Lobbyists representing foreign governments and organizations spend millions of dollars each year to influence U.S. federal policy. From meetings with lawmakers to editorials rebutting damaging media reports, lobbyists advocate for their employers. Some work broadly for more than one entity, while others offer very specific legal or communication services.
The United States' closest neighbors have spent vast amounts of money on promoting positive images of themselves. Of the 21 Latin American countries tracked by Univision News, only 6 were unaffiliated with any U.S.-based lobbyists from 2007-2010. Most of the lobbyists are located in Washington, D.C., the heart of government, but a handful are based in New York City, Miami and Boston.
Below is a list of what Latin American governments and other entities have spent on lobbying, which lobbying firms they used, and a brief description of how the money was spent. They are listed alphabetically by country.
The list was compiled using www.foreignlobbying.org, a project by non-profit newsroom ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation, which aims to make information about Congress and the federal government more accessible. It uses the most recent data available, covering the years 2007 to 2010.
Every six months the Justice Department reports, in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, reports the nature, sources, and content of informational materials disseminated by agents of foreign principals registered under the Act. The most recent report includes six months' worth of information up to June 30, 2011.
Our list, as well as the one complied in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, necessarily includes foreign principals which have no association with the government.
The big picture
Latin American countries and entities spent $46.7 million on lobbying in the U.S. between 2007 and 2010.
Colombian entities spent the most money at $16.9 million. Much of it went to meetings regarding child labor. Mexico came in second with $12.9 million. While the Colombian total was divided among six entities, the Mexican figure was divided among 15 entities, the most of any country. It went to everything from salmonella research to cross-border trucking meetings. Brazil, after that, spent money on intellectual property rights issues, Panama on free trade agreements and port authority meetings, and rounding out the top five, Venezuela spent money on improving its image in the U.S. media and legal advice.
Most countries had a handful of entities, but six countries -- Belize, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, and Uruguay -- spent no lobbying money in the U.S.
GRAND TOTAL: $46.7 million
Totals by country, from highest to lowest (the number of entities associated with each country)
Colombia: $16.9 million (6)
Mexico: 12.9 million (15)
Brazil: $5.3 million (4)
Panama: $4.2 million (4)
Venezuela: 1.96 million (3)
Costa Rica: $1.6 million (3)
Ecuador: $1.5 million (3)
Peru: $790,000 (4)
Honduras: $545,000 (3)
Nicaragua: $537,000 (1)
El Salvador: $143,000 (2)
Chile: $104,000 (1)
Bolivia: $51,000 (2)
Guatemala: $40,000 (2)
Argentina: $15,000 (1)
Belize: 0 (0)
French Guiana: 0 (0)
Guyana: 0 (0)
Paraguay: 0 (0)
Suriname: 0 (0)
Uruguay: 0 (0)
While the full list is worth perusing, a few points of interest jumped out at us:
- The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia paid the Colombian Coffee Federation over $16 million in large part to handle meetings regarding goods produced with child labor.
- There were 84 recorded transactions between the Government of El Salvador and the Gephardt Group Government Affairs, many labeled US-Salvador relations, but no payments. This happened with multiple countries: The Country of Peru has worked with Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock 142 times, primarily for Free Trade Agreement-related issues and there is no record of payment.
- Mexico has the most entities paying lobbyists to work on their behalf. Most of the payments are in the six-figure range, but the Secretaria de Agricultura Ganderia, Desarollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacio paid Greenberg Traurig over $4 million for help with salmonella research and information about tomatoes, among other things, highlighting the importance of crop exports. Political parties also pay lobbyists: Partido Accion Nacional paid Patton Boggs over $100,000. And according to a Sunlight Foundation report, lobbying firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates was hired by Mexico's Pena Nieto, and his political party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional, bought ad space on US Spanish-language television, all without filing required registration.
- Daniel J Edelman Inc. has an incredibly lucrative gig with the Panama Canal Authority. They have received over $2 million for help with port authority relationships and reports regarding expanding the canal.
- Venezuela has some interesting tidbits. Arcaya and Associates (Ignacio Arcaya was a former ambassador to the U.S. who resigned abruptly in 2002 amid reports that he disagreed with some of president Hugo Chavez' policies.) paid Florida-based Tew Cardenas, LLP nearly $12,000 for 5 meetings and 3 lunches at the Four Seasons Hotel. The Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela paid the Venezuela Information Office over $1.5 million to help counter negative coverage of Venezuela in the U.S. media.
RECREAR (Recreation for Growth, a conservative liberal political party from 2002-9 that merged into Republican proposal) paid Dutko Worldwide LLC $15,000 to set up meetings with the State Department, National Security Council, etc. in 2009 in 1 payment.
