12 Feb 2018
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
AT the U.S. Senate committee hearing last week on CW legislation, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, asked the governor if he knew about a CNMI lobbyist who approached the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Cantwell wanted to know if the lobbyist approached the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network regarding money-laundering violations.
Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres replied that he was not aware of such an incident involving a CNM lobbyist, but added that he would try to get more information and relay it to the senator.
“We don’t want to see the Mariana Islands trying to get Treasury to not enforce the law,” the senator added.
A copy of a lobbying disclosure form obtained by Variety states that Turnberry Solutions, LLC, representing the CNMI, lobbied the Treasury. One of the lobbyists was Jason Osborne.
On Sunday, Press Secretary Kevin Bautista issued the following statement:
“The [lobbyist’s] filing was an error in the report done inadvertently by a staffer at Turnberry Solutions. Since realizing the error, the filing has been amended to reflect that Mr. [Jason] Osborne met with [the Office of Insular Affairs] and [the Department of the Interior]. The Treasury line was a mistake and has since been corrected also. To the wider point, services provided by Turnberry have been an invaluable asset to the CNMI in advancing our message in Washington, D.C. and has been performed diligently without much expense to the CNMI.”
Bautista added, “Turnberry’s monthly fee of $5,000 is far below standard rates and comes with representation from individuals with significant relationships and a desire to see the CNMI succeed. At a time when many in our community are concerned about the level of representation we are receiving in D.C., these services are saving the CNMI the unnecessary costs of establishing a permanent Washington, D.C. office, which costs significantly more, and an even greater number of off-island trips while putting forward a consistent advocacy effort on behalf of our people. As a point of reference, it is worth noting that Guam and Puerto Rico have several lobbyists with an annual budget of $2 million for lobbying, and both have physical offices in D.C. that cost their respective taxpayers significantly more.”
Bautista said “the governor and his administration recognize the historical issues relating to lobbying efforts, but the actions, intentions and direction of our current efforts are being performed with the utmost regard to propriety, particularly at a time when federal issues are not effectively being addressed by the existing level of representation over the last several years. Through these ongoing efforts, we have made great strides in getting legislation introduced in Congress to address our workforce issues, as well as establishing relationships in both the White House and Congress that have not been made in the past.”
Governor Torres “has a great appreciation tof Jason Osborne and his team and looks forward to continuing to work with them as we advocate for the commonwealth’s best interests in our nation’s capital.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/102183-administration-explains-dc-lobbyist-issue