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Pombo dismisses Mariana criticism

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Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 10:00 pm

Pete McCloskey's bid to unseat Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, in the June 6 primary apparently took a mudslinging twist on Monday.

McCloskey handed reporters a timeline and a 60-page document that tries to link Pombo to sweatshops and forced abortions in the Northern Marianas Islands, which is under the administration of the United States.

Pombo's campaign consultant, Wayne Johnson, had yet to see McCloskey's document, but he dismissed the claims.

"Everything the guy does is outlandish," he said. "He creates this stuff out of thin air."

McCloskey charges that Pombo and indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay accepted donations from Northern Marianas Islands business interests and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

McCloskey said Abramoff was contracted by the Northern Marianas Islands to prevent American labor laws being introduced to the South East Asian protectorate, which has a large clothing industry.

McCloskey said DeLay appointed Pombo to chair the House Resources Committee, "vaulting him over six other senior Republicans," where he failed to do anything to protect island workers.

The House Resources Committee is responsible for introducing legislation regarding the Northern Marianas Islands to the House.

The Senate voted 100-0 to introduce American labor laws to the islands in 2000, but the bill failed in the House, where DeLay had great influence.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt testified in 1998 that almost all private sector jobs on the island were filled with up to 47,000 foreign workers, many of whom were indentured. He said pregnant Chinese workers were fired if they refused to get abortions.

McCloskey said he plans to campaign on the sordid claims and that he might include them in a mail-out.

"The Marianas Islands is a place where people are getting hurt," he said.

Clothes made in the islands are stamped "Made in the USA."

The Northern Marianas Islands were captured in World War II and used to launch bombing raids against Japan.

Contact reporter John Upton at jupton@tracypress.com.

First published: Thursday, May 25, 2006

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