Country not listed
Bolivia Foundation for the Development of Communities paid mCapitol Management $23,000 in 2007 in 1 payment.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture Republic of Bolivia paid Thomas a Kruse $28,165.41 to coordinate work visits, analyze investment law, bilateral trade agreements, etc. in 2007-8 in 26 payments.
Brazil Ministry of Health paid Daniel J Edelman Inc. $10,000 for "client services" in 2009 in 1 payment.
Social Communication Secretariat of the Office of the President of the Republic of Brazil paid Fleishman-Hillard $4,995,139.19 to coordinate interviews, set up meetings, etc. in 2009-10 in 18 payments.
Federation of Industries of the State of Sao Paulo paid Kristen A. Chadwick $50,000 for advocating the GSP program to lawmakers, etc. in 2009 in 5 payments.
Agencia Brasileira de Desenvolvimento Industrial paid CDN International Inc. $191,847.11 for "secretariat contract" and reimbursement of travel expenses, etc. in 2010 in 7 payments.
Tourism Promotion of Chile paid Development Counsellors International $103,500 for a 'professional fee' in 2007-8 in 3 payments.
Avianca S.A. (airline) paid Holland and Knight $112,443.57 for legal representation, etc. in 2008-10 in 6 payments.
Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia paid Colombian Coffee Federation $16,348,041.00 to handle meetings regarding 'goods produced with child labor', etc. in 2007-10 in 762 payments.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Colombia paid Sorini, Samet and Associates $73,000 to discuss labor law issues, trade agreements with the Ways and Means Committee, etc. in 2008-9 in 5 payments.
Government of Colombia paid The Fratelli Group $400,000 to organize ambassador meetings with reporters, etc. in 2009-10 in 16 payments
Movimiento Independiente De Renovacion Absoluta paid MIRA Movimiento Politico Inc. $15,200 for campaigning assistance, etc. in 2010 in 2 payments.
Colombia is Passion/Government of Colombia through the Fratelli Group paid Gretchen Hamel, Endeavor Global Strategies $46,000 for 'professional services rendered' in 2009 in 2 payments.
Camara de Azucareros (sugar growers) paid Costa Rican Board of Trade $39,600 in 2007-10 in 18 payments.
Costa Rican Tourism Institute paid Burson-Marsteller paid $1,537,057.00 in 2008-10 in 49 payments.
Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Partido Liberacion Nacional party nominee paid Arent Fox LLP $25,000 for legal services in 2009 in 1 payment.
Corporation for the Promotion of Exports and Investments in Ecuador paid $46,775.73 Foley Hoag LLP for ATPDEA extension help in 2010 in 1 payment.
Embassy of Ecuador paid Fenton Communications $108,000 for responses to editorials, etc. in 2008-10 in 4 payments, paid DTB Associates LLP $49,004.80 for taxis, research, etc. in 2009 in 5 payments, paid Patton Boggs $1,170,000 for 'US-Ecuador bilateral relationship' in 2010 in 8 payments.
Government of Ecuador, Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador paid Fenton Communications $159,000 for 'communication services' i.e. letters to editor, background info, interviews, etc. in 2010 in 7 payments.
Embassy of El Salvador paid Michael E. Veve $143,387.10 for 'legal fees' in 20008-10 in 29 payments.
Government of El Salvador interacted with Gephardt Group Government Affairs, LLC 84 times concerning US-Salvador relations, etc. in 2007-10, but no payments.
Coordinadora de las Comunidades Afectadas por la Construccion de la Hidroelectrica Chixoy paid $0.00 (Yes this is what's listed) to Holland and Knight as reimbursement for 'costs incurred in the legal representation of the client…' in 2008 in 1 payment.
FundaSistemas paid Bracy Tucker Brown, Inc. dba Bracy Tucker Brown and Valanzano $40,000 for 'Hemispheric Relations', etc. in 2009-10 in 2 payments.
Fundacion para la Inversion y Desarrollo de exportations, Tegucigalpa, Honduras paid Global Communicators LLC $248,019.39 in 2008-9 in 3 payments, paid August, Lang and Husak $155,101.54 for photo shoots, advertising, etc. in 2008 in 6 payments.
Government of Honduras paid Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates $141,739.23 for interviews, briefs, etc. in 2009 in 2 payments.
Camara Nacional de la Industria Electronica de Telecommunicationes y Technologias paid Hill and Knowlton $8,000, no date given, in 1 payment.
Far East Trade Services, Inc.-Mexico paid Far East Trade Services $463,883.56 in 2008 in 6 payments.
