Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rio's 2016 Olympic Bid Gets Boost

The Rio bandwagon seems to be picking up speed.

Rio de Janeiro's bid to take the Olympics to South America for the first time in 2016 gained further momentum Wednesday when the Brazilian city came off best in a technical evaluation of the four candidate cities.

Chicago, meanwhile, came in for some pointed negative comments - including its financial guarantees and public transportation - and Madrid and Tokyo also took some direct hits from the International Olympic Committee.

The 98-page report from the IOC's evaluation commission was released exactly a month before the IOC vote in Copenhagen on Oct. 2.

"The IOC report is a real boost to the Rio bid," bid president Carlos Nuzman told The Associated Press. "They have provided a very strong confirmation of our games plan and vision. It is fair to say Rio has a very positive report, and possibly the most favorable. We didn't have any red points."

The report, which did not grade or rank the cities, is intended only as a guide for IOC members and is unlikely to sway the final decision. Intangible factors, including geopolitical issues, always play a major role when the IOC's 100-plus members cast their secret ballots.

The report is based on visits by the evaluation commission in April and May, and was issued two months after more than 90 members listened to presentations from the bid cities in Lausanne, Switzerland, where most of the key issues were already covered.

In what shapes up as a tight race, the final presentations on the day of the vote could be crucial. Whether President Barack Obama goes to Copenhagen to lobby for Chicago could be decisive, just as Tony Blair helped secure the 2012 Olympics for London when he met IOC members in Singapore in 2005 and Vladimir Putin traveled to Guatemala City in 2007 to push Sochi's winning bid for the 2014 Winter Games.

"Clearly having President Obama there would be an advantage," Chicago bid leader Patrick Ryan said, "particularly since each of the other cities are saying that their leaders will be there."

Ryan said all the issues raised in the IOC report have or can be resolved, and he expressed confidence in Chicago's prospects of bringing the Summer Olympics back to the U.S. for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"I think we got a very good score," Ryan told the AP in a telephone interview. "We feel the wind is really at our back for the last 30 days. It's going to go down to the wire. Nobody knows who's going to win this. We have as good a chance as anybody."

For the moment, though, things seem to going Rio's way.

The Brazilian city made a big impression with members at the June meeting in Lausanne, arguing the case for the Olympics to be held on a new continent. Africa and Antarctica are the only other continents that have not hosted the games.

The IOC report cited Rio as embracing the "potential power of the games to transform a city, a region and a country" and said the Olympics would leave "a lasting and affordable legacy."

The Rio bid is the most spread-out and most expensive of the four, with a budget of $11.1 billion for capital investments associated with the games.

"The commission is confident that the growing Brazilian economy would be able to support the necessary infrastructure development needed for the delivery of the 2016 Games," the IOC report said.

The IOC also cited Rio's vision of using sport as a "catalyst for social integration" and said the bid had strong public support, financial guarantees from all levels of government, and knowledge and experience from the city's hosting of the 2007 Pan American Games.

But Rio also came in for some matters of worry.

With Brazil scheduled to host the 2014 World Cup, the report expressed "some concern" about marketing the Olympics in the same four-year period.

While citing Rio's "public safety challenges," the IOC said new anti-crime programs were "already showing positive results."

The report said transportation plans in Rio would be "critical" and that urban infrastructure projects would need "careful management and monitoring."

The IOC said Rio had an "insufficient" number of hotel rooms, and plans to use four villages and six cruise ships would "require particular attention in both the planning and delivery phases."

Among the issues under scrutiny for Chicago has been financial guarantees. Unlike other bid cities, Chicago's candidacy is not underwritten by the federal government.

"Chicago 2016 has not provided a full guarantee covering a potential economic shortfall of the OCOG (Olympic organizing committee) as requested by the IOC," the report said, adding that Chicago had instead proposed a capped guarantee of $750 million which presents a "risk" in the event of a larger deficit.

Since the IOC visit in April, however, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Dally has pledged to sign the host city contract, requiring the city to take full financial responsibility and the proposed $4.8 billion operating budget.

"The issues will be resolved in the next few days," Ryan said. "The city of Chicago has a very strong credit rating. We expect final approval from the city council soon."

The IOC praised Chicago's compact venue plans along the downtown waterfront, and minimum travel time for athletes, but noted that the equestrian, shooting, road cycling and mountain biking venues were relatively far away.

The report also singled out the "well-designed and compact lakefront Olympic village" but noted that, at the time of the commission's visit, full financing guarantees for the complex had not been provided.

The IOC also said Chicago's use of temporary or scaled-down venues "increases the element of risk" to the organizing committee, and said transportation could be a "major challenge" because it would involve more than doubling the peak commuter traffic on the Metro commuter rail service.

The report said there was a need for "clearer delineation of roles and responsibilities" between the city and organizing committee, and said Chicago's budget - including $1.83 billion in sponsorships - is "ambitious but achievable."

Tokyo, which held the Olympics in 1964, drew praise for it compact venue plan and government financial backing but was cited for a "relatively low level of public support" in an IOC opinion poll from February showing support of only about 55 percent of the city's residents.

"We have worked very hard to respond to IOC feedback since the evaluation committee's visit to Tokyo in April," Tokyo bid leader Ocher Kong said in a statement. "We are confident we already have a plan that will fully satisfy all challenges and demonstrate our ability to be their most reliable and dependable partner."

Madrid, bidding for the second time in a row after losing the 2012 Games to London, was lauded for its compact layout and readiness of existing venues. But the report criticized Madrid's bid for not showing "a full understanding of the need for clear delineation of roles and responsibilities, including financial, between different stockholders..."

"I'm left with a bittersweet taste," Madrid bid leader Mercedes Coghen said. "Sweet because they know that our city is ready. Bitter because we weren't able to tell them better. We're not good communicators. We need to work on this."

Michelle Obama to lobby IOC for Chicago 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An Obama is definitely going to Denmark for the vote to award the 2016 Olympics.

The White House announced Friday that first lady Michelle Obama will be a lead member of Chicago's delegation for the Oct. 2 vote by the International Olympic Committee. President Barack Obama has not ruled out going, but told IOC president Jacques Rogge his priority right now is the fight to reform the health care system.

