Marianas Reunion

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Jack Abramoff hasn't been around Washington, DC much lately but his extensive legacy of corruption just keeps on giving. TPM Muckraker is going after the story on the McCain fundraiser, Juan Carlos Benitez, with ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Looks like Benitez helped Abramoff out when he was lobbying on behalf of the Northern Marianas Islands and their infamous sweatshops.

Benitez has brought in tens of thousands of dollars for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, but his Washington pedigree includes a few unfortunate footnotes. Here's more from the muckrakers:

Let's look at the timeline -- we know that back in 2001 Benitez landed his big job (pdf) over at the Department of Justice with the help of a recommendation from Abramoff.

Specifically, the job Abramoff steered him into at DOJ was Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. That's the office in charge of -- guess what? -- prosecuting sweatshop owners.

"This position gave Benitez authority over enforcing provisions of ... alleged unfair employment practices, issues of importance to Abramoff clients such as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands," according to a 2006 Congressional report (pdf).

In 2002, Abramoff's firm took in $600,000 in lobbying fees from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Efforts to crackdown on the sweatshops there stalled.

Benitez left the DOJ in 2003 and went to work for Cassidy and Associates, a top Washington lobbying firm. Within months -- by 2004 -- Benitez had registered to lobby for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Also in 2004, Abramoff went to work for Cassidy and Associates. But he soon left, as his name began popping up in news reports about corruption investigations.


McCain's had to boot campaign staff for lobbying on behalf of foreign dictators -- should he retain a major bundler who went to bat for sweatshop owners?