Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D)
Elected: 1988, 11th term.
Born: Aug. 15, 1943, Vailoatai .
Home: Pago Pago.
Education: Brigham Young U., B.A. 1966, U. of Houston, J.D. 1972, U. of CA, LL.M. 1973.
Family: Married (Hinanui); 5 children.
Military career: Army, 1966–69 (Vietnam).
Elected office: AS Lt. Gov., 1984–89.
Professional Career: A.A., U.S. Del. from AS, 1973–75; Cnsl., U.S. House Interior Cmte., 1975–81; AS Dpty. Atty. Gen., 1981–84.
American Samoa has elected a delegate to Congress since 1980. Del. Eni F. H. Faleomavaega is a Democrat first elected in 1988. He went to high school in Hawaii, to Brigham Young University, and then to law school in Houston and Berkeley. He served in Vietnam in the Army. In the 1970s, he worked on the Natural Resources Insular Subcommittee staff and for Utah Democrat Gunn McKay. In 1981, he became deputy attorney general of American Samoa, and in 1985 lieutenant governor. In 1987 he was a crew member on the Hawaiian-Polynesian canoe Hokule’a which sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii, a reprise of the epic Polynesian voyages of the first millennium A.D. He is one of four Mormon Democrats in Congress (the others are Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah) and Faleomavaega has campaigned in Utah among Samoans living or studying there.
Faleomavaega (he uses his last name, rather than the first name used to refer to Samoan chiefs) serves on the Natural Resources Committee, where he has been ranking minority member on various subcommittees. In January 2007, he became the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He has taken a particular interest in the independence movement in Indonesia’s West Papua, where his relatives were Christian missionaries in the late 1800s. The Indonesian government denied him entry to West Papua in July 2007, on the grounds that it would stimulate demonstrations and violence, but that December, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono allowed him limited, closely monitored access to the island. Faleomavaega complained to Yudhoyono about his travel restrictions and told him that Indonesia “has done such a lousy job in the treatment of West Papuans, you might as well give them their independence.”
For several years, Faleomavaega pressed for a bill to exempt interest on American Samoa bonds from state and local taxes—the same treatment given bonds issued by Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands—and it was signed into law in 2004. He has also worked successfully for favorable tax treatment for tuna canneries. In 2007, Faleomavaega urged his fellow Democrats not to include American Samoa in their minimum wage increase. “The truth is that the global tuna industry is so competitive that it is no longer possible for the federal government to demand mainland minimum wage rates for American Samoa without causing the collapse of our economy and making us welfare wards of the federal government.”
In April 2008, he secured an amendment to the Coast Guard appropriation allowing Taiwan-built tuna vessels to sail under the U.S. flag on the grounds that the fishing fleet is old and no U.S. shipyards will build tuna vessels. “No fish means no canneries, and no canneries means no jobs.” This was sharply opposed by Democratic Gov. Togiola Tulafono, as well as by Aumua Amata Coleman, his Republican opponent in every election since 2000, and fought in Washington by her husband, lobbyist Fred Radewagen, on the grounds it would encroach on Samoan businesses. In February 2009, when there was talk that StarKist and Chicken of the Sea would close their American Samoa canneries because of scheduled wage increases, Faleomavaega met in Washington with Togiola and Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Governor Benigno Fitial and they agreed to seek a postponement of the increases. Faleomavaega has sought a comprehensive review of the policy by the Department of Labor, which is tasked with administering the minimum wage in the territory.
In 2008, Faleomavaega once again faced Coleman, who usually presents a strong challenge. This time he beat her by a more comfortable margin, 60%-35%.