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TP 2018 campaign fueled by casino, big money

CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres delivers his address before the January 20, 2017 inaugural ball for President Trump that is the subject of federal investigations into illegal Chinese interference in the elections. To the right of Mr. Torres is Guam former first lady Christine Calvo, her husband former Gov. Eddie Calvo, and Mr. Torres's wife, CNMI first lady Diann Tudela Torres.

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tumon, Guam) Some of the most politically-connected Saipan and Guam companies, including targets of federal investigations and federal grand jury subpoenas, provided most of the money Gov. Ralph Torres used to win his 2018 election as governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Mr. Torres's Campaign Financial Disclosure filed with the CNMI Office of the Public Auditor reveals that the governor and his runningmate, Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios, raised $670,321.44 even during the era of austerity and economic hardship facing the people of the NMI.

Of that amount, the governor's campaign spent $299,737.31. More than half of that amount came from the CNMI's burgeoning casino industry and a select few of the biggest and most influential corporations in the Marianas.

More than $153,000 in campaign money came from just 28 companies in a single fundraiser held December 29, 2017. Casino company Tinian Entertainment Co. donated $20,000. Bridge Capital, LLC and Bridge Investment Group, LLC each donated $10,000. Marianas Consultancy Services, LLC, owned by embattled Torres associate Alfred Yue, gave $10,000 to Mr. Torres's campaign.

Mr. Yue's activities have been under federation investigation for suspicion of the funneling of illegal Chinese money into federal election campaigns. Marianas Consultancy's transactions with target casino company Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

Rounding out the list of donors who made no less than $5,000 in aggregate contributions to the Torres-Palacios 2018 campaign are several companies that also do business with the government of the CNMI as vendors, and that have sought consideration regarding a slew of regulatory requests and transactions.

IPI (CNMI), LLC's parent company, Bermuda-based Imperial Pacific International, LLC, donated $10,000. Imperial Pacific International, LLC is a shell company that actually is owned by a Hong Kong company owned by Chinese national and billionaire Ciu Li Jie.

It is against federal law to receive campaign contributions from foreigners. While the law does not distinguish between countries, the FBI has been particularly interested in Russian and Chinese money flowing into federal election campaigns.

Imperial Pacific International, LLC's sponsorship of a January 20, 2017 inaugural ball fundraiser for President Trump's re-election campaign has been the subject of an FBI investigation and international media scrutiny because of close ties linked to the Communist Party of China.