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Lobbyists for foreign interests paid close attention to several White House contenders

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Lobbyists for foreign interests paid close attention to several White House contenders

Post  Admin on Mon Oct 26, 2015 7:50 am

Lobbyists for foreign interests paid close attention to several White House contenders

by Will Tucker on June 26, 2015







Sen. Marco Rubio’s office received at least 53 contacts from agents for the Republic of Georgia. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/06/lobbyists-for-foreign-interests-paid-close-attention-to-several-white-house-contenders/

The U.S. senators running for president who made the most of their connections on K Street for campaign fundraising have also received a number of contacts, and campaign funds, from influencers working for foreign governments, an OpenSecrets Blog analysis of foreign lobbying data shows.

Records show that over six years, several of the 2016 presidential candidates and their leadership PACs received contributions totaling at least $204,298 from lobbyists working on behalf of foreign countries. The data, made available by the Sunlight Foundation, includes all foreign agent contributions from 2013 and archival data from 2007-2011. That means the data covers six years of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) time in the upper chamber, two years of Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) tenure, and two years of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) tenures. (Sunlight has not yet posted the data for 2012, and 2014 records are incomplete because of the disclosure timetable.)
Clinton received the most from this group in the time covered by the data: $82,148 in two years, according to OpenSecrets Blog’s analysis. Republicans Graham (six years), a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, and Rubio (two years), who’s on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, followed with $56,700 and $31,100 respectively. Cruz and Paul (two years apiece) received less than $30,000, while Democrat Sanders (six years) got nothing.

The campaign contribution figures are far lower than the hundreds of thousands of dollars the candidates raised from lobbyists representing U.S. companies and interest groups. But foreign lobbying records, kept by the Justice Department, require agents representing foreign interests to reveal more about the nature of their relationships with government officials.

Rubio stands out for the number of times his office was contacted by registered agents of the Republic of Georgia. The agents, from three separate lobbying firms — Fianna Strategies, HDMK and then-mega-firm Patton Boggs — made phone, email or face-to-face contact with members of Rubio’s staff on at least 53 occasions, including eight in-person meetings with Rubio staffers in 2012 and 2013.

Molly McKew, principal of Fianna Strategies, said her firm represented former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at the time. Advisers to Saakashvili visited Washington to update U.S. officials “on recent developments in Georgia and in the region.”
“I was updating the staff on some of these issues, as well as providing information on the upcoming Georgian presidential elections and some of the details of political prosecutions of former officials from [the president’s] government by the current Georgian government,” McKew said of her work in fall 2013.

The Rubio staffers mentioned in reports, Victor Cervino, Jamie Fly and Sally Canfield (once a lobbyist herself) did not respond to requests for comment. Georgia’s representatives met more frequently only with the staffs of Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) during that period, records show.

Months later, writing in Politico, Rubio called for sending arms to Georgia and repeated his view that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should expand to include the former Soviet bloc country as a balance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in areas like Ukraine.

“We should renew a push for eventual membership in NATO by the Republic of Georgia and aim to provide the country with some of the defensive capabilities the Georgians have requested ever since they were invaded by Russia in 2008″ in a war over the breakaway South Ossetia region, Rubio wrote.

McKew said NATO membership was likely a subject discussed at her firm’s meetings with Rubio staffers, though she said she couldn’t recall with certainty.
“The Saakashvili government obviously worked hard to cooperate with NATO, contribute troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, increase Georgia’s interoperability with NATO missions,” she said. “EU and NATO membership remain high priorities of the Georgian people with over 75, 80 percent support.”

Graham’s office’s interactions with representatives of a Kuwaiti interest group also stand out. The senator’s deputy chief-of-staff met repeatedly with the International Counsel Bureau, or Kuwaiti Counsel for the Families of Kuwaiti Citizens at Guantanamo Bay. The group’s agent, from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, met with Graham aides 10 times between July 25, 2013 and Sept. 25, 2013.

Twelve Kuwaiti citizens resided in the detention facility at the time. A year earlier, Politico reported that Graham called Guantanamo Bay detainees “crazy bastards” and the Senator has since pushed hard to keep detainees in place.

Graham staffer Alice James did not respond to a request for comment.

Sunlight’s data for Clinton’s time as head of the State Department is incomplete, but it shows she took at least three meetings with lobbyists for foreign interests. Records show Clinton met with an agent of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on April 15, 2009, an agent of Irish political party Sinn Fein on March 16, 2010 and an agent of Liberia on Jan. 15, 2013.

“These face-to-face meetings were conducted or facilitated in Washington, DC on behalf of the President of Liberia,” the disclosure report filed by Liberia’s agent, KRL International, reads. A press release from the Liberian embassy states that Clinton and the Liberian president — through a foreign agent — “launched a high-level U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue” that day.

Cruz, Paul and Sanders were each contacted far fewer times by lobbyists for foreign governments, records show. Paul’s office had 97 recorded contacts, Cruz’ had 21 and Sanders’ had 13.

Vanessa Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Categories: Campaign finance Influence & Lobbying Lobbying Presidential

Tags: Bernie Sanders, foreign influence, foreign lobbying, georgia, Hillary Clinton, kuwait, liberia, Lindsey Graham, lobbying, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Sunlight Foundation, Ted Cruz, Will Tucker

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