April 25, 2012

Wal-Mart Deploys Lobbyist Who Used To Work For Congressman Cummings To Fight Cummings’ Investigation Of Bribery Scandal

Wal-Mart Deploys Lobbyist Who Used To Work For Congressman Cummings To Fight Cummings' Investigation Of Bribery Scandal
Wal-Mart lobbyist Paul Brathwaite is leading efforts to stave off Congressman Cummings' investigation of the Wal-Mart effort to weaken anti-bribery laws. Brathwaite used to work for Cummings.
On the heels of the blockbuster New York Times investigation of Wal-Mart’s systematic bribery of Mexican officials — and subsequent cover-up — Republic Report’s Zaid Jilani revealed that the company has since used corporate lobbying fronts to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law that establishes penalties for U.S. firms engaged in bribery abroad.

This morning, Oversight Committee members Congressman Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman announced that they will begin a probe of Wal-Mart’s lobbying. In a press release, Cummings announced that he has sent letters to Tom Donohue and Greg Steinhafel, leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Industry Leaders Association — the two Wal-Mart-funded fronts identified by Jilani as having worked to weaken the FCPA.

But just as the letter to the Chamber and the RILA was being crafted, Roll Call reports that Wal-Mart enlisted a cadre of K Streeters to stave off the investigation:

Walmart’s top D.C. lobbyist, Ivan Zapien, convened a meeting of his outside consultants today. Those who attended, according to a source familiar with the session, included Walmart’s former in-house Democratic lobbyist Kimberly Woodard, who now runs her own shop; GOP heavyweight Charlie Black of Prime Policy Group; Paul Brathwaite of the Podesta Group, and Capitol Counsel’s John Raffaelli and former Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.).

The meeting took place as Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.) looked into the allegations detailed in the article.

The choice of Wal-Mart’s go-to lobbyists reveal much about how the revolving door can corrupt public policy. Lobbyist Paul Brathwaite, for instance, is a former Democratic staffer who used to work for Cummings while staffing the Congressional Black Caucus. Brathwaite’s lobbying website touts this relationship to powerful lawmakers:

Paul is widely known and well-regarded fixture in the halls of Congress, both for his consummate professionalism and his infectious laugh. Before joining the Podesta Group, he served as executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), where he coordinated the group’s domestic and foreign policy initiatives. At the CBC, Paul worked with all 43 members and served three CBC chairs: Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Melvin L. Watt (D-NC).

Charlie Black, the other lobbyist tapped by Wal-Mart to head off the probe, is a senior advisor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.