The government of Thailand has hired the lobby firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand to protect its rice crop from U.S. biotechnology researchers. Advocates of biotech foods claim that they will solve world hunger, but farmers in Thailand are afraid that it will do the opposite. Genetically modified Thai jasmine rice threatens to ruin them financially by enabling U.S. rice growers to steal the market for one of the country's primary exports.
Angola's national oil company has hired the Washington D.C. lobby firm Patton Boggs to improve ties with the U.S. government. "Corruption within Angola's $6 billion energy sector is a key irritant between the two countries," O'Dwyer's PR reports. "The U.S. estimates government officials and their cronies skim about $1 billion from Angola's yearly energy revenues." The one-year contract is worth $2.2 millon and will be led by the well connected Tommy Boggs. Last spring, a cease-fire ended the country's 27-year civil war.
Columnist Steve Barnes describes his chat with David Howard, a "very nice young gentleman" who flacks for R.J. Reynolds. The Arkansas state legislature is considering an increase in cigarette excise taxes, and Howard belongs to a "cadre of public relations specialists with the seemingly impossible job of persuading the 75 percent of Arkansans who do not smoke cigarettes that the 25 percent who do should not pay more for their habit."
"For all the talk of corporate scandal, one leading proposal for change -- tightening the rules on stock options -- was brushed aside in Congress this week, thanks in part to a powerful business lobbying coalition that has long fought to protect these rich pay packages. ...
"PricewaterhouseCoopers is providing government relations services to Uzbekistan, the Central Asian country that is a prime ally in President Bush's 'War on Terror,'" O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "It is giving 'strategic advice and assistance' to Uzbekistan about dealing with the U.S. Congress, and Executive Branch on economic and trade relations, according to PWC's 'engagement letter.' The firm is receiving $300,000 a-year for its counsel." According to O'Dwyer's, former Republican Congressman and chair of the House Ways and Means committee Bill Archer will be "heading the work."
"Thanks to a loophole in the federal lobbying law, some companies and individuals - especially those pursuing controversial or potentially embarrassing causes - are using coalitions to conceal their identities," writes New York Times reporter Alison Mitchell. Examples of these "stealth coalitions" include the "Section 877 Coalition," which lobbied to help wealthy Americans evade taxes by giving up U.S. citizenship.
Behind the scenes of American politics, the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been quietly pulling the strings of state legislatures. "The organization's reach is impressive: More than one-third of state legislators are ALEC members, and about 100 hold senior leadership positions," writes Nick Penniman.
The much-hyped Segway Human Transporter is "quietly racing through America's state legislatures at a pace that belies its 12mph top speed," writes PR Week. In the five months since its unveiling, 23 states have passed laws allowing the computerized scooter to roll down sidewalks, among other things. "The routine is simple and oft-repeated," PR Weeks reports. "Matthew Dailida, Segway's manager of state government affairs, travels state to state with his ready-made legislation and, often, a Segway in tow.
The Center for Public Integrity has released a new study of political lobbying at the state level which reveals that lobbyists spent at least $570 million impacting legislation in states across the country in 2000. The study's release coincides with the publication of the Center's latest book, Capitol Offenders: How Private Interests Govern Our States.
Tobacco, booze and restaurant industry lobbyist Rick Berman is sending around a news release crowing about being included in this year's list of "star rainmakers" in Hill magazine, a publication for Washington insiders "aimed at the 100 senators, 435 House members, 40,000 aides and tens of thousands in the influence industry whose work affects the lives of all Americans." Berman has also received two "pollie" awards from the American Association for Polit