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Washington’s foreign lobby - once removed

By Laurie Bennett

July 27, 2013 at 11:37am

The world was a different place when the Foreign Agents Registration Act was passed 75 years ago.

Members of Congress were more concerned about Hitler than offshore tax havens or jobs lost to cheap labor markets.

The division between American companies and foreign companies was also clearer.

K Street
K Street, Washington, DC

Now the largest U.S. firms have vast networks of investments, facilities, suppliers and employees outside American borders. Even their leadership is likely to be international.

Yet lobby laws still operate on two tracks, as if foreign and domestic interests were separate and distinct.

Agents of foreign governments, companies and organizations are required to register with the Justice Department. U.S.-based operations are monitored separately, through the Lobbying Disclosure Act. They report their activities to the House and Senate.

Muckety reviewed State Department documents, Securities and Exchange Commission filings, and corporate annual reports to compile a database of foreign subsidiaries and properties of major U.S. companies.

An examination of the ties among corporations, lobbyists and countries shows many overlaps.

Lobby firms frequently represent both foreign nations and the U.S. companies doing business there, a pattern that magnifies foreign influence in Washington.

China and Patton Boggs

Take China, for example.

The interactive Muckety map above shows major companies with interests in China that also are represented in Washington by the lobby shop Patton Boggs or its affiliate, Breaux-Lott.

The client list includes Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, AIG, Citigroup and FedEx.

Patton Boggs, Washington’s most lucrative lobbying firm, also happens to represent China.

The country’s lobbying activities are headed up by Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., son of former U.S. Reps. Hale Boggs and Lindy Boggs and brother of journalist Cokie Roberts. (Lindy Boggs died Saturday, at age 97.)

Japan and Akin Gump

Akin Gump, the D.C. lobby firm with the second-highest revenues, has a focus on Japan.

Clients with operations in the country include Eastman Chemical, Bechtel, Fluor, Moody’s, Pfizer and KKR.

Earlier this year, Akin Gump helped enable Japan to enter negotiations for a new pan-Pacific free-trade agreement.

India and Podesta Group

Podesta Group, the No. 3 Washington lobby firm, headed by Anthony Podesta, brother of John, has a bead on India.

In addition to representing the country itself, the firm represents a range of clients doing business there. These include Wal-Mart, Google, Wells Fargo and General Dynamics.

Mexico and Brownstein Hyatt

Moving on to the fourth biggest-grossing lobby firm in D.C., we come to Brownstein Hyatt, which represents Mexico.

Clients with Mexican subsidiaries include Abbott Laboratories, Comcast, Johnson & Johnson and Western Union.

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The relationship map to the left is interactive.
• Solid lines are current relations. Dotted lines are former relations.
• Expand items with + signs by double-clicking or by selecting multiple items in the map and pressing the "e" key.
• Move an item in the map by clicking and dragging.
• You can also delete items, separate boxes and save maps. Right-click on the map or select Map Tools for these options.
• Find out more about an item in the map by right-clicking on the item and choosing Information about...
• View map color key.
• This interactive map requires Flash player.


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