"He will continue to work to support Chicago's bid," said Patrick Ryan, chairman of Chicago 2016. "There is no greater supporter of Chicago and its bid to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games than President Obama and his support is recognized worldwide."

Chicago and U.S. Olympic Committee members have openly lobbied for Obama to join them in Copenhagen, believing his presence could help bring the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time since 1996. Chicago is in a tight contest with Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo, and the presence of world leaders has been instrumental in the most recent votes.

Tony Blair helped London land the 2012 Games when he met IOC members in Singapore in 2005, and Vladimir Putin traveled to Guatemala City in 2007 to push Sochi's winning bid for the 2014 Winter Games. Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already said he'll be in Copenhagen, as will King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Japan has invited incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Crown Prince Naruhito to attend.

But Rogge said Thursday that Chicago's chances shouldn't hinge on whether Obama makes a personal appearance in Denmark. Obama, an ardent supporter of his adopted hometown's bid, has videotaped four messages for IOC members in recent months.

"If they want to come, this is an honor for the IOC," Rogge said. "We'll feel honored by their presence. It would be absolutely legitimate if they go to defend the bid of their country. We are not asking for heads of state to come there."

Besides, Michelle Obama brings some pretty good star power and international popularity of her own to the effort. She was born and raised on Chicago's South Side, not far from where the Olympic stadium would be, and she and the president will host Olympic athletes at the White House next week.

The athletes will visit local schools first, then join the Obamas and Chicago 2016 leaders at the White House in the afternoon.

"It is with great pride that I will go to Copenhagen to make the case for the United States to host the 2016 Olympics," she said in a statement. "There is no doubt in my mind that Chicago would offer the world a fantastic setting for these historic games and I hope that the Olympic torch will have the chance to burn brightly in my hometown."

As first lady, Michelle Obama has highlighted opening doors for underserved communities, particularly young people. She said this fits with the city's pledge to encourage the involvement of children in the games, if it hosts, through the distribution of over 500,000 tickets to local youth.

"Since President Obama has assumed office, the USOC and the bid have felt nothing but complete support. Sending the first lady to Copenhagen is an unprecedented statement of support," the USOC said in a statement. "The first lady, as a Chicago native, is a tremendous ambassador for the Chicago 2016 bid. She is a representative of Chicago and of America, of the first family and of their support for the bid."

The White House has also said that Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's top adviser and the former vice chair of Chicago 2016, will travel to Copenhagen.

Chicago lobbying hard for 2016 Olympics

Chicago: Chicago may lead in the race to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, but history has shown the voting can be unpredictable and the other cities in the running cannot be counted out.

With 13 International Olympic Committee delegates due to tour Chicago on 2-8 April, the US city is working to build on advantages that include the backing of President Barack Obama - who still owns a house in the city - and past successful US games, analysts who follow the Olympics said on Tuesday.

After Chicago, IOC delegates will visit the other bidders: Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. The jockeying will continue until the final vote in Copenhagen on 2 October.

“There is no bid that has a greater chance than Chicago, but there are many ways that Chicago may not be selected,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago sports consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.

Analysts said London won the bidding for the 2012 games over favoured Paris, while underdog Sochi, Russia, was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics. Both cities’ bids were helped when their respective leaders, Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin, showed up at the final vote to lobby the delegates.

Similarly, Obama could be “the X factor” if he goes to Denmark in the fall, analysts said.

“If Barack Obama shows up, it could turn the tide,” said Kelly Crabb, an attorney whose firm was international counsel for the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee. “But I don’t know. Nobody has a crystal ball.”

Other factors favoring Chicago: the last US games were in 1996 in Atlanta and the United States is the world’s biggest media market, analysts said.

“As important as it is to rotate the Olympics around the world, it’s also vitally important for the continuation of the Olympic movement to have the Summer Olympics in the United States at least every 20 years or so,” Ganis said.

Working against the US city is its lower level of financial guarantees compared with the other three bids, all of which include assurances that any cost overruns will be covered. The city of Chicago and the state of Illinois combined have pledged $750 million against any operating deficits.

IOC chief Jacques Rogge seemed to dismiss that worry last week when he said he was sure Chicago would be able to deliver with a strong guarantee, but analysts said delegates could still vote against Chicago.

Analysts said those concerns could be eased by the past financial success of US-staged Olympic games.

At a presentation last week in Denver by the four cities, Chicago officials did not address the guarantee issue, while the other three groups made sure to underline their governments’ commitments.

Another factor is an IOC desire for the US Olympic Committee to share more of its share of the revenue generated by the Olympics, analysts said. While a framework of a deal was reached last week, that issue could still rankle some IOC delegates.

The IOC recognizes the potential value of a Chicago Olympics, however, as it has delayed asking for bids for the 2016 broadcast rights until after the city selection, analysts said. A Chicago victory would likely result in more bidders and a more lucrative deal.

Several analysts see Tokyo as the main threat because the Beijing Olympics last summer proved TV ratings for events in Asia could be huge despite the time difference, while Rio officials stress that the Olympics have never been held in South America.

In the end, a final decision by the 100 or so IOC delegates likely to vote in the initial rounds will be also be made partly based on emotion as all four cities offer strong bids, analysts said.

12 blocks 12 towers” and “Family Tree” draw the Olympic Village

Olympic Village has already a face and a name. Two different projects: “12 blocks 12 towers”, by the architect Jorge Javier Camacho and María Eugenia Macía Torregrosa, and “Family Tree”, created by Fernando García Pino y Manuel García de Paredes, were proclaimed the International contest of Ideas winners. The contest was announced by Madrid Town Hall, to design and develop the Olympic Village, for the Madrid 2016 Candidature. The first one will design the Village residential area. The second one, the Village services area.
The city Mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, was the one in charge to make public the result of the contest, to which 41 different projects for the residential area were presented, and 15 for the services area design. At the same time, 5 special mentions were delivered, two for the service area design ("310G" and "Meeting Games"), and three for the residential area design (“Shoes made of Clouds”, “Madrid Olympic Park” and “Five scenes, five continents, and one Olympic Village”).

“12 blocks 12 Towers”

The winner Project for the Olympic Village residential area, shows a hybrid typology between tower and open block. Four blocks will be created, with three block-tower units in each one, with a high permeability between the open common spaces, improving the staying areas generation.

