Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 23 Nov 2017 12am

Headlines:

     

     

     

     

     

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017-8:12:45P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Guam’s Bordallo accused of receiving $800,000 in ‘foreign government’ money

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo is being investigated further by a U.S. House of Representatives ethics panel, which has taken particular interest in Bordallo’s receipt of about $800,000 in payments from Japanese diplomats who rented her house in Guam for years.

“(Delegate) Bordallo’s receipt of approximately $800,000 in rental profit from the government of Japan since March 11, 2008, may implicate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution,” according to the panel, in issuing its initial report.

The same clause in the U.S. Constitution was also mentioned by critics of President Trump’s Trump Tower tenants, some of whom include foreign entities or representatives of foreign governments, national news organizations have reported.

The report also cites the House Ethics Manual, which forbids members of Congress and employees receiving “any payment for services rendered to official foreign interests, such as ambassadors, embassies, or agencies of a foreign government.”

Bordallo’s office released a statement characterizing the ethics complaint against her as politically motivated, and prompted by a complaint from a “disgruntled” former chief of staff in her Washington, D.C., office, John Whitt.

This broad application to any profit or gain derived from a foreign government is consistent with Department of Justice precedent supporting an interpretation of the emoluments clause designed to prevent the potential corrupting influence by foreign governments and their agents.

Bordallo’s office has stated that the agreement between Bordallo and the Japan consul general for the lease of her house as the consul general’s official residence predated the beginning of Bordallo’s term in Congress.

Bordallo’s house has been rented by every Japanese consul general who has been assigned to Guam for the past 20-plus years, according to the ethics investigation.

The Japanese Consulate in Guam declined to comment but is aware of the ethics probe into Bordallo, said Osamu Ogata, the deputy consul general.

Speaker Benjamin Cruz said the Bordallo issue isn’t at the top of his mind.

“My focus is on getting a budget enacted so that no one loses the basic services they need,” Cruz said in a written statement. “The congresswoman issued a detailed response and she has earned the right to speak for herself.”

Bordallo’s retired former chief of staff for the Guam office, Joaquin Perez, said he would not comment until he saw the House Ethics Committee report. Perez said he was interviewed twice by the ethics panel.

The U.S. House Ethics Committee stated it will conduct further review, also into allegations that Bordallo for years accepted gifts of free lodging, meals and amenities for multiple weeks per year in a suite and related amenities at the Outrigger Guam Resort.

The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics, by a vote of 6-0, “recommends that the committee further review the allegation that Del. Bordallo received rental profit from the Japanese Consulate ... because there is substantial reason to believe that Del. Bordallo received profit from a foreign government.”

Bordallo has received rent from the Japan consul for $6,000 to $7,500 a month, according to information the committee gathered. Over the past 20 years alone, the rent would have added up to more than $1.4 million, but the rent during her time as a member of Congress covers about half of that total.

“The board recommends that the committee further review the allegation that Delegate Bordallo received gifts of free lodging, meals and amenities at the resort because there is substantial reason to believe that Delegate Bordallo accepted gifts of free lodging, meals and amenities for multiple weeks per year during her service in Congress.”

Bordallo’s office, in a response to the release of the committee’s preliminary report, stated, “the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee.

“Congresswoman Bordallo maintains her belief that no violation of federal law or House Rules has occurred, and that the review is a result of politically motivated complaints lodged against her to the Office of Congressional Ethics,” according to Bordallo’s office.

“She is committed to cooperating with the House Ethics Committee as it continues its review.”

Bordallo’s office stated her agreement to rent her home in Tamuning to the consul general of Japan — which was entered into in 1993, long before her election to the U.S. House of Representatives — does not violate federal law or House rules.

“Additionally she continues to assert that her staying in her sister’s unit in the Outrigger Hotel, which is owned completely by her sister’s family, also does not violate federal law or House Rules.”

The Outrigger Guam Beach Resort is owned by the family of the late Guam real estate developer Alfred Ysrael, whose wife Diana Zein Ysrael is Bordallo’s sister.

The board also recommended that the committee dismiss the allegation that Bordallo used her congressional staff to perform personal services related to maintaining her rental house in Guam and assisting the Guam-based Miss World Guam beauty pageant, whose franchise Bordallo owned.

There’s no substantial reason to believe that Bordallo used congressional staff to perform personal services for the upkeep of the rental house and the pageant, according to the committee report.