organizing influential lobbying campaigns in favor of free trade. As he explains: “More than 1,000 U.S. corporations and lobby groups, united behind the name USANAFTA, have organized a ‘grassroots’ effort with corporate captains designated for all 50 states, designed to reassure Americans that NAFTA will be beneficial.” Among the USA-NAFTA members are General Motors and United Technologies, says Cavanaugh, each of which has a total of 29 plants south of the border. He also notes that USA-NAFTA is dominated by dirty industries, which stand to benefit from Mexico’s lax enforcement of environmental regulations. Of the 26 manufacturing firms on the list, 10 are among the top 30 polluters \(as ranked by the EPA Toxic Release number one in toxic releases, while Monsanto is number three. Yet the big money in the campaign for free trade is being supplied by Mexico. Having placed its future and the political legacy of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari on an agreement with the United States, Mexico has a great deal at stake in the trade debate. In an effort to change the image of Mexico in the minds of Americans and promote NAFTA, the Mexican government, an increasingly powerful force in Washington, has spent tens of millions of dollars to hire powerful and well-connected former American officials to lobby on behalf of Mexico for passage of NAFTA. Despite growing citizen concern regarding the consequences of free trade, big-money lobbying efforts by both the Mexican government and American corporations distort the political process, says Chuck Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. In its revealing report “Trading Game,” released on May 27, CPI presents what is probably the most detailed examination of foreign lobbying influence in the United States to date. According to the report, Mexico has already spent $25-30 million dollars to help pave the way for the approval of NAFTA, and will likely spend much more before the debate is completed. This amount is more than the three previous major foreign lobbying campaigns combined, including Ktiwait’s intense efforts to help shape public opinion about the Gulf War with Iraq. Described as the “scourge of the lobbying world” by the National Journal, Lewis, who is a former “60 Minutes” producer, has become well-known in Washington circles over the past three years of the Center’s operation, particularly for numerous studies exposing revolving door employment opportunities in the capital’s corridors of power. One such study, “The Torturer’s Lobby,” took a hard look at lobbyists working on behalf of governments with atrocious human rights records. Another, “The Buying of the American Mind,” exposed the way Japanese money influences U.S. education and lab research. I spoke with Chuck Lewis in his Washington office just prior to the report’s release. Don Hazen: Is true that Washington has experienced a major turn around in Mexican influence that they are starting to rival Japan as the most influential foreign force inside the Beltway? Chuck Lewis: Absolutely. Up until 1990, the Mexican diplomatic presence in Washington was very low-key and basically limited to promoting tourism. But in midto late-1990, Mexico realized that the Bush administration was interested in forming a trade pact, probably in response to European and Asian trade pacts being fleshed out at the time. It had a certain logic to it. It could be a lever against Europe and Japan an entity that stretched from the Yukon to the Yucatan:with 360 million people. And Mexico realizeti that the first step towards obtaining a North American free trade agreement was to recast its image; away from stereotypes of the dirty Mexican on a burro, of a downtrodden, somewhat corrupt country, to one of a modern, industrializing nation. What we are heading to now is the end game of that campaign, the arm twisting phase. What we’ve witnessed was really a textbook case of hiring the right people to wage an aggressive campaign on the United States capital. Who is working for Mexico, and what steps are they taking to further Mexico’s interests? Mexico has assembled a crack team of international trade lawyers, lobbyists and public relations specialists to lobby for NAFTA in the United States. The first firms hired back in 1990 were the law firm of Shearman & Sterling and the giant p.r. firm Burson Marsteller. They have Robert Herzstein, who was the lead lawyer for Canada against the United States and is now Mexico’s lead lawyer. He is their main strategist. And then they have former senator Bill Brock, who refers to himself as “the father of NAFTA” because he first mentioned the idea to Mexico in 1982 when he as a Reagan official, working as an overall strategist for the NAFTA campaign. Burson Marsteller has had a $321,000 per month contract with the Mexican government. By now, Mexico has at least 75 firms engaged in a strategic chess game of lobbying in the United States. If you go to Mexico’s NAFTA headquarters at 1776 I St., there is no listing in the office directory and the door is always locked. But it is clearly the center of their operation, and from there they coordinate the tracking and lobbying of Congress. They have an environmental outreach person, an Hispanic outreach coordinator, as well as elaborate corporate campaigns involved in arranging delegations to Mexico. In addition, there are several United States corporate campaigns that the Mexican lobby is involved in, which are designed to promote NAFTA to the American public, especially the giant USA-NAFTA campaign. This is a very sophisticated and comprehensive effort, and Mexico is leaving no stone unturned. Sounds like there’s a lot of revolving door activity going on here! Absolutely. Mexico has hired over 30 former U.S. officials, many of whom worked specifically on U.S.-Mexico trade. Both Republicans and Democrats are covered. Bill Brock, of course, was trade representative under Reagan and Bush. Bentsen’s former top aide, Joseph O’Neill, head of Public Strategies Washington Inc. is focusing on congressional lobbying. Another example is that you have Ruth Kurtz, analyst, now working for COESCE, the Mexican chamber of commerce, recruiting Hill staffers for trips to Mexico. What are they spending? My organization’s report, “The Trading Game Inside-Lobbying for the North American Free Trade Agreement,” released on May 27, documents with very conservative figures the amount of money that the Mexican government is spending on promoting NAFTA in the United States. I say conservative figures because disclosure laws for corporate lobbying are very lax. Often there are no records, and many don’t have to register the amount of money they’re spending. It’s a nightmare to track the myriad ways that these entities can lobby without having to register with the government. But even with these low estimates, since 1989, the Mexican government and the various Mexican corporate groups tied to the government such as COESCE have spent from $25 to $30 million for trade lobbying. Just to give you some perspective on the dimension of this figure, … if you look at the three largest and most controversial instances of foreign lobbying in Washington, D.C., you have Koreagate, in which $1 million or less was spent. Second, you have Toshiba spending frifiin $4-7 million in 1987. And finally, the Kuwaiti government spending $10-12 million during the conflict with Iraq, with Hill & Knowlton alone getting $10 million. Mexico is spending more than all three of these scandals combined! It is probably the largest single campaign waged by a non-U.S. entity in history. This shows you the scope, with very conservative estimates, of Mexico’s transformation from promoting tourism to its slick promoting of NAFTA. What was the impact of the U.S. elections and the new Clinton administration on the NAFTA effort? THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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