Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Chabot in Taiwan


Looks like Chabot is about to get deeper into ethics problems...

“34 took Taiwan trips”

By Elana Schor
Two business groups with close ties to the Taiwanese government have sponsored more than $230,000 in congressional travel between 2000 and 2004 without registering as foreign agents as required by law, according to trip disclosure records.

Many of the 34 lawmakers who participated in the trips given by the Taiwanese groups — the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce (CNAIC) and the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association (CIECA) — met with high-ranking government officials while in Taipei. However, CNAIC and CIECA did not declare their lobbying activities with either the Senate’s public-records office or the Justice Department.

The political nature of the Taiwanese congressional trips comes to light as both parties continue to point fingers across the aisle for lobbyist-funded travel. This winter’s impasse in the House ethics committee left many allegations, most notably against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), to reverberate in the media and the public.

Among those accepting trips from CNAIC and CIECA were DeLay, nine members of the House International Relations Committee and two co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus. At least 12 of the beneficiaries co-sponsored bills condemning China for its aggressive stance against Taiwanese independence.

Some foreign entities can avoid disclosing their activities on behalf of overseas governments by using a U.S. subsidiary and filing under the Lobbying Disclosure Act as general congressional lobbyists. But CNAIC and CIECA bill themselves as Taiwanese nonprofit organizations, which qualifies them as eligible foreign agents.

Under House ethics rules, members cannot accept trips paid for by foreign agents.

“If they’re registered under the laws of another country as either a nonprofit or corporation, they’d have to register” as foreign agents, said Craig Holman of the advocacy group Public Citizen. “Or if they’re getting financial support from the government of Taiwan, which usually go hand in hand.”

Both CNAIC and CIECA are chaired by Jeffrey Koo, Taiwan’s ambassador at large and chairman of the country’s largest private bank. Koo’s family has close ties to the KMT, or Chinese Nationalist Party of Taiwan, and Koo served as a senior adviser to Taiwanese President Chien Shui-ban. The two groups share numerous other principals and stated goals.

“They’d probably have to register [as foreign agents] whether or not they’re registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act,” said Joseph Sandler, a lawyer specializing in international lobbying under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. “Neither doesn’t seem to be an option for this kind of activity.”

The culpability for failure to register as a foreign agent falls largely with the group itself and not the member traveling with it. Few if any congressional offices perform registration checks on a group before scheduling trips, and ethics rules are worded to prohibit knowing acceptance of lobbyist-funded travel.

And even the Taiwanese business groups will likely escape liability, said Alex Knott, project manager at the Center for Public Integrity’s lobbying investigative unit. “They’re not going to put somebody behind bars for not crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s. Nobody’s looking at these records” at Justice, Knott said.

A spokesman for the Justice Department cited its official policy not to comment on specific foreign-agent registrations. There are exemptions to foreign-lobbying disclosure rules, but none allows for wholly overseas groups to engage politically and Knott said enforcement has been so lax that “all you’d have to find out is what loophole applies to you to get out of complying with the law.”

Some members receiving trips from CNAIC and CIECA were already supportive of Taiwan’s self-determination and critical of Chinese military buildup along the strait that separates the two countries. Others, such as Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), were unfamiliar with the Taiwanese political reality before making their trips.

“When you talk about the Taiwanese strait, the weapons facing them, the military threat they’re [facing], it gave me a better education as to why it’s important,” Meeks said. “We’ve got to make sure there’s no cross-strait violation.”

Meeks flew to Taiwan with his wife for $13,790 in January 2001, according to a congressional travel database compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. Meeks’s trip was part of a Congressional Black Caucus junket sought by CNAIC, which had “made a deal … to familiarize the Congressional Black Caucus with issues in regards to Taiwan,” Meeks said.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) went to Taipei in April 2001, days before President Bush’s anticipated ruling on whether the United States could sell Aegis destroyers to Taiwan for defense against China. Upon their return to Washington, Bartlett and then-Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.) sent Bush a letter and wrote a similar Washington Times op-ed urging that the Aegis weapons be given to Taiwan.

“We met the president [of Taiwan], the V.P., foreign minister, defense minister, members of their Congress,” the Legislative Yuan, Schaffer said. Veterans of the Legislative Yuan sit on CNAIC’s board of directors.

Though Taiwan perennially has pressed Congress and the White House to check China’s growing power, the volume of Taiwan’s entreaties escalated this year after passage of the Chinese anti-secession law. That law’s explicit condemnation of any movement toward Taiwanese independence alarmed many on Capitol Hill, and just last weekend Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Singapore that any Chinese military buildup would be seen by the United States as a threat to Taiwan.

But CNAIC and CIECA’s agenda transcends tough talk. Taiwan’s direct investment in China is climbing toward three-quarters of its total foreign investment, and the business titans who head the two groups — several of whom sit on Forbes’s list of the world’s richest people — have a great stake in keeping China’s trade status normalized so that Taiwan can keep profiting from its formidable western neighbor.

“It isn’t just about China. Actually, it’s about a great many companies from a lot of countries invested in China and using it as an export base,” said a business official well-versed in U.S.-Taiwan relations. “A lot of these guys [in CNAIC and CIECA] are active members in the KMT,” which advocates unlimited foreign investment in China.

When CIECA paid $9,200 for Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) to fly to Taiwan with his son Bill in March 2002, Sessions met with Taiwanese cabinet members and legislators as well as Y.C. Wang, a CNAIC director whose fierce promotion of barrier-free trade with China is well-known in Taiwanese politics.

Francis Liang, director of economic affairs at the Taiwanese ministry in Washington, said the involvement of politically powerful businessmen in CNAIC and CIECA did not mean they were political groups. Liang compared them to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in terms of worth and profile to the Taiwanese economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more on lobbying Congress than any other group in 2004, according to PoliticalMoneyLine’s databases.

Spokespeople for eight other members who took trips to Taiwan sponsored by CNAIC and CIECA — DeLay, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), David Wu (D-Ore.), Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.) — did not return calls for comment.

5 Comments:

At 7:23 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirty trips with Dirty DeLay.

 
At 11:15 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex,

You say you are not pro-Cranley. Are these your comments from other blogs? This must be the same Alex Winter, right? They make you sound like Cranley's campaign manager!

From Carpetbagger Report:

"I saw that poll on Cranley vs. Chabot down in Ohio's 1st. Very surprising that Cranley has closed in on Chabot so early. I can't imagine what will happen once Cranley's fundraising base further swells and he is able to communicate his campaign's message throughout Cincinnati.
It looks like the most Conservative Republican in the House is unknowingly about to honor his term limit promise back under Gingrich's term as Speaker! (It's about time).
Cranley has more at www.johncranley.com "

Comment by Alex Winter — 4/5/2006 @ 7:23 pm


From Washington Post blog

"The Cranley v Chabot has treally been heating up. Cranley has fundraised a lot and has been on national TV for some time now. Check this one out on MSNBC"

Posted by: Alex Winter | April 26, 2006 11:17 AM

 
At 9:59 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can anyone not be pro-Cranley with that Chabit in office?

 
At 8:52 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 8:15. Big deal if Alex is pro-cranley or not. You come off like a little Chabot stooge who hears the footsteps of neglected Ohio 1. Nobody's complaining about you coming off scared.

 
At 10:46 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greets to the webmaster of this wonderful site. Keep working. Thank you.
»

 

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