While the shady details of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal come to light and President Obama defends it as “the most progressive trade treaty ever,” the lobbyists who populate K Street smell opportunity.
But the big corporations who typically lobby our elected officials are already taken care of by the Obama administration.
Instead, foreign governments are running sophisticated operations to influence Congress and gather intelligence on the super-secretive negotiations.
While this may seem shocking, its now “par for the course,” says Lydia Dennett, an investigator at the Project on Government Oversight [POGO], a nonprofit watchdog. “If a certain country wants trade legislation that will be beneficial to them they can hire an American lobbyist to get them the access the need.”
Foreign government work also happens to be the most lucrative practice area for lobbyists.
While, like so much that happens in DC, we will never know who all is involved, Japan has emerged as a huge lobbyist in the TPP negotiations. The country has signed up former Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, in addition to well-connected public relations firm DCI.
Yet the full scope of the work won't be known until the next series of Foreign Agent Registration Act [FARA] disclosure reports are filed with the Department of Justice in a few months.
This lack of timely FARA reporting, purposely architected by lawmakers to hide influence peddling from voters, will almost totally obfuscate the lobbying going on at the behest of foreign clients.
What makes matters worse is that a 2014 report by POGO found that 46 percent of the reports were filed late, while enforcement is rare for these infractions.
The DOJ doesn't even really enforce the existing, already lax, rules. Instead, it “seeks to obtain voluntary compliance with the statute.”
Common Cause, a government transparency advocacy organization, sounded all too familiar alarms. “Our concern is in ensuring that the process is fully transparent and that the laws barring foreign nationals from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly, are fully observed,” said Dale Eisman, the organization’s communications director.
The lobbying revelations, which so far also include TPP party Vietnam, indicate that when it comes to the TPP, American citizens will be the last concern, behind big corporations, foreign countries and government agencies.