Counting on Your Friends

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Lobbyists for USA*Engage have a tougher job than most corporate hired guns. That’s because just about every member of Congress will invariably favor sanctions against at least one country on the planet, if only as a cheap and easy way of demonstrating his or her concern for human rights.

Hence, The Wexler Group has been pressed to come up with especially powerful tools of persuasion to get sanctions reform approved by Congress. The strategy its lobbyists settled on, which is laid out in the following memo, matched up companies in the corporate coalition with members of Congress with whom they were thought to have great sway. The pairings were clearly made after careful study and were based on criteria such as geography, past campaign contributions, and historical friendships. They’ve met with limited success: Of the 60 singled out in the memo, only 12 have signed on. Among the notables:

  • Chevron was given the task of recruiting Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who proved to be an easy mark. He signed on as a co-sponsor last November 4. Chevron has major operations in Louisiana and has received strong support from Jefferson in the past. He is, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of only two members of the Congressional Black Caucus who has opposed sanctions on the ruling military dictatorship in Nigeria—where Chevron has huge investments. Chevron made a $1,000 contribution to Jefferson four days prior to his decision to co-sponsor the Sanctions Reform Bill.

  • Boeing was charged with lining up support from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The aerospace giant has a plant in the congressman’s district and he’s been eager to help the company out in the past, especially in supporting more trade with China, where Boeing makes enormous profits. After Blumenauer co-sponsored USA*Engage’s sanctions reform bill, Boeing, which had already contributed $1,000 to Blumenauer earlier in the year, tossed in another $500. Blumenauer’s chief of staff, Bob Crane, confirms that Elizabeth Schwartz, a Boeing lobbyist, asked to talk to the congressman about the sanctions reform bill. No meeting was held because, according to Crane, he had already signed on as a co-sponsor.

  • Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) proved a harder nut to crack, but he finally signed on as a sanctions reform bill co-sponsor on March 19. Lockheed-Martin, the company charged with twisting his arm, has big operations in California, and during the 1995 to 1996 campaign cycle gave Dreier $4,000, making it one of his largest contributors.

  • The Wexler Group selected ARCO to win over Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Young is one of ARCO’s best friends in Congress. For years, he fought to lift a decades-old ban on the export of North Slope crude oil and to open up exploration at Alaska’s huge National Petroleum Reserve. But thus far Young has held out.

    The Memo

    Back to “Doing Business With Despots
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