Government of Mexico-Secretaria de Economia paid Public Strategies Washington $328,000 for NAFTA implementation, climate control, etc. in 2008-9 in 12 payments, paid Gregory J Kuykendall $30,000 (he has received 'in trust' 3.5 million from the Mexican government per his contract and is paying $15k/month to each lobbying firm - Raben Grub and Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck, LLP) in 2009 in 1 payment.
Mexico Ministry of Tourism paid Mexico Tourism Board $705,771.53 in 2008-10 in 97 payments, paid APCO Worldwide $710,000 in 2009 in 4 payments, paid Oorvis Communications $156,577.69 in 2009 in 8 payments for salaries, office expenses, etc.
Secretaria de Agricultura Ganderia, Desarollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacio (SAGARPA) paid Greenberg Traurig $4,289,666.60 for salmonella research, tomato information, etc. in 2008-10 in 57 payments.
Secretaria de Economia paid Arent Fox LLP $228,983.20 for legal fees, etc. in 2009 in 3 payments, paid Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman $2,317,014.80 in 2007-10 in 49 payments, paid Public Strategies Washington $105,500 for meetings, cross border trucking, etc. in 2009 in 6 payments.
Senado de la Republica/Mexican Senate paid DLA Piper US $378,982.55 for US-Mexico relations, meetings with senators, etc. in 2008-9 in 21 payments.
State of Tamaulipas paid DLA Piper US $20,000 for meeting requests, commercial relations with Texas, etc. in 2008 in 1 payment.
Embassy of Mexico paid Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP $252,025.96 for Avena issues, Foreign Operations Appropriations Markup information, etc. in 2009-10 in 17 payments, paid The Raben Group LLC $90,519.02 for help with Avena issues, etc. in 2009-10 in 11 payments.
La Fundacion Siglo XXI paid Venezuela Information Office $78,666.66 for visits by President Morales, human rights leaders, etc. in 2008-9 in 3 payments.
Oficina De Visitantes Y Convenciones De La Riviera Nayarit paid M Silver Associates $208,074.37 in 2008-10 in 20 payments.
Partido Accion Nacional (PAN party) paid Patton Boggs $105,000 in 2010 in 6 payments.
Government of the Federal District (Mexico City) paid Weber Shandwick $2,375,254 for climate issues, etc. in 2010 in 2 payments.
Mexico Tourism Board paid APCO Worldwide $705,113.21 in 2009-10 in 7 payments, paid Oorvis Communications $205,689.26 in 2009-10 in 8 payments for issues around Mexico travel warnings, etc.
United Mexican States (Kraiem) paid Covington and Burling $45,000 for purpose of 'retainer' in 2010 in 1 payment.
Commission Nacional de Zonas Francas paid Samuels International Associates $537,291.75 in 2007-10 in 14 payments.
Embassy of Panama paid Washington Group $346,379 in 2007-9 in 18 payments, paid Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, LLP $102,000, no date given, in 1 payment, paid Parven Pomper Strategies Inc. $240,000 in 2008-9 in 13 payments, paid Daniel J. Edelman Inc. $178,500 in 2008-9 in 6 payments.
Ministry of Foreign Relations, Republic of Panama paid Alliance Consulting Group $343,750 regarding free trade agreements, education programs, etc. in 2007-9 in 19 payments.
Panama Canal Authority paid Daniel J Edelman Inc. $2,519,054.35 regarding expanding canal, port authority relationships, etc. in 2007-10 in 56 payments.
Republic of Panama paid Clark and Weinstock $100,030 in 2009 in 3 payments, paid HDMK, LLC $746,652.99 in 2009-10 in 7 payments.
Country not listed
Country of Peru interacted with Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock 142 times for FTA-related issues, but no record of payments.
Institute for Liberty and Democracy paid Watts Partners/JC Watts Companies $83,500 for meeting requests, etc. in 2007-9 in 8 payments.
Embassy of the Republic of Peru paid Patton Boggs $151,451.60 for extension of ATPDEA, etc. in 2008 in 3 payments.
Peruvian Export and Tourism Promotion Board paid Development Counsellors International $555,483.33 for professional fees, etc. in 2008-10 in 4 payments.
Country not listed
Country not listed
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela paid Venezuela Information Office $1,591,624.98 in 2008-9 in 7 payments, paid Olivia Goumbri $63,700 in 2009-10 in 14 payments, paid Venable LLP $11,373.50 in 2009 in 1 payment, to counter 'biased press', negative coverage of Venezuela in the U.S. media, etc.
Venezuela paid Law firm Pertierra and Toro PC $276,832.97 for document review, legal research, interviews, etc. in 2007-8 in 10 payments.
Arcaya and Associates ( Ignacio Arcaya is the former US ambassador from Venezuela, resigned 2002) paid Tew Cardenas, LLP $11,805 for 5 meetings and 3 lunches at the Four Seasons Hotel in 2008 in 3 payments.