayman's campaign was certainly unethical and probably illegal. Mr. Young accused him of violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits public employees from engaging in partisan politics, as well as the Anti-Federal Lobbying Act.

On March 14, Mr. Young urged Secretary of State Colin Powell in a letter to remove Mr. Stayman as director of the Office of Compact Negotiations, where he was transferred from OIA. "The clear import of the findings … is that Mr. Stayman … failed to end a wide range of prohibited political activities at OIA and the evidence suggests that he may have engaged in them himself."

Mr. Stayman also has been a loyal contributor to the Democratic Party. In 1998, he gave four donations totaling $1,400 to the Democratic National Committee. The following year, he gave $500 to then-Vice President Al Gore.

Those disturbing realities never deterred Mr. Murkowski, who recommended Mr. Stayman to Mr. Powell in a March 21 letter. Mr. Stayman, he wrote, operates "in a frank and open manner" and "will be a valuable resource both to your administration as well as to those of us who will need to consider the product of your negotiations."

Mr. Murkowski's defense of Mr. Stayman is easily explained. Both are allied with powerful forces trying to straightjacket CNMI's free-market economy. A 1975 compact empowered CNMI, a U.S. territory, to control its labor and immigration laws. In 1997, Mr. Murkowski sought to change that. He asked Mr. Stayman to craft legislation implementing the administration's anti-CNMI legislation, which imposed the minimum wage, worker safety regulations, limits on duty-free imports and restrictions on so-called "guest workers" from China and the Phillipines.

The Big Labor-Democratic coalition has vilified CNMI as a bastion of "slave labor" and sweatshop working conditions. But serious observers of CNMI including the New York Times have documented island workers enjoying reasonable wages and adequate workplaces. Indeed, Frank Strasheim, Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration Administrator, said the CNMI economy is "becoming a model for rest of the world" and was "impressed by commitment in placing the safety and health of their workers first."

Mr. Stayman, as director of OIA, was responsible for coordinating federal policy in U.S. territories, including the CNMI. He leveraged the power of that office to further a brazen political campaign to promote the administration's CNMI legislation. As the House Resources Committee found, several Republicans defending the status quo were targeted just before the 1998 elections.

Mr. Stayman facilitated efforts by OIA Political Director David North to defeat several pro-CNMI Republicans, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Phil English, and Rep. Brian Bilbray. In a 1997 memo, Mr. North asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for negative information on House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Majority Whip Tom DeLay and other Republicans. "We have been asked for the names and phone numbers of the Democratic candidate for Congress in these districts if they have been identified for 1998."

Mr. North continued: "Some friends have asked for this information because the incumbents have been giving the Clinton Administration a hard time over its efforts to reform sweatshops and trade law evasions."

Mr. North, working on government time, also drafted press releases for their Democratic challengers. In a memo to Mr. Bilbray's opponent, Christine Kehoe, he wrote: "My motivations are: to elect Democrats to the House and to punish the handful of obvious GOP sweatshop allies."

Mr. Stayman never intervened to stop Mr. North. In fact, he was an eager participant. At taxpayer expense, he hired private investigators and "human rights activists" to propagate bogus claims that CNMI practiced forced abortions, religious persecution and prostitution. During a Senate Governmental Affairs hearing, former Sen. Rod Grams, Minnesota Republican, questioned Mr. Stayman about his dealings, but got no answers. Instead, Mr. Stayman publicly threatened Mr. Grams outside the hearing room.

He even attacked CNMI's Democratic governor, Froilan Tenorio. The DCCC, he wrote, should "repudiate" Mr. Tenorio for blocking Administration efforts to federalize the islands. He chastised Mr. Tenorio for "scorning our president" and "playing footsie with the Republican house leadership, and who should be repudiated in writing by the nation's Democrats." "Those of us who are politicals here at Interior want the Democratic National Committee to repudiate those scoundrels," he wrote.

Mr. Murkowski has vowed to push the Clinton-backed CNMI legislation through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bill, among other things, provides for a federal takeover of the local immigration authority, which, as Mr. Murkowski himself admitted, would mean "the end of the garment industry in the Marianas."

Also, if Mr. Murkowski has his way, Mr. Stayman will be rewarded with employment at the State Department, where he can continue his partisan crusades. That's too bad: Mr. Stayman epitomizes the sleazy politics of the Clinton era. His presence is an affront to Republicans and the high ideals of the Bush administration.

Michael Cantanzaro is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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