Moreover, the blocks and towers distribution answer to different criteria of maxim sunshine and ventilation. Two different typologies of homes will be available: one bedroom apartments in the towers and two bedrooms in the blocks. The distribution is designed around a big use and kitchen space and then the bedrooms. The rooms are mainly located at the south side and the kitchens, bathrooms and accesses to the north.

The project suggests the creation of natural solar filters by the planting of deciduous trees that give more shadow during the summer and more sunlight in the winter. It admits, moreover, wide green spaces were autochthon species could be grown.

It suggests as well the installation of photothermic boards installed in the facades and photovoltaic boards placed on the covers, for the common areas illumination.

This Project was created for the satisfaction of changing necessities of the Olympic Village along the time from the beginning. All the buildings have an acting area: access building, hotel, policlinic, logistic center, and the dock are different and adapted for the different uses they were created for, but at the same time, this will allow the necessary adaptations for the specific particularities that each of them carry out among the group.

Green areas integration with the buildings and the pedestrian circulation are the main points of the Project, the priority is established for the parallel to the water direction roads, in the Stormy ponds area, allowing the crossing by several points in the transversal direction for the distance could be walked by foot.

These pedestrian circulations are even integrated inside the buildings.

Access building, entrance and car park.

Here Press hosting, visitants and sportsmen reception will be located, in one only level, to which the related to Olympic Square commercial area will be added, the main Village meeting place.

In a superior level, Investigation and Sports spreading Center, where all kind of disciplines will be perform. This space is a public square that joins the already existent one inside the building, and will be maintained as city legacy once the Games are over.

The car park pergola-garden-plot will be use as the building lobby and will count on pavement that allows the water passing and the grass growing.

Hotel and canteen

The hotel, the tallest residential buildings of the Olympic Village, will have on the north side of the ground floor the museums area, access, reception and control. The south side, with two parts of two floors will host the main dining rooms for the Games. On the main lobby, some public spaces, resting areas, leisure areas, piano-bar and large suites with terraces in the interior lobby.

In the highest floor a restaurant will be located, which from the whole the Olympic Village and Ring could be seen. Building construction will be guided by efficiency and sustainability energy criteria. Thus, the facades are covered in a 60% of its extension, with elements that keep the sun and captures energy at the same time.


With a rectangular prism form and four plants, and located in the access area, reception and emergencies on the ground floor, the general medicine in the first two floors, the specialty consultations in the next level and finally, physical rehabilitation area, with swimming pool, at the top floor.

Logistic Center

A 15 meters high building will host the fleet of the town and the service center. With a covering system that will host different parts of the unloading dock and temporary parking for loading and unloading center.

Buses docks.

The interchange point between the inside and outside of the area, once the Olympic Village is dismantled; it will be still working, linked to the lineal park, as a shadow area where different events can be celebrated.

Ishihara off to lobby for Olympics

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara left Thursday for Berlin, the venue for the world athletics championships that start Saturday, to promote Tokyo's bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

In a related move, the Tokyo 2016 bid committee held an event at Tokyo International Forum to draw public attention, 50 days before the International Olympic Committee picks the host city on Oct. 2 in Copenhagen. Popular badminton player Reiko Shiota and former swimmer Junichi Miyashita, who both competed in the Beijing Olympics, attended the event.

"In Berlin, there will be a lot of chances (to appeal to IOC members), so I feel a strong need to be there. Lobbying is the key," Ishihara said before his departure from Narita airport.

The outspoken governor plans to meet with IOC officials during his visit through Aug. 24.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Supreme Court decision on AIPAC status could bode well for Arab lobbying efforts

Supreme Court decision on AIPAC status could bode well for Arab lobbying efforts

The Arabs and Israelis might be battling on the diplomatic front over the peace process and on confidence building measures, on settlements, land-for-peace, an independent Palestinian state, human rights, the Golan Heights, South Lebanon, a regional economic conference, and a zillion other issues.

But far away from the media spotlight there is another battle being played out here in the United States that is equally momentous, and, if won, will augur well for the pro-Arab lobby and will have serious negative political ramifications for the Israeli body.

This battle is being fought in Americans courts, not on ...

Arab states lobbying the EU over Israel's nuclear program

August 14, 2009 (Pal Telegraph)- Arab states are lobbying the European Union for support in their drive to force Israel to open up its secretive nuclear program to international perusal, documents made available to The Associated Press show.

In a letter addressed to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Amre Moussa, secretary general of the 22-nation League of Arab States, urges Sweden to back an Arab resolution entitled "Israel's Nuclear Capabilities." The document is to be submitted for a vote at next month's 150-nation general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Sweden currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. Diplomats from EU member countries and from other nations accredited to the IAEA told the AP Thursday that the same letter was sent to the foreign ministers of the other 26 EU member countries. They demanded anonymity for commenting on a confidential issue.

While Israel has never confirmed its status, it is commonly considered to have nuclear weapons, and Arab states regularly push at the annual IAEA conference for it to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and open its facilities for IAEA perusal.

General conference resolutions sponsored by the Arab League express concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities" and ask the IAEA to help implement the nonproliferation treaty regime on Israel.

A draft of the resolution prepared for next month's conference that was attached to the letter to Bildt gives voice to those same concerns and demands.

But in a new twist, it welcomes "recent initiatives calling for a 'nuclear weapons-free world'" an allusion to President Barack Obama's April call to abolish nuclear weapons that appeared calculated to generate extra support for the anti-Israel resolution.

While the Americans are not expected to end their support for Israel at the weeklong conference, which opens Sept. 14, the phrase was expected to give a platform for U.S. rivals such as Iran in their criticism of Washington's backing of the Jewish state.

Muslim nations consider Israel the region's main nuclear threat. The United States and its allies see Iran's defiance of the U.N. Security Council in its development of technology that could be used to make the bomb as the greatest me-nace to Middle East peace.

Iran says it wants to perfect the technology uranium enrichment not to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads but for fuel to generate power.

"We are hopeful that your country would support the Arab draft resolution," says the June 29 letter to Bildt. "Un-fortunately," Sweden was among the EU nations voting to block action on the document last year, Moussa wrote.

In Stockholm, Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Anders Jorle said Thursday the Swedish EU presidency was preparing an answer on behalf of the European Union but no final stance had yet been decided.

