Journalism in the Public Interest

Small Nations Spend Big on Lobbying in Washington, D.C.

New database of federal records shows tiny countries have used big-time Washington lobbyists to plead their cases in the United States.


Tiny countries have used big-time Washington lobbyists to plead their cases in the United States, a new database of federal records shows.

An analysis of 2009 foreign lobbying records by the Sunlight Foundation shows that overseas governments, political parties and other government-controlled entities spent $60 million influencing officials in Washington.

The new lobbying data show that among the countries that spent the most on lobbying was the Cayman Islands, home to about 55,000 people, which spent $7.9 million on issues relating to tourism and economics. Fifteen separate organizations from the United Arab Emirates spent $5.4 million on a variety of issues from nuclear energy to tourism.

That data is searchable online through the Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker.

The database, a joint project of ProPublica and The Sunlight Foundation, was built from reports filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

The new data show that thousands of contacts made on behalf of foreign countries include everything from e-mails and phone calls to in-person meetings -- with government officials, think tanks and even journalists. The data show that the groups contacted U.S. lawmakers or their staffs 17,000 times.

The first release of this project last year found that in many cases these lobbying efforts paid off. FARA filings from 2008 showed that lobbying on behalf of Bermuda's large reinsurance industry resulted in a bill to give businesses and homeowners in hurricane zones taxpayer-subsidized loans for storm windows and doors. The move would save insurance companies millions in losses.

Under FARA, all lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and government-controlled entities in a "political or quasi-political capacity" must file disclosures. The forms list activities, fees received, political contacts and any campaign contributions. This update means that the database includes filings from 2008 and 2009.

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Take this lobby money from the politicians that taxpayers pay a salary to and use it to pay off our debts to China? If they’re using it to fund their campaigns, to me that equals using it for their own personal gains so what’s the difference between that and what Rod Blagoyavich did other than the fact that they make the laws and they deem this not illegal and just flat out refuse to address the systemic problem of campaign finance reform which makes a damn good soundbite. If I performed the projects of my small business with the same specs (promises) I’d be in court for fraud

I am with you, Ron.  Money is the root of most problems in our political system; there is nothing wrong with unfettered capitalism in consumer goods, but there are some basic things that government is responsible for, things that can’t be left to the free market.  Those things include education, healthcare, poverty issues and our campaigns and elections.  The free market can have the rest.

That’s the way the roman imperium failed. Now, see what’s the result: Silvio Berlusconi leads that poor rest of 2000 year old ruines…  The U.S. should be carefully watching what’s happening in Washington D.C. AND in the Wall Street!!!

I was having a conversation today with a friend regarding “we need smaller government”. We were talking about the cuts to Medicare.  (The ugly right McChinless and the other “bonehead”  said that they would “work for the people”, who may I remind you are still in the minority until January .)  I said it’s not Big Government that everyone on the right keeps yelling about.  The Government of the USA is not the problem.  The problem is those that are elected (congress & senate) that collect the $$$$$ from corporations that they shrill for.  These douche-bags that are collecting all of those $$$$$$, are the people who are not working “for the people”.  These scumbags are the working for the corporations that are using them as puppets, telling THEM to vote.  If the deadhead (those who don’t know anything but what is told to them) right keeps voting them into office, and the left is disenfranchised by this president, HOLD THE PHONE JIMMY, were all screwed.

I totally agree with you on the basics of government participation in our lives for if people are not educated or healthy then that has to directly affect our GDP. Anything other than that is a dumbing down of our populace and in the long run where are we?
  Yes we should be watching Washington & “The Wall Street” and the corporate contributions to these entities. I have no problem with free enterprise and capitalism but I also realize there needs to be safety nets in place as well as control mechanisms for these nets. Seems as tho the political parties instead of working thru their political ideologies and reaching compromise which is at the core(?) of our political system want to alienate and divide the populace for their political gain. Why hasn’t Obama realized by now that the right does not compromise except when they get their way which is predominately for the rich and corporations and now that corporations have acquired citizenship status does this open them up to being sued as you or I could be? How simplistic of me?(.) Yes they are all puppets of the almighty dollar. My god how I’d love to see a REAL POLITICIAN (public servant) that would actually stand up for the majority of the people not to demean them but they seem to have forgotten why they’re where they are at. As far as smaller government be more specific in to what that actually means. If it means less regulation on corporations seems like we’re in a huge mess now so is less more? ( of the same) then I’m not there.
Thanks to ProPublica for their reporting standards

It’s a sad commentary that graft, greed and corruption are so rampant and everybody knows it! It’s like the weather…everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it.

Greed is the driving force. It is frustratung to realize how far we the people have let this go. Can we not stop this nonsense. Have we not been taken and taken over by our gov. Now is the to vote this out

Voting out? You can’t hold the bible in one hand and in the other the sword!  Except you believe only in the old testament - eye by eye, tooth by tooth.  That was the way Bush jun. lead the country. The trouble has not ended, but only started !  Watch how the TSA are working: That’s terror against every Pax and doesn’t improve security at all.  Terrible people there!

The problem is that the majority of Americans are nieve, ignorant and petty. Most people are so caught up in their porn, their Internet and their reality shows that they have no idea what is happening in the real world.

Think of all those losers that T-BAGGED all summer long - complaining about government spending - who ended up voting in an outrageous number of T-BAGGING Republicans. The same Republicans that felt the rich needed a tax break, and the middle class didn’t need unemployment compensation. The same Republicans who cried about the debt and the deficit, but were all too willing to add an additional 700 BILLION to the tab just yesterday.

Washington and SCOTUS is controlled by corporations, lobbyists and special interest.

Where else can you get arrested for fondling a child? Where else are you forced to stand and watch a TSA agent fondle your child in order to get on a plane in your own country, and its perfectly legal for him to do so?

robert von bargen

Dec. 8, 2010, 5:34 p.m.

Ron and so many other people assume that lobbyists give money to congressmen.  That’s not how it works, even though it’s a murky business.  We and everybody else who has an issue before congress probably has a lobbyist, even if we don’t know it:  your school, its teachers, your city, your state, your employer, your doctor and hospital.  In a sense they’re “watching out for you” the way Bill O’Reilly pretends to do.  The problem comes when there are other conflicts and influences, not just the fact of the existence of lobbies.

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