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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Playing the lobbying game

At the same time as pressure is being applied to properly regulate lobbyists at Westminster, it transpires that the UK Government has been paying a secretive lobbying firm $10,000 (£6,354) a month over the last four years to push American politicians to award contracts to British defence companies and to improve transatlantic relations.

The Daily Telegraph reports that O'Brien & Associates, a Washington-based firm of lobbyists, has received more than $500,000 of British taxpayers' money over that period.

They say that the lobbying firm, whose president has donated money to both Republican and Democrat politicians, specialises in working on behalf of major defence companies in the American capital:

The lobbying deal is thought to have initially been signed in 2006 but remains in place today.

The disclosure of the contract is likely to infuriate David Cameron, who is an outspoken critic of the dangers of the lobbying industry.

Earlier this year, he said that lobbying was "the next big scandal waiting to happen. It's an issue that...has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money".

The Coalition has recently banned other public bodies from hiring firms to lobby Whitehall officials and Government ministers.

Surely this sort of activity is the job of Embassy officials and the foreign office? This is one area of expenditure that needs to be vigorously reviewed.
With reference to the Telegraph article: errrr, the British Embassy can't donate money to American political campaigns. That is EXPRESSLY ILLEGAL in the USA. Could you imagine the embarrassment if the British Embassy (BE) was 'caught' giving money that way? It would lead to Congressional hearings, scandal, etc. etc. There was a HUGE scandal and a HUGE distraction that followed allegations that the Chinese Embassy/Government was tied to ILLEGAL campaign fund donations some years back. It went on and on and on and on…

Look at this comment in the Telegraph: “The lobbying firm – whose president has donated money to both Republican and Democrat politicians – specialises in working on behalf of major defence {sic} companies in the American capital.”

The British government (and any foreign government) can not (read as shall not) donate money directly or indirectly to any GOP or Democrat politician’s political campaign fund and even WORSE should never pay money to the politician him/herself.

But anyway, wake up, O'Brien & Associates do NOT donate money on behalf of the British government – that would also be expressly illegal and would lead to massive embarrassment. Instead, O'Brien & Associates donate money as a ‘general matter’ expressly not connected to any foreign government. There has to be a firewall – and yes, the BE Ambassador has to be careful about that.

Hence this response from the BE: “a spokeswoman for the embassy (who) insisted Sir Nigel (BE Ambassador) had no role in the lobbying agreement”?

It is somewhat like this:: "When in Rome do what the Snamor do"; Lister quote from BBC’s Red Dwarf.

And hate it or love it, Washington, DC is the current version of Rome
Doesn't seem enough money to be give anything worthwhile in return either. It shows that even when we are doing the unsupportable - we can't do it well!
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