The votes of the 27 members of the EU are important for both opponents and proponents of censuring Israel at the conference the motion critical of the Jewish state was only narrowly defeated last year. That indicated growing support for the Arab initiative, particularly among developing countries.

Next EU presidency keen to boost Israel ties, despite some member doubts

The Czech Republic said Monday it would push its partners in the European Union to strengthen the bloc's relations with Israel once it assumes the
EU presidency in January.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters that while not all EU governments agree a broadening of relations with Israel is necessary or desirable, "This is a club of 27. It's our intention to start the discussion."

Since last June, the EU and Israel have been exploring ways to grant Israel better access to the vast EU market and give it a role in a range of EU advisory panels. But deepening political and security exchanges needs the unanimous backing of all 27 EU governments.

The Palestinian Authority opposes the EU plan to widen relations with Israel in political, economic, scientific, security, health and other spheres. It wants Israel to do more to ease the humanitarian crisis in Palestinian areas and halt the spread of settlements - a view that finds an echo in Europe, notably in France.

But Schwarzenberg said Israel has been easing West Bank travel restrictions and let Palestinian security forces there maintain law and order in recent months.

He added that upgrading EU-Israel relations would be good for the Palestinians, as well. He said the EU would be better placed to get Israel to ease conditions in Palestinian areas and Palestinians would benefit economically from more EU-Israel trade.

Schwarzenberg said improving the humanitarian situation for Palestinians is not formally linked to upgrading EU-Israel ties, but in practice everyone knows these things are related.

The Czech Republic will hold the rotating EU presidency for the first half of 2009

Arab lobby in the United States

Isaiah L. Kenen, the founder of American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs or "AZCPA" (which became American Israel Public Affairs Committee or "AIPAC"), wrote of the Arab lobby's roots in the 1950s "petro-diplomatic complex" that comprised the "oil industry, missionaries, and diplomats." In 1951 King Saud of Saudi Arabia asked U.S. diplomats to finance a pro-Arab lobby to counter AZCPA.

The National Association of Arab-Americans ("NAAA"), founded in 1972, was a political advocacy group whose goals were "to strengthen U.S. relations with Arab countries and to promote an evenhanded American policy based on justice and peace for all parties in the Middle East."[5] In the early 1970s there was growing anti-Arab sentiment related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the 1973 oil embargo, leading to government investigations, executive orders, and legislative provisions to combat terrorism. These especially impacted on Arab American rights and activism. The response was the creation of groups like the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Institute.

For many years these groups worked together on the Palestinian issue, including through newspaper, direct mail and advertising campaigns against U.S. loan guarantees to Israel and states' purchase of Israel bonds, condemnation of Israeli human rights and calls for the U.S. government to pressure Israel, as well anti-Israel protests and letter-writing campaigns. They also offered testimony to congress and criticized Israel's congressional and organizational supporters, sought to pass anti-Israel resolutions in state and national party platforms; offering anti-Israel testimony before Congress and attempted to sue Israel in U.S. courts. After the Palestine Liberation Organization had reached an agreement with Israel, there was some division among the groups, however they continue to lobby for Palestinians.

EU votes to upgrade Israel relations despite Arab lobbying

The European Union's 27 foreign ministers unanimously approved upgrading relations with Israel on Monday, despite vigorous efforts by the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to thwart the move.

The first expression of this decision will be a first-of-its-kind meeting between Israel's prime minister and all the leaders of the EU member states in Brussels this April.

Separately, the ministers decided to shelve a proposed action plan for the peace process in 2009, in response to Israeli pressure.

Throughout some 18 months of talks on the upgraded relationship, Egypt, the PA and other Arab countries lobbied against it. At the least, the Arabs argued, the upgrade should be conditioned on an Israeli settlement freeze.

Last month, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally raised the issue with several European foreign ministers, and as a result, at least five countries - including Britain, Belgium, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta - said they would not sign the upgrade agreement unless it were linked to progress in Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. That threatened to derail the entire agreement.

Last week, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni traveled to Brussels to do her own lobbying with the EU foreign ministers, first and foremost Bernard Kouchner of France, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. At one point, she asked everyone else in the room to leave so that she could speak with Kouchner privately. During that conversation, the two agreed that there would be no linkage, but the EU would issue a separate statement stressing the need to continue the final-status talks.

The two also agreed that the EU would not officially adopt the action plan for the peace process, which France had formulated, but would instead leave it as a mere proposal. The plan, first reported in Haaretz last week, stated that the EU would, inter alia, press Israel to reopen Orient House, the PA's former headquarters in East Jerusalem.

As a result of the upgrade in relations, Israel's foreign minister will start meeting three times a year with all 27 EU foreign ministers. Other ministers will meet once a year with their European counterparts. Israel and the EU will also conduct a strategic dialogue on issues such as the peace process, the Iranian threat, counterterrorism and organized crime. In addition, the EU pledged to help Israel integrate into UN agencies and to include Israeli experts in EU peacekeeping forces.

Afghanistan: Taliban gains in fighting Lobbying for UN seat

The forces ruling Islamic movement in Afghanistan; Taliban have made significant gains in the renewed fighting with the forces of the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Masood. Taliban claims to have captured two key districts of north-eastern Takhar province on Tajikistan border, even as it is strongly lobbying for the UN seat which is held by the Panjsheer Valley based Northern Alliance Government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani. Taliban has also claimed that its forces took control of the areas of Hazar Bagh and Khwajaghar, around 20 km north of the provincial capital, Taloquan after heavy fighting. Taliban captured the strategic Taloqan district on Sept. 6 and the forces loyal to Ahmed Shah Masood fled to the neighbouring Tajikistan.

Concerned over the fighting near its border which may have a backlash on Dashunbe, Tajik President Imomali Rakhamovo caned a high level meeting on Sept 26 which was attended, among others, by Russian ambassador, Russian military officers and members of the Tajik government. The fighting in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to the country's security, President Rakhmonov was quoted as saying.

Taliban has, however, dismissed Tajikistan's fears of instability as a result of its recent victories over opponents. Rather, the Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, told a news conference in Kabul the other day, the advance of Taliban forces close to the Tajikistan border will bring security and stability to the region. "They should not have the fear that we may interfere in their affairs", he said.

