Over at Balloon Juice, Doug wrote about Rick Santorum running meetings where lobbyists were able to thumbs-ups or thumps-down any Bush era appointment. This reminded me that Santorum's involvement with lobbyists goes back to his arrival in Washington as a new Senator.
Santorum was elected to the Senate as part of the Gingrich wave election in 1994. Also arriving in that wave was a new Wingnut scheme to use lobbyists as a money laundering network to fund off-the-books efforts to swing elections and build conservative power in DC. Tom DeLay was an architect of the K Street Project and Rick Santorum eagerly signed on as one of his Capos. On the K Street side it was Jack Abramoff who was the point of the spear. Jack signed up clients who lived or died on the basis of congressional action and had lots of money to spend. Most folks know about the many Native American Nations with casinos who hire Jack, but another group of Jack's clients were US Territories with issues before the Congress.
In the late 1980s, a string of islands about 40 miles north of Guam became a US Territory. To protect the indigenous people of those islands they were given control of immigration and labor laws so that they would not become swamped with Anglos like Hawaii. Local grifters took control of the new Territory's politics and used these loopholes to invite in Chinese Sweatshops who wanted the benefit of a "Made in the USA" label. A family of Chinese grifters--the Tan Family--worked with local grifters to set up a system of labor abuse that included sweatshops, sex shops, human trafficking and even forced abortions (whenever one of their "worker" victims was with child).
Enter Jack Abramoff and his happy mixing with Santorum.
In 1996 the sweatshop interests were facing an extension of US immigration and labor laws to the islands because of endless reports of horrific abuse. One of the first hearing of the Gingrich Congress was a bipartisan one committed to an end of this blight on American honor. To fight this effort, the sweatshop owners--and their partners controlling the local government--hired Jack Abramoff. Working with his Republican allies, Jack was able to protect their labor abuse scam for a decade--and even today others are still working with these Pirates of Saipan to protect and maintain the abuse. In this effort, Rick Santorum was one of Jack's first points of contact:
Santorum helped Jack win his legislative battle. He was one of the first elected members of Team Abramoff and throughout the rest of his years in Congress he was a reliable supporter of the Saipan Sweatshops. Naturally, he was well paid for this support. Shortly after his meetings with Abramoff, Willie Tan--the sweatshop owner--and some of his employees attended a Santorum fundraiser as part of their Abramoff-organized tour of America for the 1996 GOP Convention:
According to Open Secrets, Satorum's FightPAC recieved $5,000 just before the sweatshop owner and his employees went to his fundraiser and another $5,000 just after Abramoff won a Santorum supported legislative victory for his sweatshop dependent clients. Both payments to his PAC were from John Pangelinan, a long-time Tan Family employee.
The crimes and human rights abuses of these sweatshop owners and the system of labor abuse they created in the Commonwealth of the Norther Marianas Islands--a US Territory in the Western Pacific--are epic and well documented. They should have ended almost twenty years ago. Thanks to Abramoff, Santorum and others it still goes on today and there are thousands of victims who will never be made whole. Theft of labor, forced prostitution, coerced abortions were sanctioned and protected by the CNMI Government and the United States of America. This system of abuse and human suffering is something that Rick Santorum took cash payments to support. The popular internet meme to define his name may be way too nice for him.