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McAuliffe's Ties to Lobbyists

Amy Gardner

Terry McAuliffe's ties to lobbyists go beyond the political friendships that prompted a group of supporters to host a fundraiser for him this week in the offices of the BGR Group, a prominent Washington lobbying firm. For nearly 10 years, McAuliffe was the managing partner of a law firm with its own thriving lobbying practice.

The Washington Post reported this morning on Brian Moran's criticism of the fundraiser and effort to tar McAuliffe's long history as a Washington political insider.

That history includes his affiliation with the Washington law firm, McAuliffe Kelly Raffaelli, where he was managing partner until his departure in 1994. Although McAuliffe did not lobby himself, news clips and federal lobbying disclosure forms show that others with the firm represented the nuclear power industry, a chemical company, the telecommunications industry, fast-food chains and the foreign governments of Taiwan, India and Turkey. The company came under fire for some of that work.

The details of McAuliffe Kelly Rafaelli's foreign lobbying are available under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires companies to disclose to the Department of Justice any advocacy they do on behalf of foreign governments. To read the disclosure forms, clink on the links below.

Perhaps most controversial was the company's representation of Turkey at a time when that government was the subject of international scrutiny for alleged human rights abuses. The firm was criticized by name in a report called "The Torturers' Lobby" published in 1992 by the Center for Public Integrity.

The McAuliffe campaign said the company's work for Turkey had to do with a longstanding dispute between Armenia and Turkey over a period of history after World War I when the Ottoman Empire killed, by some estimates, more than 1 million Armenians. Every year, Armenia seeks legislation in Congress characterizing this period as the Armenian Genocide, and every year, the Turkish government opposes the legislation.

Also controversial was the firm's representation of the American Nuclear Energy Council at a time when the organization was trying to build public support for a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. According to published reports at the time (which the McAuliffe campaign doesn't dispute), the lobbyist working the issue, Edward E. Allison, counted Clark County, Nev., as a client at the same time even though the county opposed the nuclear dump.

The company's advocacy of India drew headlines here and in that country not because of controversy but because McAuliffe Kelly was, at the time, a minor lobbying firm -- particularly when it came to foreign clients. The company took on India as a client in 1993, at a time when the country was opening its economy to foreign investors and when other big-name lobbying firms were vying for the contract.

According to the McAuliffe campaign, the law firm was divided into three business units: a legal practice led by Peter Kelly, a business development practice led by McAuliffe, and a lobbying practice led by John D. Raffaelli.

Raffaelli is an Arkansan and former law student of Bill Clinton's. After the McAuliffe firm disbanded, Raffaelli went on to found the Washington Group and, subsequently, Capitol Counsel.

By Amy Gardner  |  March 26, 2009; 2:32 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Amy Gardner , Terry McAuliffe  
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While Amy Gardner’s article does make some effort to handle the “lobbying issue”, if indeed it is an issue, with a patina of fairness, upon closer examination it appears to be nothing more than an effort to create news and then slant it against Terry McAuliffe. For example, although Ms. Gardner does point out that Terry’s role within the firm was business development and that the firm was split “into three business units: a legal practice led by Peter Kelly, a business development practice led by McAuliffe, and a lobbying practice led by John D. Raffaelli”, it would appear that the only purpose of the article is to tie Terry McAuliffe to the lobbying activities that were run by Mr. Raffaelli. As to the lobbying activities themselves, the report cited by Ms. Gardner makes it clear that Turkey hired Mr. Raffaelli, not Mr. McAuliffe, and, contrary to her characterization, the report does not “criticize” the firm “by name” or in any other way. In the introduction, the report states that “John Raffaelli, former tax and trade counsel to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.), was hired by Turkey” and notes its fee, and in the body of the report the firm is barely mentioned. That being the case, what is the point of the article?

I disagree with Ms. Gardner’s obvious efforts to disparage Terry McAuliffe or paint him in a false light. Terry McAuliffe is a credit to the Democratic party who has vision, passion and persistence, and his past experience with lobbyists is likely to have only beneficial effects for Virginia. He is the kind of person who is capable of listening and forming his own decisions, not being unduly influenced by people he knows are paid to deliver a particular message.

Posted by: ViennaJack | March 26, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to pose a serious question: who hasn't dealt with lobbyists that are running for office? Lobbying is a form of petitioning the government for grievances and is Constitutionally protected. Ms. Gardner, if you'd like to cut off access of opinion to our elected officials, please speak up and speak clearly and plainly. The act of lobbying includes an unincorporated citizen writing a letter to his or her Congressperson; it also includes writing editorial pieces or opinions, working for or volunteering with non-profit organizations, representing your corporation's best interests at the public policy level and many other things. To be against that would be foolhardy and would essentially negate a form of tyranny greater than the misuse of some lobbying.

Ms. Gardner, please submit a followup article on Moran's and Sen. Deeds' dealings with special interests and level the playing field so that we are all talking the same language and are on the same page.

Posted by: robsmithiii | March 27, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

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