The Politico on International Lobbying

Here inside the beltway, the launch of the political newspaper and Web site The Politico has gotten a lot of attention. As we spend all our time following international politics, rather than the domestic political scene, we’re not really in a position to comment on the quality of the Politico’s core product.

However, leafing through the latest print copy of the new tabloid-format paper, garnered for free from the Politico dispenser that recently joined the long line of newspaper boxes in front of our local Starbucks, one Politico feature did catch our eye.

It’s a column called Suite Talk, which follows “career changes, client developments and other movements” in D.C.’s huge lobbying industry. What caught our eye is that the column follows international lobbying in addition to the domestic variety.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world that allows agents of foreign governments to legally lobby members of its government. Suite Talk opens a fascinating window on this little-reported aspect of Washington business. Take this item, for example, on Iranian lobbying:

A New Yorker has interviewed an interesting assortment of congressional staffers, journalists and policy wonks on behalf of Iranian government officials, according to a recent supplemental filing with the Justice Department.
The detailed filing, required every six months, shows Mark Edmond Clark has conducted research for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Islamic Republic of Iran on the mid-term elections and possible U.S. military action against the Middle Eastern nation. He has also compiled information for Ambassador M. Javad Zarif, Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations, and Gholamhossein Mohammadnia, the first secretary of Iran’s mission to the organization. Clark could not be reached for comment

Clark “provided monthly oral reports on US-Iranian relations and supported the formulation of policy options; provided assistance to Mission on MEK research; provided background research for Iranian President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad’s visit to UN General Assembly.” He also “developed reports from Council on Foreign Relations staff on group’s research on Iran; drafted reports from Congressional staff interviews on likely outcome of Congressional Elections; developed reports from interviews of leading U.S. foreign policy experts on U.S.-Iran relations; drafted reports on French perspectives on the Iranian nuclear issue; drafted a proposed letter of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to American people; drafted suggestions for the proposed dissemination of President Ahmadinejad’s proposed letter; and, prepared reports on my views of U.S. Congressional Elections results and the prospect of U.S. military action against Iran.”

Iran paid Clark $29,363 for his efforts, including reimbursement for a round-trip ticket on Amtrak between Washington and New York ($297) and a meal at Lumi Restaurant ($63), according to the filing signed Jan. 22.

Recent moves in the lobbying operations of Hong Kong and Honduras are also noted.