Lawmakers Question Role of Trade-Staffers-Turned-Lobbyists
By Jennifer Bendery
House lawmakers opposed to pending free-trade agreements may be taking a different tack to try to derail such deals: tougher lobbying rules on former U.S. trade officials.
In a Monday letter to Gene Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, eight Democratic Members requested a study of the activities of former government personnel who developed U.S. trade policy but are now advising and representing foreign interests.
“At any time, but certainly in this time of economic crisis, we must question the appropriateness of those who have been involved in the formulation of our nation’s trade policies, who use the knowledge and contacts gained in government in a manner adverse to the interests of domestic producers,” reads the letter, which is signed by Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), among others.
Specifically, the letter names former trade officials and staff who now represent foreign producer interests in a case relating to a U.S. trade law provision dealing with Chinese tire imports. The case is the subject of an International Trade Commission hearing Tuesday.
The Chinese government has been aggressively seeking to influence the outcome of the case, including “engaging in inappropriate contacts with ITC officials,” the Democratic lawmakers’ letter continues. The former trade officials and staff representing Chinese interests in this case served in key policy jobs during the Bush administration.
These individuals are “just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to those who have chosen to represent foreign interests in administrative actions,” the letter states.
The list of names includes James Jochum, former assistant secretary of Commerce for Import Administration; Marguerite Trossevin, former deputy chief counsel for Import Administration; Stephen Claeys, former deputy assistant secretary for antidumping and countervailing duty operations at Commerce; and David Spooner, former assistant secretary of Commerce for Import Administration.
Apart from Spooner, everyone listed provides lobbying services for Jochum, Shore & Trossevin.
The lawmakers requested a two-pronged study: an analysis of former trade personnel involved in pending trade matters and a review of the activities of all former trade staff and officials over the last 15 years. Both aspects of the study are “merited,” the letter states, in order to determine “whether additional limitations on their post-government employment activities are necessary.”
“We need to slam the revolving door so that government employees do not walk out of their office and into lobbying positions where they may work against the best interests of American workers and industries,” Slaughter said in a statement.
Others who signed the letter include House Trade Working Group Chairman Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and Democratic Reps. Gene Green (Texas), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Phil Hare (Ill.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Betty Sutton (Ohio) and Tim Ryan (Ohio).
Source: Roll Call, June 1, 2009