Susan Bradford
Investigative Journalist
 
 
Reporting the Truth about the Abramoff Investigation
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Marianas Business Journal
 
 
'Lynched!' paints picture of lobbyist; digs through NMI-U.S. relations

Mon, Apr 11th 2011

By MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff
 
In a world where relationships govern politics, Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a leader of the pack. While his relationships with clients and leading politicians were the subject of Senate and Department of Justice investigations, media attention and criminal cases as events unfolded, "Lynched!" looks at the man from a different angle than most characterizations.

Abramoff was sentenced to two terms in prison, following fraud, bribery and tax evasion charges. Investigative journalist and author Susan Bradford's position is that Abramoff was denied a voice in his defense. "I endeavored to provide him one," she told the Journal, "By writing a full account of what had truly transpired over the course of his lobbying and the ensuing scandal. I believe that writing this book would help vindicate him, as I believe it has."

 
Following four years of research, "Lynched!" mostly deals with Abramoff's relations with Indian tribes, political figures and Bradford's premise "that special interests were able to influence federal agencies, the media, Congressional Committees, the courts, and even the system of justice itself to railroad Abramoff."

 
It does not dwell on Abramoff's client relations with the Guam judiciary [to halt reorganization on behalf of the Superior Court], but for those in the Northern Mariana Islands or with a relationship with the commonwealth, one chapter of the book details his successful work for the NMI.
 
Sprinkled with names of those active in the community today, it contains a number of quotes from people who would be in a position to know how events unfolded, commenting on their perception of congressional visits to the NMI, activities within the Office of Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, class action law suits on behalf of garment workers, and legislation to federalize immigration and minimum wage law in the NMI by Congressman George Miller and others.

Richard A. Pierce, executive director of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, was president of Saipan Manufacturers Inc. from 1983 to 1991, and president of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association from 1991 to 1995. Pierce who has read "Lynched!" told the Journal, "Bradford's painting of the conspiracy between the now bankrupted class action attorneys Milberg & Weiss, labor unions and activists, liberal media and Fenton Communications, mainland politicians and those complicit as a part of that conspiracy is accurate.
 
"There are some chronological inaccuracies, and Bradford's brush does add some color where it isn't needed. For instance, I disagree the class action suit was successful. Federal judges tossed out all but a few complaints Milberg & Weiss brought before them."

However, he said, "She accurately divides U.S. politicians between those simply engaged in the U.S. political system and those that used it to destroy an industry for their own reasons."

Bradford writes in the chapter on the NMI, "Abramoff helped combat liberal efforts on Capitol Hill to federalize the islands by enabling legislators to perceive the truth behind the media spin and see for themselves the wonderful changes which were transpiring on the islands."

Pierce said of Abramoff, "She characterizes him as a principled libertarian, a proponent of self-determination and a protector of a people sustained by a struggling, nascent economy, which resisted the paternalistic meddling of the federal government.
 
"That's the way I knew him. Just because he cashed in on it doesn't mean that's not who he was. He disliked the nature of the apparel industry, but believed in the rights of those that owned it and prospered from it, including the CNMI government."
 
The years have not been kind to the CNMI. Aside from the departure of the garment industry, the downturn in flights - partly due to the JAL reorganization - hurt the tourism industry, its other economic pillar. The two recent bright spots were the NMI's China visa waiver and its Russian visitor market. The Guam-CNMI visa waiver program is due to be implemented May 12, without China or Russia on the list of approved nations. Add an uncertain future for the contract worker population, and federalization has yet to prove its total worth to the commonwealth.

Pierce said, "Without the apparel industry's contributions the CNMI economy would have tanked 10 years earlier. What do you think would happen to Guam's economy if the military totally fled? It's important to know the apparel plants didn't leave the CNMI because of changes in the WTO agreements in 2005 as people have been led to believe. It finished in 2009 because wages rose to the point plants left for cheaper production costs. The change in immigration would have eventually dried up the pool of skilled labor. Everyone knew the industry would eventually leave, just like everyone knew U.S. immigration and wage laws would eventually apply. It just didn't need to be administered with the force, vengeance and impact we witness every day in the CNMI. It's true we lived by Jack Abramoff, and we died by Jack Abramoff."
 
Bradford told the Journal she continues as an investigative journalist, now focusing on financial fraud within Indian Country and the major investment banks, and writing another book."One former Abramoff client, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, has already requested a Congressional investigation based upon my recommendation and discoveries," she said. "I will also be hosting Beyond the Beltway on the Talk Radio Network."
 
Published in December, "Lynched!" is available from www.amazon.com, or from www.susanbradford.org.

