Getting By With A Little Help From Your Friends

The muck surrounding superlobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay just got a little sticker.

It turns out DeLay may have threatened a colleague in the House of Representatives to lay off an investigation into one of his buddy Jack’s pet lobbying gigs.

Here’s the story. In the 1990s, Abramoff represented the Northern Mariana Islands — to the tune of millions of dollars – to help them avoid U.S. labor laws. Abramoff took full advantage of the islands’ balmy weather, flying dozens of lawmakers and their aides for luxurious vacations. One of these vacations was a 1997/1998 New Years trip for DeLay and his wife.

The National Journal reports that, later in 1998, DeLay helped kill a “congressional fact-finding trip that was being planned as part of an investigation of sweatshop conditions in the garment industry in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.” Rep. Peter Hoekstra, (R-MI) was leading a fact-finding investigation into worker abuse in the islands’ garment industry when DeLay’s office threatened the lawmaker with loss of his subcommittee chairmanship if he continued the investigation.

One former aide recalls, “We were under very strict orders not to deal with the Marianas…Hoekstra made it very clear that he was told to lay off the Marianas.” Another former aide charged Hoekstra “returned to his office one day in mid-1998 after a meeting in the majority whip’s office, the congressman was ‘pissed off,’ complaining to some of his staff, ‘They shut us down.'”

It was his trip to the Marianas that DeLay called Abramoff “one of my closest and dearest friends.” It’s time to examine that friendship’s perks.