A campaign finance watchdog group unleashed a brutal attack on Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer on Tuesday, charging the former congressman with defending sweatshop operators at the behest of lobbyist Jack Abramoff in an ad set to air on Denver television stations. Campaign Money Watch also called on Schaffer to provide evidence for repeated claims he caused a sweatshop to shut down after his junket to the U.S. protectorate in the South Pacific.
“Bob Schaffer ought to come clean about his role in keeping the sweatshops in the Northern Marianas open,” Campaign Money Watch director David Donnelly said in a statement. “He took a luxury trip to the islands and returned to Congress to do convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dirty work.”
Schaffer twice has told reporters his “fact-finding trip” led to factory owners shutting down a “sweatshop,” including a boast to the Denver Post editorial board last week that, ““I’m sure [Abramoff’s] probably not pleased with the sweatshop I helped shut down. I’m sure he’s probably not pleased with the investigation that I did,”
The watchdog group said Tuesday that a thorough investigation finds “no evidence” any sweatshops were closed due to congressional complaints around the time of Schaffer’s visit. “He ought to admit he lied about his role,” Donnelly told reporters Tuesday afternoon. Sweatshops did close in 2004, he said, due to a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of exploited workers.
Schaffer’s spokesman did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
The ad “is running on all broadcast stations in the Denver market,” Donnelly said Tuesday, “strong enough voters will definitely see this ad several times.” He disputed reports the group had committed $1 million to the campaign but told the Colorado Independent the ad buy was “in the high six figures.”
Here’s the ad:
Here’s a transcript of the ad:
What Bob Schaffer doesn’t want you to know.
Schaffer took a luxury trip to the Mariana Islands arranged by jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s firm
Abramoff lobbied for the island’s sweatshops.
They wanted Congress off their back.
Schaffer claimed he was investigating.
But when Schaffer returned, he defended the sweatshops
And he’s taken thousands in contributions from the sweatshop owners
Tell Schaffer to clean up politics.
Public Campaign Action Fund’s Campaign Money Watch is responsible for the contents of this ad.
The long-simmering scandal was triggered in April when Schaffer told the Denver Post the Northern Mariana Islands could serve as a “model” for U.S. immigration reform. The islands, a U.S. protectorate since the 1940s, were notorious for their textile factories employing indentured workers imported from China, Bangladesh and the Philippines to produce garments “Made in the USA.”
The federal government, charged with enforcing labor laws, investigated widespread claims of sweatshop conditions, forced abortions and sex slavery but was stymied by Congress from enacting reforms until this year. Abramoff lobbied on behalf of the textile factories’ owners, promising he could stall reforms by bringing members of Congress to the tropical islands for vacations.