After winning more territory from its Northern Alliance opponents, Taliban has staked claim to the UN seat. But, because Taliban was under UN sanctions because of its poor human rights record, its refusal to form a broadbased Government and denial of independence of work to the women, it is unlikely that the United Nations would oblige the Taliban which is at present recognized only by three countries - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister, Abdur Rahman Zahid, who is leading a Taliban delegation to the United Nations, has said it was surprising that the World Body was not recognizing the Taliban Government which controls more than 95 per cent of the territory and instead considers the Burhanuddin Rabbani regime a legitimate one even though it does not even has a postal address.

A meeting of the Security Council has, however, demanded the hand over of the Saudi renegade Osama bin Laden, and expressed concern over the growing spread of Afghan conflict beyond the country's borders and its destabilising effect on neighbouring countries

Taliban tightens noose around Afghan city ahead of vote

As election day in Afghanistan approaches, tens of thousands of American and British troops there are doing all they can to guarantee the security of millions of Afghan voters. But the Taliban is doing all it can to let these voters know that they are not safe.

On Tuesday, with the election two days away and the campaign winding down, the Taliban launched a series of attacks on the capital city of Kabul. A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy on the outskirts of the city, killing at least seven people and wounding another 50. Two mortar rounds also landed near the presidential palace.

U.S. President Barack Obama insists winning the war in Afghanistan is vital to America’s security interests, and a free and fair election no doubt would help that cause. But security concerns remain front and center.

Zeina Khodr of Worldfocus partner Al Jazeera English reports on the dangers in the southern city of Kandahar — from the safety of her car.

Lobbying Disclosures Due Today

Today is the final day for lobbyists and organizations employing lobbyists to file their quarterly disclosure forms. The forms are due — they are all filed electronically — by 5:00 pm.

Most attention will be paid to the various companies that have received bailout funds. Already, some firms have reported lobbying on behalf of the Big Three automakers and banks receiving government funds.

While none of the automakers had filed their individual company lobbying reports as of Sunday evening, outside firms for the struggling Big Three automakers have reported billing nearly $550,000 in the first quarter of 2009 on federal lobbying.

Morgan Stanley, which has said it would like to repay the $10 billion it received in government loans as soon as possible, reported spending $540,000 on federal lobbying in the first quarter, a figure which includes internal lobbying costs and monies paid to its outside consultants.

Goldman Sachs spent $265,000 on outside consultants, having on retainer the Gephardt Group, the Duberstein Group and RR&G, among others, according to Senate lobbying reports.

Smith-Free Group and Quadripoint Strategies billed Bank of America $90,000 during the first quarter of 2009.

Citigroup paid its outside lobbying team of Capitol Hill Strategies and Ernst & Young $120,000 during the first quarter.

‘WE’RE LOBBYING TUC TODAY’ say Gate Gourmet locked-out workers

WE want to know if the TUC agrees with what the T&G has done to us,’ Gate Gourmet locked-out worker Sharanjit Grewal said yesterday.

Speaking on the hill at Heathrow Airport, opposite Terminal Four, Sharanjit told News Line that a delegation is lobbying today’s TUC General Council meeting in central London.

She continued: ‘Do they think it’s right that our union leaders should sign a deal behind our backs, agree to 150 compulsory redundancies and cuts in terms and conditions for all workers employed by the company? Do they think it’s right that the union has cut off our hardship payments since January 6th when they have put in our cases for employment tribunals which have not yet been heard?’

Parmjeet Sidhu added: ‘We want the TUC to carry out its promise. Last year in Brighton delegates at the TUC voted unanimously to give us 100 per cent support. Now we need to see that support. We want the TUC to organise a national demonstration to support us.

Mrs Asha Varma commented on a report in this week’s Skyport newspaper that ‘hundreds of staff hired to keep Gate Gourmet afloat during last year’s industrial dispute have become the latest victims of the catering firm’s ruthless policy.’

She said: ‘Gate Gourmet is sacking the agency staff who they brought in to do our work. They gave these people a one-year contract and then sacked them after six months with one week’s pay.

The union leaders agreed with the company that this should happen, the policy of the TGWU leaders has been to do a deal to help a company that treats workers like rubbish. These TGWU leaders have to resign.’

Vermont Right To Life Lobbying For State Fetal Homicide Law

The Vermont Right to Life Committee is pushing the state Legislature to create a law criminalizing "fetal homicide" in response to the death of a woman's twin fetuses in a car accident, Vermont Public Radio reports. The state is not investigating the accident as a fatal crash because a fetus is not considered a person under Vermont criminal law, VPR reports.

Mary Hahn Beerworth, a member of Vermont Right to Life, is leading the group's efforts to get the state Legislature to consider a bill that would make it a special crime to harm a fetus, either through intent or negligence. She said that 36 states have some version of a fetal homicide law. State Sen. Richard Sears (D), chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he will study the issue and other states' laws more closely before making a decision on the proposal. He added that he would consult Senate leadership before moving forward.

Allen Gilbert, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, said criminal prosecution for fetal death was addressed in the early 1990s after a similar accident occurred. State lawmakers extended penalties for grossly negligent operation of a vehicle with death resulting, which includes serious injuries, VPR reports. Gilbert said that the law "produced the result of broadening the offense to cover fetal death because the mother is almost always a victim of serious bodily injury in a crash where her fetus dies."

Cheryl Hanna, a legal analyst at the Vermont Law School, said Vermont allows lawsuits "for the loss of a fetus, so the Legislature has allowed for it in the civil context but not in the criminal context." Hanna said passing a fetal homicide law in Vermont could be difficult because of the strong support for abortion rights in the Legislature. Fetal homicide laws are "very politically motivated," she said, adding that the "theory is if you continue to have states grant fetuses independent rights, that would ultimately undermine Roe v. Wade and attack legal abortion" (Keese, Vermont Public Radio, 8/25).

Reprinted with kind permission from You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

Lobbing A Grenade At Women's Magazines - New York Times

When Myrna Blyth, the former editor of Ladies' Home Journal and the author of a new book excoriating women's magazines, walks through Michael's restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, all eyes in that gathering spot for the media elite seem to follow her. She appears not to notice, but when she takes a seat, she sits with her back against a wall. Not to worry. In the air-kissing environs of Michael's and the magazine world, no one would be so bold as to confront Ms. Blyth about her new book, ''Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America'' (St. ...

Lobbying boosted as health care debate heats up

WASHINGTON — The largest medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year as Congress began debate on an overhaul of health care, which may include a public insurance plan the industries oppose.
The largest medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year as Congress began debate on an overhaul of health care, which may include a public insurance plan the industries oppose.

Despite an overall decline in lobbyist spending this year, a USA TODAY review of disclosure reports found 20 of the largest health insurance and drug companies and their trade groups spent nearly $35 million in the first quarter of 2009, up more than $10 million from the same period last year.

Drug and insurance companies support many changes Congress is considering but generally oppose government-run insurance, which President Obama touted Thursday in Green Bay, Wis. Public insurance is facing criticism from business groups and the American Medical Association, which will host Obama on Monday in Chicago.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president with the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said public insurance would stifle competition and force Americans to lose private coverage. He said his group is pushing for other changes instead.

"The overwhelming amount of money we have spent is in support of comprehensive health care reform," said Johnson, whose group spent $6.9 million in 2009, up 91% from 2008. "There are certainly aspects … troubling to us, including the public option."

Pfizer's lobbying more than doubled to $6.1 million, and Merck's increased 44% to $1.5 million.

"We believe that the private health care marketplace fosters competition, innovation and consumer choice," read a Merck statement. A Pfizer statement read, "We are committed to making our voice heard and to be constructively engaged" in the debate.

We believe that the private health care marketplace fosters competition, innovation and consumer choice," read a Merck statement. A Pfizer statement read, "We are committed to making our voice heard and to be constructively engaged" in the debate.

Richard Kirsch of Health Care for America Now, a coalition of unions and non-profits supporting public insurance, said he is "extraordinarily worried" about the lobbying by those opposed to a public plan. "The other side is going to be out-spending us inside the Beltway," he said.

Outside Washington, an alliance of groups that support public insurance, including Kirsch's, vowed to spend $82 million on community organizing and advertising this year. Some have spent more on lobbying, too. The Service Employees International Union, for instance, increased spending 46% to $690,131, lobbying reports show.

All health sectors spent $149 million on lobbying this year, a 10% jump, according to CQ MoneyLine, a non-partisan website. Overall spending on lobbying is down 2.6% this year, according to the site

Hokkaido mayor to stop lobbying lawmakers following DPJ victory

A mayor in Hokkaido said Wednesday he will break with a longstanding practice among many municipal leaders across Japan—going to Tokyo from time to time to ask Diet members to influence bureaucrats to work for the benefit of their communities—now that the Democratic Party of Japan has won the general election.

‘‘I will cooperate with the DPJ which pledged to conquer the bureaucracy-controlled government,’’ Junzo Ebisawa, mayor of Hokuto, told Kyodo News. ‘‘If I continue lobbying, it would cause trouble for lawmakers,’’ he said. Mayors and prefectural governors often visit Tokyo to lobby lawmakers elected from their areas to fulfill the requests of their municipalities, most typically directing public works projects to their areas.

Ebisawa said from now on he will change his approach by submitting written requests to the central government and ruling parties through an organization that he plans to set up jointly with the heads of neighboring municipalities.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Top Spenders

The figures for spending may seem high, but they are paltry sums compared to the amount of money that hinges on congressional decisions. Members of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States stand to benefit from an investment bonanza if China is admitted to the World Trade Organization; strict environmental laws could cost them billions of dollars in pollution control equipment and clean up costs. Doctors who have seen their incomes stagnate under managed care have the American Medical Association on Capitol Hill pushing for regulation of HMOs. Businesses are rarely known for spending money frivolously—they do not spend money on lobbyists if they don’t think the potential benefits outweigh the costs.

Among the broad economic sectors, finance, insurance and real estate remains the top spender on lobbying, although its margin over the next largest sector has been significantly reduced. In 1998, miscellaneous business was the second largest sector, with $30 million less in lobbying expenditures than finance. In 1999, health was the second ranking sector, just $15 million behind. Every economic sector grew in 1999 except for agribusiness, which fell over 30 percent, and lawyers and lobbyists, which fell 7 percent.

At the industry level, the pharmaceuticals and health products industry reclaimed its title as the largest spender on the strength of a 23 percent surge in spending. Insurance, which was 1998’s largest spending industry, fell to second despite an 11 percent hike in lobbying spending. The big story, though, was the explosive growth in the computer industry’s lobbying expenditures, which have grown an average of 42 percent each of the last two years. In 1999, the computer equipment and services industry was the sixth largest spender at $50.4 million. The big loser was tobacco, which fell from $67.4 million in 1998 to $23.7 million in 1999.

The collapse of the big spenders was partially attributable to the depression in tobacco lobbying. In 1998, the two organizations with the largest lobbying efforts were both tobacco firms. In 1999, neither was. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States spent $18.8 million to become the largest lobbying spender in Washington, followed closely by the American Medical Association at $18.2 million. Whereas in 1998 there were three $20 million spenders, in 1999 there were none.

The 1999 figures reflect a trend away from big spenders and toward smaller groups. In 1998, the cutoff to be one of the top 100 spenders was $2.88 million; in 1999, the cutoff fell to $2.56 million. The fact that overall lobbying expenditures continued to rise while spending by the biggest clients fell is indicative of a surge in small filers. Indeed, the overall number of lobbying relationships grew faster in 1999 than it did in 1998. The growth in the number of relationships also outstripped the growth in spending by a margin of 6.9 percent to 2.1 percent.

In 1999, nearly a quarter of all lobbyists in Washington — 2,945 to be exact — spent at least some time lobbying on tax policy, making it the most heavily lobbied issue. More than 2,000 lobbyists also worked on budget/appropriations issues, health care, and domestic and international trade. The least attention was paid to unemployment, which was lobbied on by a mere 16 lobbyists out of 12,113 who were active in 1999.


Every two years, a buzz normally associated with the NBA draft circulates around K Street. A new batch of elected officials leaves office to enjoy the lucrative contracts that the world of lobbying has to offer. The Center identified 129 former members of Congress who worked as lobbyists in 1999. Among them was former House Appropriations Committee Chairman and almost-Speaker of the House Bob Livingston, who set up Livingston Associates. After his one-year ‘cooling off’ period expired, he was able to earn $1.14 million in fees for lobbying his former colleagues.

Former lawmakers like Livingston are especially valuable as lobbyists because they know the legislative process and because of their personal connections to members of Congress. Former legislators have the kind of connections that it would take an outsider hundreds of hours in schmoozing and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to develop. Thus, the true crown jewels of the lobbying world popular former Congresspeople who retain the ability to donate to congressional candidates through their fundraising committees.

Ethics rules prohibit members of Congress and officials in the executive branch from lobbying their former colleagues for a year after leaving office. However, this does not prevent some individuals from reaching agreements with lobbying firms before they are even out of office. The logic for lobbying firms is twofold. First, former Congressmembers know the ins and outs of the legislative process and often have a grip on complex issues. Thus, hiring them as lobbying strategists is worthwhile even if they themselves can’t lobby for a year. Second, reeling in a big-name Congressperson such as former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) gives a lobbying firm luster that can attract potential clients.

Lawmakers view lobbyists as key players in the legislative process. For legislators and their aides, lobbyists are sources of ideas on legislation or information about arcane issues. At times, lobbyists even write proposed bills and amendments that lawmakers introduce as their own. At a minimum, lawmakers get feedback from lobbyists on legislation to prevent objections late in the legislative process. It is not unheard of for a congressional committee to request that lobbyists appear to comment on proposed legislative action or upcoming government reports. Congressmembers hoping to get legislation passed or defeated often coordinate their activities with K Street in order to fully mobilize the relevant constituency.

Lobbying is also making a move into the twenty-first century by going on-line. Tony Podesta, the brother of the former White House Chief of Staff, renamed his lobbying firm Lobbyists are creating Web sites with password-only chat rooms where lobbyists and legislators can get together to discuss pending bills and amendments. Moreover, lobbyists are turning to the Web to build grassroots support for or opposition to legislation that can pressure key Congressmembers.


As a result of loopholes in the Lobbying Disclosure Act and weaknesses in enforcement, the quality of the lobbying data is uneven. Filers continue to make a variety of errors, from forgetting to report income or expenditures to listing the incorrect filing period. Other than inconsistencies with the definitions of lobbying, one of the biggest problems was the failure of organizations that employ in-house lobbyists to include payments to outside firms and individuals for lobbying activities. The Center found dozens of cases where lobbying firms reported earning more money from a client than the client reported spending. Adding to the confusion are reports that are filed with the Clerk of the House’s Legislative Resource Center but not with the Secretary of the Senate’s Office of Public Records, or vice versa. Since the computer systems of the two offices are not linked, there are often records in one place that do not exist in the other as a result of errors in mail delivery or processing. Such discrepancies make accurately analyzing the data a treacherous exercise.

Nevertheless, the quality of filings continues to improve. Lobbyists have been required to register and report on their incomes since the passage of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. After some initial confusion, the process has been smoothed out dramatically from the filer’s point of view. The House and Senate now provide a 19-page guide on filling out lobbying disclosure forms; instructions and lobbying report forms can also be downloaded and printed from the House and Senate web pages. In 2000, the Senate started electronic filing for lobbyists.

Unfortunately for the general public, access to lobbying records seems to be going into reverse. Neither the House nor the Senate yet provides an on-line database of lobbying records. Nor does either office provide an affordable way to get access to all of the records (a project to put records on-line at the Senate has been pushed back to late 2001). Currently, the only way to get access to any records is to go in person to the Office of Public Records in the Senate, where reports can be printed at $0.20 per page or to the Legislative Resource Center in the House, where the records are $0.10 per page. In the past, it had been possible to purchase an entire reporting period’s worth of lobbying reports on microfilm for about $400. However, forms filed electronically will not be included on future microfilm rolls, paradoxically limiting access to public records.


The following chart shows the top lobbying spenders for 1999. It includes all reported payments that organizations made to lobbying firms as well as in-house expenditures for lobbying activities. It also includes all activity reported for subsidiaries and affiliates of those organizations. Groups spending more than $1 million numbered 281 in 1999, a rise of 20 from the 1998 total. However, the number of groups spending more than $5 million fell from 39 to 36 and the number spending more than $10 million fell from nine to seven.

The big story of 1999 is the collapse in lobbying spending by tobacco firms after the failure of tobacco regulation legislation in 1998. The previous year’s top spender, British American Tobacco, fell to 107th in 1999 as it cut its lobbyist spending from $25.2 million to $2.4 million. Philip Morris, the second most prolific spender in 1998, reduced its Washington presence by cutting lobbying expenditures from $23.0 million in 1998 to $14.8 million in 1999.

At the same time tobacco spending was plummeting, spending by companies in other industries was growing. Two of the top five spenders are now related to health care. The American Medical Association (#2) and the American Hospital Association (#4) increased their total spending by 12 percent. Pharmaceutical maker Schering-Plough jumped from 51st largest spender in 1998 to ninth in 1999. However, not every surging industry is well represented in the list of top spenders. Despite being the sixth-largest industry in terms of spending on lobbyists, the computer equipment and services industry accounts for only one firm in the top 25 (IBM, #24) and just four of the top 100. Both of these figures still represent increases over 1998.

Overall, there was a lot of volatility in the top 100 spenders of 1999. Ten of the top 25 spenders from 1998 dropped off of the list, including two of the top three. British American Tobacco and the Christian Coalition fell from inside the top twenty-five to outside the top 100.

When calculating the expenditures by organizations in 1999, the Center took mergers and acquisitions from 1999 into account. Therefore, the 1999 figure for Exxon Mobil Corp represents the combined spending during the year by both Exxon and Mobil, which lobbied as separate entities at the beginning of the year but as a combined entity at the end.


