Doing Business With Despots

Who are you going to call? The Wexler Group.

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First, we provided a step-by-step guide on how USA*Engage, a coalition of the nation’s biggest exporters, has secretly managed to promote trade with countries such as China, Iran, Burma, Nigeria, and other human rights abusers by apparently drafting legislation, and devising a strategy—with the help of State Department officials—to recruit religious leaders.

Meanwhile, “liberal” superlobbyist Anne Wexler, who runs the USA*Engage campaign, tried to spin our story in the Washington Post, claiming, absurdly, that we just downloaded memos from the USA*Engage Web site, and also suggested that someone must have hacked into her computer (we didn’t).

Now, we’ve discovered more internal memos from USA*Engage. The first exposes its most detailed plan to kill the pro-human rights Religious Persecution Act. The second shows the group’s plan to match corporate lobbyists with members of Congress to recruit co-sponsors for its own bill, which would restrict the use of human rights sanctions.

We’ve also obtained memos that give keen insight into how The Wexler Group, one of the Beltway’s top lobbying groups, operates, including a breakdown of the firm’s total billings for the month of September 1997, and a bizarre transcript of a vaudeville-like “skit” on being successful in Washington that The Wexler Group prepared for the National Franchise Association, which represents Burger King franchise owners. A sample song (to the tune of “Officer Krupke,” from West Side Story):

Dear Senator Max Baucus
I wanted you to know
This minimum wage ruckus
Is just a lot of blow
My workers earn a living wage, it ain’t sub-standard pay
Why’s Ted Kennedy ruining my day?

Ken Silverstein is a Mother Jones contributing writer and co-editor of CounterPunch, a Washington, D.C., investigative newsletter. He is most recently the author of Washington on $10 Million a Day: How Lobbyists Plunder the Nation.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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