By Gene Rossides
Both major party presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have criticized lobbyists and stated that, in general, they will not deal with them.
Now all lobbyists are not bad. Many, if not most, serve a useful purpose in presenting the views of their constituents or employers to our elected officials in the Congress and to the Executive Branch. By Executive Branch I refer to the two elected officials, the President and the Vice President, the two thousand appointed officials in the Executive Branch from cabinetsʼ officers to Assistant Secretaries and White House staff including the National Security Council, and other political appointees; and the several thousand key career officials in the Executive Branch. Central for our purposes are the appointed and career officials in the White House, State Department, Defense Department and National Security Council.
Difficulties come about when monetary corruption enters the process as we have seen in the past several years. No one condones such monetary corruption.
There is however a form of lobbying that is my judgment is not in the best interests of the United States, namely, the hiring by foreign governments of former U.S. officials as foreign agents of that government to lobby U.S. officials in Congress and the Executive Branch.
These officials are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. No other major country follows its citizens to act as foreign agents for another country. Apparently the reason it is allowed here is that it comes under the protection of the First Amendmentʼs freedom of speech.
Lobbying by U.S. citizens, and particularly by former officials as agents of a foreign government, gives lobbying a bad name, and in my view is detrimental to the proper development of U.S. foreign policy.
Obama, McCain and Lobbyists
Senators Obama and McCain have recently made statements showing their concern about lobbyists. Obama recently told the Democratic National Committee to stop taking money from currently registered federal lobbyists.
“Iʼve sent a strong signal in this campaign by refusing the contributions of registered federal lobbyists and [political action committees],” Obama said on June 5, 2008.” They do not fund our campaign and they will not fund our party.”
Senator McCain recently stated “that his campaign will no longer allow staffers to work as lobbyists, a response to increasing criticism about his top aides making millions as agents for foreign countries.” (Washington Times, 6-6-08)
I urge my readers to call and write to Senators McCain and Obama and call on them to confirm that as part of their anti-lobbying position that they and their staffs will not meet with Turkeyʼs U.S. foreign agents registered with the Department of Justice namely, Dick Gephardt, senior counsel at the law firm of DLA Piper and former Democratic majority leader of the House of Representatives and Dick Armey, also at DLA Piper and a former Republican majority leader of the House of Representatives, and their partners and associates. Their contact information is : Senator Barack Obama, P.O. Box 8102 Chicago, IL 60680, telephone: (866) 675-2008; and Senator John McCain, P.O. Box 16118 Arlington, VA 22215, telephone: (703) 418-2008.
Turkey had retained former Republican Speaker of the House and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Bob Livingston for several years at $1.8 million a year. He was recently let go and Dick Armey picked up. It is reported that Livingston took on an even more lucrative agreement working for Libya.
Also call on Senators McCain and Obama to support legislation that provides that any foreign government that hires U.S. foreign agents registered with the Department of Justice becomes immediately ineligible to receive any benefits of whatever nature from the U.S. government, monetary or otherwise, and that any existing benefits of whatever nature are immediately halted and forfeited.
I consider anyone representing Turkey, as in effect, supporting (1) Turkeyʼs aggression and occupation in Cyprus; (2) Turkeyʼs war crimes and crimes against humanity in Cyprus as set forth in the European Court of Human Rights reports on Turkeyʼs invasion of Cyprus; (3) Turkeyʼs persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, violations of religious freedom, the illegal taking of church property and the illegal closing of the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology in 1971; and (4) violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean by Turkeyʼs military airplanes. I consider them similar to those who represented South Africa during that nationʼs apartheid years.
During its apartheid years South Africa had difficulty hiring U.S. foreign agents to represent it. No self-respecting U.S. citizen wanted to be associated with South Africaʼs apartheid regime. The same should apply to Turkey today. No self-respecting American should want to be identified with the aggressor, occupier and human rights and religious freedom violator Turkey.
Also, call and write Dick Gephardt and Dick Armey at DLA Piper, 500 Eighth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004, (telephone: (202) 799-4000) and urge them to resign from their representation of Turkey.
Act today. Your voice can help and make a difference.
*** Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury