How the representative from American Samoa became Bahrain’s man in Washington

For ProPublica, Justin Elliot tells the unlikely story of Eni Faleomavaega, the non-voting congressional delegate from American Samoa who has become the Bahraini government’s staunchest defender on Capitol Hill:  But this week he is taking a trip to Bahrain, his second in the past year, both paid for by the Bahraini government. It’s part of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

For ProPublica, Justin Elliot tells the unlikely story of Eni Faleomavaega, the non-voting congressional delegate from American Samoa who has become the Bahraini government's staunchest defender on Capitol Hill: 

But this week he is taking a trip to Bahrain, his second in the past year, both paid for by the Bahraini government. It's part of a year-long friendship the congressman has developed with the tiny Gulf nation.

Last March, just weeks into the crisis, Faleomavaega emerged seemingly out of nowhere -- he has no history of commenting on Mideast affairs -- to enter a 2,500-word statement [5] into the Congressional Record that closely echoed the Bahraini government's spin. "Bahrain is under attack," he said, painting protesters as violent, Iran-backed vandals representing "the worst kind of seditious infiltration from a foreign enemy." He praised the Crown Prince for supposedly meeting protesters' demands for democratic reforms.

For ProPublica, Justin Elliot tells the unlikely story of Eni Faleomavaega, the non-voting congressional delegate from American Samoa who has become the Bahraini government’s staunchest defender on Capitol Hill: 

But this week he is taking a trip to Bahrain, his second in the past year, both paid for by the Bahraini government. It’s part of a year-long friendship the congressman has developed with the tiny Gulf nation.

Last March, just weeks into the crisis, Faleomavaega emerged seemingly out of nowhere — he has no history of commenting on Mideast affairs — to enter a 2,500-word statement [5] into the Congressional Record that closely echoed the Bahraini government’s spin. "Bahrain is under attack," he said, painting protesters as violent, Iran-backed vandals representing "the worst kind of seditious infiltration from a foreign enemy." He praised the Crown Prince for supposedly meeting protesters’ demands for democratic reforms.

"Mr. Speaker," Faleomavaega said. "I have to ask why the demonstrators returned to protesting again, even after all their demands were agreed to."

Just days before, the government had torn down [6] the iconic Pearl Monument at the center of the protests and Saudi Arabian tanks had rolled into Bahrain to back up the government crackdown.

Not surprisingly, there’s a lobbyist connection behind Faleomavaega’s sudden interest in Bahrain, but also cameo appearances by the Northern Virginia Mormon community and the tuna industry. In the past, Faleomavaega has used his position to defend Kazakhstan’s human rights record as well. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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