Monday, October 25, 2004

Outsourcing Diplomacy

El Salvador makes the front page of the Los Angeles Times today, but that's a dubious distinction in this case. In an article about foreign countries paying lobbyists to push their agendas in Washington, El Salvador gets the lede:
When the government of El Salvador wanted help extending immigration benefits to its citizens in the U.S., it turned to a new lobbying shop set up by Miami lawyer Alberto Cardenas Jr., a star of the Republican fundraising machine.

The lobbyists were confident that "a round of consultations and meetings" with Bush administration officials would get El Salvador what it wanted: an additional 18 months of protection and work permits for Salvadorans living in the U.S.

In less than two weeks, El Salvador got just that.
So now, in addition to the exorbitant power of money in U.S. domestic politics, we have foreign countries stepping up to the plate:
Influence magazine, a trade publication for lobbyists, recently reported that lobbying on behalf of foreign governments in Washington was at an all-time high. The magazine cited trade opportunities and Bush's creation of the Millennium Challenge Account in 2002, which gives aid as an incentive for countries to meet certain human rights and economic policy criteria.
The basic problem here:
The trend of foreign countries relying on lobbyists who also serve as political fundraisers troubles government watchdog groups. Issues such as trade and immigration drive U.S. foreign policy, they say, and should not be influenced by those with fundraising links to decision makers.
Can we really expect Democrats to do any differently, should Kerry win?

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