Original Pechanga
 
 

New Book on Jack Abramoff by Susan Bradford Shows Relationship to IETAN and Tribal Membership FRAUD

New Book on Abramoff Investigation Gets to the Bottom of Tribal Membership Fraud

Membership disputes have plagued Indian Country for decades now. We have helplessly watched as people who do not trace to Indian tribes falsely claim Native ancestry while our own people are being systematically disenrolled and persecuted on our own reservations. The problem has not only touched the Pechanga tribe, but tribes across the nation. A recently released book written by investigative journalist Susan Bradford reveals that other tribes represented by Ietan Consulting, including the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, have experienced membership disputes similar to ours and that the principals of the lobbying firm facilitated the take over of individuals of questionable tribal legitimacy.

Bradford's Lynched: The Shocking Story of How the Political Establishment Manufactured a Scandal to Have Republican Super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff Removed from Power is a must-read for all Natives, especially those concerned with protecting their heritage and restoring integrity to their reservations. While giving particular attention on the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, which gave birth to the Abramoff scandal, the author documents that tribal governments across the nations were seized by those who do not belong and who are not even Indian.  Pechanga has an adopted member, Russell "Butch" Murphy who worked to eliminate 25% of blood members and keep hundreds OUT of the tribe.

We, in Indian Country, were apparently fed a steady dose of propaganda about the Abramoff investigation – namely that the lobbyist at the center of the scandal, Jack Abramoff, was shaking tribes down for money and defrauding his clients. Larry Rosenthal of Ietan helped fan the flames of discontent against Abramoff, who was apparently championing the interests of Indians and therefore, challenging the status quo. Bradford makes a compelling case for Abramoff's innocence, providing strong evidence that he was essentially set up in an invented scandal which was sold to the American people through the media, with Rosenthal's assistance. You can read about the set up and what really happened to Abramoff in the book.
 
Suffice to say, the scandal originated at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which is experiencing membership issues which mirror our own at Pechanga. In Lynched, Bradford meticulously documents how people who do not belong to this tribe took over the Saginaw Chippewa's government and its casino through fraud and deception. What is fascinating about her account is that she captures all the maneuvering and sleight of hand that facilitated the take over.

During the tribe's hotly contested election of 1999, Rosenthal helped organize a coup d'etat which removed the Chief, Kevin Chamberlain, who was trying to clean up the membership rolls. He was essentially following court orders to ensure that the tribe held a legitimate election at a time when fictitious Indians were running as candidates and casting their ballots.

As Bradford documents in her book, the take over of Indian Country by fictitious Indians began in the 1970's around the time in which federally recognized tribes were anticipating their multi-million dollar settlements from the Indian Claims Commission. Miraculously non-Indians, many of them Caucasian, made bee-lines for Indian tribes and their governments. President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty was then underway, and lawyers were dispatched to tribes, who helped sign fictitious Indians onto the tribal membership rolls so that they could receive federal benefits and eventually per cap payments.

The settlement money served as the seed capital for gaming, and ultimately casinos, which have generated tremendous wealth for Indian Country. Many of these newcomers were backed by the federal government who wanted the fictitious Indians to oversee the profit-generating gaming businesses. In the case of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, gaming was spearheaded by a woman by the name of Josephine, whom public records identify as “white.” Eventually she and her family would add people onto the membership rolls and seize control the government and casino, with the assistance of attorneys and their allies on Capitol Hill.

We have all experienced the pervasive influence of nepotism on Indian reservations. On this particular reservation, one of Rosenthal's chief contacts was Bernie Sprague, who later testified against Abramoff in Sen. John McCain's hearings. While Sprague apparently does trace to the tribe, he married into Josephine's family and was therefore afforded privileges reserved for them.

Once Josephine, her family, and allies staked claim on the tribal government, they rewrote the Constitution to solidify their power and control of the tribe's businesses and revenue. In a pattern all too familiar to us, they then proceeded to add more individuals onto the membership rolls, who would then vote for them to keep them in office in perpetuity and who would also receive per cap, even though many are not even Indian. The lengths that some of them went to acquire membership is truly extraordinary. For example, Josephine's mother, Beatrice, apparently assumed the identify of an Indian male, Jesse Davis, and then altered his birth certificate by changing his name to hers, and reassigning the gender on his paperwork to female. Many official records were altered to give these intruders a paper trail of legitimacy.

One of the key legislators who worked with the newly minted tribal elite to facilitate their take over was Congressman Dale Kildee, who helped these newcomers rewrite the Constitution and direct the ICC's settlement money to the Tribal Council while rolling back federal oversight of that money. Gaming was imminent in Indian Country in 1986. At the time, Rosenthal was working for Kildee in the House Resources Committee, where he helped draft multi-million dollar settlements for Indian tribes. Rosenthal was also the inspiration behind the Congressional Native-American Caucus, which Kildee chairs. Before embarking on a career as a lobbyist, Rosenthal joined the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), which established an independent federal regulatory agency over gaming.

