(10-08-09 UPDATE: The result of Abercrombie's effort announced Oct 7 is that companies working on the Guam base project will have to attempt to recruit American workers before hiring any foreign workers. But Abercrombie's expensive wage levels are not mandated by the bill--meaning that the positons will not be attractive to Hawaii workers. This favors companies such as Hunt Building Co who are prepared to hire US workers over foreign labor contractors who are not. It will also assist Hunt and/or other US companies in entering competition on foreign base contracts. So Abercrombie's donor potentially benefits immensely but Hawaii labor does not.)
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex." President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1961
by Andrew Walden (Originally published July 12, 2009)
As a hippie transplant from Buffalo, Neil Abercrombie was in the late 1960s and early 1970s involved in a scandal over tearing down military facilities--fighting to drive the ROTC out of what 1960s anti-American war activists called “the shacks” on the UH Manoa campus.
Four decades later, as a Congressman, Abercrombie could become embroiled in a scandal over building up military facilities--steering construction contracts of a military base on Guam towards a major campaign contributor.
Abercrombie was sharply criticized in the Washington Post June 30 for inserting a provision in the House version of the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill doubling the cost of relocating US troops from Okinawa to Guam.
What the media has not reported: Abercrombie’s provision could create a $10 billion opportunity for one of his largest campaign contributors, The Hunt Building Co.
Abercrombie’s provision would require that 70% of the construction workers be US citizens. They would have to be paid at the prevailing wages in Hawaii. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this “would increase the need for discretionary appropriations by about $10 billion over the 2010-2014 period.”
Abercrombie claims, "This is a huge opportunity to put Americans to work, in an American territory, building an American military base." He did not mention the "huge opportunity" for his campaign contributor. There is no requirement that the workers come from Hawaii.
Charles Djou, the Republican candidate seeking to replace Abercrombie in Congress, pointed out, “This is a reckless fiscal maneuver that dramatically increases taxpayers' cost and an inappropriate use of the defense budget to spread political pork.”
OpenSecrets.org reports that Hunt was Abercrombie’s fourth largest source of campaign cash in the most recent cycle. People tied to the El Paso, TX company contributed $13,800 to the Honolulu Congressman in 2007-08. Since 2002, Hunt has contributed at least $32,500 to Abercrombie’s campaigns.
Hunt renovated the 1400-home military/civilian Iroquois Point housing development on Ewa Beach, Oahu at the mouth of Pearl Harbor. The company has an entire Hawaii Division – positioning Hunt to contribute “in-state” to Abercrombie’s 2010 campaign for Governor. (Candidates for Hawaii state offices are limited to 30% out-of-state donations.) Hunt is also building “The Waterfront at Pu`uloa” on Oahu and “Palamanui” and “Kakaeloa” on the Big Island.
On its website, Hunt Building describes itself as “one of the nation’s leaders in military housing, specializing in turnkey design-build services through traditional military construction (MILCON) programs, and the military’s private/public ventures (PPV) process.”
The Washington Post reports that the Guam base will include, “family housing construction…financed by third parties, who would then take a fee for managing those properties.”
Hunt is not the only campaign contributor Abercrombie rewarded with taxpayer dollars in the 2010 Defense Authorization Act. Citizens Against Government Waste pointed out a $3.5 million Abercrombie earmark directed to BAE Systems for “Marine Mammal Awareness.”
OpenSecrets.org reports BAE Systems is Abercrombie’s top contributor for 2007-08 and for 2005-06 kicking in a total of $36,690. Since many BAE systems officers are Hawaii residents, they would be able to contribute “in-state” to Abercrombie’s gubernatorial campaign.
OpenSecrets.org July 7 also nails Abercrombie for accepting a $1,500 campaign contribution from indicted defense Contractor Richard Ianieri, a major backer of Rep Jack "Abscam" Murtha (D-PA).
A flattering article in May, 2009 El Paso Magazine paints Hunt Building Company Chairman Woody Hunt as an anti-corruption fighter. With no sense of irony, Hunt is quoted saying, “Once elected, you have to separate yourself from your supporters and govern.” Another article in the series is titled: “Corruption is the reason El Paso stays poor and over taxed.”
A typical comment on the article reads: “I agree. It's about time El Paso graduated from nursery school level corruption. I look toward Woody to show us how the big boys play.”
Are the big boys of "the military industrial complex" still playing with Neil? Abercrombie has held eight gubernatorial campaign fundraisers since April. His first Campaign Spending Commission report will be due July 31, 2009.