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  Abramoff ties cloud Schaffer's '99 fact-finding trip
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Last EditedRP  Apr 10, 2008 02:45pm
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MediaNewspaper - Denver Post
News DateFriday, April 11, 2008 04:30:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionJust before boarding a plane to the Mariana Islands in 1999, then-Congressman Bob Schaffer announced he was embarking on a fact-finding mission to get to the bottom of repeated allegations of labor abuse in the American protectorate.

What he didn't say was that the trip was partly arranged by the firm of now-jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented textile factory owners fighting congressional efforts to reform labor and immigration laws on the islands and who was being handsomely paid to keep the islands' cherished exemptions.

In a recent interview with The Denver Post, the Republican candidate for Colorado's open Senate seat described the protectorate's guest-worker program as a "model" lawmakers could use as they overhaul the U.S. immigration system.

"At its base it is a union fight that has beentaking place there," Schaffer said in a recent interview about what he found on the islands. "I insisted that it be a real investigation, which it was," he said, noting that he visited more than 20 factories and found serious problems in only one.

Nine years later, the trip has become a campaign issue: It has left Schaffer defending a guest-worker program criticized in more than a decade of government reports and journalistic exposés; and it links him to what Abramoff later boasted was an incredibly successful lobbying effort to quash reform by cashing in on ties to key House Republicans, including those on the House Resources Committee, on which Schaffer sat.
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