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Tax Havens Build Lobbying Capacity in D.C.

President Barack Obama speaks on international tax policy reform, May 4, 2009. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) Digging into data in the Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker, our partners at the Sunlight Foundation have uncovered extensive lobbying efforts by countries labeled as tax havens.

Bill Allison, a veteran investigative reporter and senior fellow at Sunlight, writes:

“When President Barack Obama promised in May to raise an additional $210 billion in taxes a year by closing corporate loopholes and cracking down on individual tax cheats, he pointed to an address in the Cayman Islands listed by 12,000 corporations as the kind of abuse his proposals would shut down. …

“Disclosures filed in 2008 show that six governments – Aruba, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, Liechtenstein and the States of Jersey – and the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles employed U.S. lobbyists, paying a total of $2.3 million in fees. Those lobbyists had at least 222 contacts with members of Congress, their staff and executive branch officials in which they discussed tax laws, legislation aimed at tax havens like the Stop Tax Haven Abuse bill, or efforts to negotiate tax exchange information agreements with the United States and other countries.”

The numbers are gleaned from disclosures filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The filings are from governments and organizations that seek to influence U.S. policy on trade, taxation, foreign aid, appropriations, human rights and national security.

The Tracker, a joint project of ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation, put filings under FARA into an easily searchable database on the Web. A tutorial on how to use the site is here.

Here is the full story on tax havens and our earlier coverage.

Tom Detzel

Tom Detzel was a senior editor at ProPublica. Previously, Detzel was an editor at the Oregonian beginning in 1995 and was the newspaperâs investigations editor starting in 2004.

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