September 28, 2007


Why No Outrage From Washington: To fend off fiascos like last year's failed Dubai Ports World deal, the emirate called in the big guns: The lobbyists (Business Week, 9/27/07)

Dubai and the United Arab Emirates—the loose federation of states to which Dubai belongs—also learned a hard lesson from the collapse of the earlier bid. And over the past 18 months they've launched a multimillion-dollar lobbying push to boost their image in the states and prevent another fiasco.

Those efforts went into overdrive in the days leading up to the NASDAQ deal, as a handful of Washington lobbyists led by George Salem, a senior adviser to the law firm DLA Piper and a past president of the National Association of Arab Americans, scrambled to ensure a smoother reception. Dubai executives believe that a big reason the ports deal ran aground was that they didn't give lawmakers advance warning or explain their perspective on the deal early enough. So this time, they made sure they got to key members of the Administration and Congress before the news broke and attitudes hardened.

In the days before the deal was disclosed, for example, a high-ranking Dubai official flew to Washington for a series of confidential briefings. And as soon as the markets closed on Sept. 19, Salem and his team hit the phones. According to a Capitol Hill source, NASDAQ Chief Executive Robert Greifeld personally called Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had been a ringleader in the fight over the ports deal. The basic message, says one Dubai lobbyist: This deal is good for U.S. financial markets because it will give NASDAQ access to rich Mideast pockets. To counter terrorism fears, the lobbyists argue that the UAE and Dubai are among America's strongest allies in the region. All told, they rang up some 120 Beltway power players in the first 24 hours.

The rapid-fire round of diplomacy came against a backdrop of intense effort to bolster ties to Washington. Dubai alone has paid more than $3 million to three different lobbying firms, which have spent much of the past year talking up the tiny nation in meetings with aides to everyone from Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to Vice-President Dick Cheney. And earlier this year, the UAE budgeted an additional $5 million to lobbying firm Harbour Group to launch a new body, the U.S.-Emirates Alliance, to help shape public opinion. The alliance has quietly contributed more than $100,000 to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a foreign policy think tank, to support Mideast programs—though Jon B. Alterman, who heads the center's Middle East research, says its programs aren't influenced by funding. The alliance has also sent Reem Al-Hashimy, the UAE's Boston University-educated deputy chief of mission, to a dozen U.S. cities since July to meet with civic and business leaders.

Such moves appear to be working.

Just slip Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and a few other talk show hosts some money and there's no one to whip up the wahoos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 28, 2007 6:23 AM

To be fair, I believe Mr. Limbaugh was one of the few talking heads who wasn't opposed to the deal.

Posted by: mc at September 28, 2007 6:44 AM

I think that in this post, OJ is agreeing with the notion that the modern GOP is both corrupt and ignorant.

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 10:55 AM

Brandon, I don't think OJ is saying the modern GOP is both corrupt and ignorant. The problem is the Republicans are not corrupt enough to work together as a political party, and they know too much, without the ability to bend. The biggest problem for the Republicans is that they forgo the Good chasing after the Perfect. When the Perfect proves elusive, the go to the wilderness to sulk. How many people on this board have we seen write off the Republicans because they were "betrayed" on immigration? People who want smaller government, to win the war in Iraq, people who would leave the room if Teddy came in, gave Congress to the Democrats. Because if they don't get 110% of what they want, and 0% of what they don't, then "there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties".

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at September 28, 2007 11:30 AM

Ignorant, not corrupt. Lobbyists are educators.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 12:20 PM

Lobbyists are educators That's a weird thought.

Isn't paying off people not to publicly oppose a business deal a form of corruption? I've always thought of that as hush money.

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 12:25 PM

Lesson learned: you scratch mine, I scratch yours.

When have NASDAQ become a national security concern? On what ground could the politicians oppose the deal? The only reason politicians were against the NASDAQ deal was because they were not paid to keep quiet.

They said the Chinese and the third world govts were corrupt. They have much to learn. We don't have corruption, the lobbyists just have to pay our politicians to get what their clients want. No pay, no play. If something bad occurred, there are always American taxpayers to the rescue.

Posted by: ic at September 28, 2007 1:24 PM

Guys like Limbaugh and Dobbs are just entertainers. They're paid by sponsors.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 2:18 PM

Rush practically single-handedly put the conservative point of view in play that he did it with humor was just an added benefit.

Posted by: erp at September 28, 2007 3:13 PM

That's where the money was. If women listened to drive time radio he'd sound like John Conyers.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 4:52 PM