During the hotly contested election of 1999 on the Saginaw Chippewa's Mt. Pleasant reservation, the descendants of the original, founding tribal members led by Chief Kevin Chamberlain attempted to remove the fictitious Indians from their reservation and restore legitimacy to their tribe. However, Sprague reached out to his friends in Washington, DC to topple Chamberlain. At the top of his list was Rosenthal, who had a direct channel into the Bureau of Indian Affairs through his roommate Holly Cook, whose boss, Lynn Cutler, managed Indian Affairs at the White House and was directly answerable to Kevin Gover, who was in charge of the BIA. As you all know, Cook is married to our tribal chairman, Mark Maccarro, who was the recent target of a recall attempt.

Rosenthal successfully enlisted Gover to intervene in the election to overthrow Chamberlain and seat the candidates which were drawn from the cadre of elites. A U.S. District Court sought a preliminary injunction against Gover on grounds that his intervention on behalf of the Peters Council was “arbitrary, capricious, and illegal.” Since another tribal election was imminent, the Department of Interior allowed the new Council to serve out its term.  After his successful intervention in this election, Rosenthal was retained as lobbyist of the tribe.


Bradford writes her in book:

When asked why the Department of Interior ultimately decided to recognize the Peters Council as the legitimate leaders of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, Gover said, “We started looking at the case and talking to both sides...We didn't get satisfactory explanations from the Chamberlain Council with respect to membership issues and whether the right people had voted in elections. What they were saying is that ineligible people voted....(The BIA) can't resolve membership issues...It's not our problem to get people off the rolls.”

When informed that the Chamberlain Administration was trying to remove people from the tribe who did not legitimately qualify for membership, Gover said: “If the tribe was spending money for the support of non-Indian persons, then that (is) illegal. On the other hand, if they chose on their own to give that money to a non-Indian, the United States has no role and no say in how they use that property. We don't care if they are not Indians from our perspective...The tribe needs to remove them from the reservation, but getting the BIA involved is unlikely as the United States doesn't use its power in that way. There was a time when the United States dictated the day-to-day life of the reservation, but now Indian tribes are free to make their own mistakes. The United States is not a guarantor....”

After Gover recognized the Peters Council, 11 police departments were enlisted to remove Chamberlain from power. Over ten law enforcement agencies were also summoned, and the Michigan Agency, BIA, and FBI all had personnel on the ground at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to back the Peters Council. Tribal members even remembered seeing a state police helicopter flying over the federal reservation during the take over. “That's how big of a threat they perceived my son to be and how powerful his opposition really was,” Cathy (Chamberlain, the Chief's mother) said.

“What Gover did was a shock to us,” (outgoing Chief) Kevin Chamberlain said. “We were following a court order to fix enrollment and lay a foundation for a legitimate government. We weren't trying to stay in office. We were basically trying to ensure that the election results were valid. We had a plan, but then Gover intervened. The next day, the office was barricaded, the locks were changed, and we couldn't get into our offices. The federal government abnegated all responsibility. Gover informed us that the BIA cannot remove people from the rolls and said that fraud in the membership office is purely an internal matter. Yet, Gover decided to remove me before I could fix the membership issues which have confounded our tribe for over a decade now. He said that the federal government cannot be a guarantor nor determine who may or may not qualify for membership – yet ironically, Gover backed a slate of candidates that our founding Constitution states cannot legitimately qualify for membership or serve in our government. Gover justified his actions by saying that he needed a functioning Tribal Council in place for day-to-day relations between the tribe and federal government.”

....And all with the help of Rosenthal, who has represented the interests of the non-Indian elites within the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe (minus Abramoff's brief tenure as the tribe's lobbyist) ever since. Apparently a network of attorneys, Native organizations, legislators, and agency officials have supported his efforts to keep the corrupt power structure in place, allowing non-Indians to take over tribes and their businesses while disenrolling those who legitimately belong. Consider also that an attorney who worked with Rosenthal to lobby Gover and help remove Chamberlain (Henry Buffalo) is also a tribal judge at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota, which controls the very lucrative Mystic Lake Casino. The Shaopkee is experiencing similar membership disputes and government corruption which are deeply entrenched within the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and our own reservation. That the corrupt status quo is allowed to continue unabated is no accident.

To learn more about organizations and individuals behind the take over of Indian Country and membership disputes, please read Bradford's book. For more information and to order the book, please visit her web site: www.susanbradford.org.

The trail runs deep into our political sphere.    Those very people we elect to help us, have actually harmed more native Americans