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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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