1999 Lobbying
1998 Lobbying
1997 Lobbying
Average Growth

Chamber of Commerce of the US


American Medical Assn


Philip Morris


American Hospital Assn


Exxon Mobil Corp


Edison Electric Institute


Blue Cross/Blue Shield


SBC Communications


Schering-Plough Corp




Ford Motor Co


General Electric


Business Roundtable


Boeing Co


Sprint Corp


United Services Automobile Assn Group


Natl Cmte to Preserve Social Security


General Motors


Abbott Laboratories


National Assn of Realtors


American Council of Life Insurance


GTE Corp


IBM Corp


Securities Industry Assn


Fannie Mae


USX Corp


Seniors Coalition


Assn of American Railroads




Chemical Manufacturers Assn


Merck & Co


Ameritech Corp




Citigroup Inc


Northrop Grumman Corp


Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America


National Assn of Broadcasters


GAF Corp


Bell Atlantic


Textron Inc


Microsoft Corp


American Bankers Assn


Health Insurance Assn of America


Commonwealth of Puerto Rico


Investment Co Institute


United Technologies Corp


American Farm Bureau Federation


General Dynamics


Southern Co


Motorola Inc


Lockheed Martin


Chase Manhattan


Shell Oil


Eli Lilly & Co


BellSouth Corp


American International Group


BP Amoco Corp


Monsanto Co


American Assn of Retired Persons


Prudential Insurance


Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc


Pfizer Inc


Bristol-Myers Squibb


Merrill Lynch


Cellular Telecom Industry Assn


Amgen Inc


Walt Disney Co


American Petroleum Institute


FDX Corp


Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn


Atlantic Richfield


American Institute of CPAs


Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians


National Cable Television Assn


National Assn of Independent Insurers


American Forest & Paper Assn


Global Crossing


Gun Owners of America


Loews Corp


US West Inc


National Assn of Manufacturers


Time Warner


American Electronics Assn


Procter & Gamble


AMR Corp


Freddie Mac


American Insurance Assn


AlliedSignal Inc


Health Industry Manufacturers Assn


Union Pacific Corp


EDS Corp


American Home Products


Northwest Airlines


Newport News Shipbuilding


Glaxo Wellcome Inc


America's Community Bankers


Bond Market Assn


60 Plus Assn


SmithKline Beecham


Biotechnology Industry Organization


Top Lobbying Spenders

Rank Amount Client
1 $2,183,482 Community Financial Services Assn of America
2 $1,184,865 Virginians for Financial Choices
3 $453,087 Nova Technology Council
4 $282,211 Dominion
5 $168,977 Verizon
6 $153,252 Va Auto Dealers Assn
7 $148,512 Colonial Downs
8 $144,560 CheckSmart Financial Co
9 $142,564 Allegheny Energy
10 $140,874 Va Assn of Realtors
11 $136,460 Va Sheriffs Assn
12 $136,319 Advance America Cash Advance
13 $134,157 Altria
14 $133,756 Metro Washington Airports Authority
15 $130,910 State Farm Insurance Co
16 $114,536 Reynolds American
17 $110,985 City of Hampton
18 $109,781 Va Transportation Construction Alliance
19 $109,605 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co
20 $104,971 Va Farm Bureau
21 $104,812 Community Loans of America
22 $104,382 Va Education Assn
23 $103,425 Va Chamber of Commerce
24 $102,051 Sentara
25 $101,898 County of Fairfax
26 $101,204 Va Municipal League
27 $95,434 Va Uranium
28 $92,509 Barr Pharmaceuticals
29 $92,098 Va Independent Power Producers
30 $91,536 Medical Society of Va
31 $90,830 Va Hospitality & Travel Assn
32 $89,328 Va Manufacturers Assn
33 $87,455 Va State Police Assn
34 $87,351 Transurban (USA) Inc
35 $87,215 Va Energy Providers Assn
36 $86,226 Northrop Grumman
37 $85,977 Appalachian Power Co
38 $84,773 Va School Boards Assn
39 $81,349 Ace Cash Express
40 $80,886 City of Alexandria
41 $78,643 Council of Independent Colleges Va
42 $78,295 Virginia 21
43 $76,568 Va Press Assn
44 $76,400 Va First Cities Coalition
45 $75,699 Nature Conservancy Inc
46 $74,313 Va Cable Telecom Assn
47 $73,670 Va Gasoline Marketers Council Inc
48 $73,431 Chesapeake Bay Foundation
49 $72,328 Property Casualty Insurers Assn of America
50 $71,781 Eli Lilly & Co

3 most deadly firms

Spent $20.7 million last year to lobby the federal government, nearly double what it spent in 2007 and far more than other major defense contractors with corporate units in Southern Arizona.
Sales: $33.9 billion
Headquarters: Los Angeles and London
Employees worldwide: 123,000
Jobs in Southern Arizona: 1,000
Spent $6.6 million on lobbying in 2007; paid a little less — $6 million — last year.
Sales: $23.2 billion
Headquarters: Waltham, Mass.
Employees worldwide: 73,000
Jobs in Southern Arizona: 11,539
Note: Sales for all three companies above are for 2008. Jobs based on full-time equivalency as reported in the Star 200.
Also had its most expensive lobbying year, spending $8.5 million last year, an increase of 18 percent.
Sales: $29.3 billion
Headquarters: Falls Church, Va.
Employees worldwide: 92,300
Jobs in Southern Arizona: 1,055

LCC makes big strides in federal lobbying

Stan Chase spends more time in Washington than he used to, more time in contact with the state's congressional delegation, more time talking up Lansing Community College to officials at federal agencies.

Just a few years ago, LCC mostly left federal lobbying up to paid lobbyists, when it did

such lobbying at all.
Now, with flat state funding and burgeoning enrollments, the need is greater. And with community colleges enjoying unprecedented attention from the Obama administration, the stakes have changed.

"We felt that we really needed to put a face on Lansing Community College from a federal perspective," said Chase, the college's senior vice president for advancement, external and governmental affairs.

LCC has pulled in more than $19 million from the federal government over the past five years.

Some of that money has come in the form of large multi-year grants: the $2.5 million workforce grant that expanded the college's nursing programs and launched an entrepreneurship curriculum, the $1 million for an alternative energy center.

But much of it came in smaller amounts, funneled through state agencies and local partners such as Michigan State University and Capital Area Michigan Works!

Chase called that "the small pot."

"What we want is to get to the point where we're in the larger pot, Department of Labor, Department of Education, before that money is portioned out to anybody," he said.

Different perception

Where federal money is concerned, community colleges are still the stepchildren of higher education. Public four-year schools get 10 times as much from the federal government overall and three times as much per student, according to a recent Brookings Institution report.

But to put that in perspective, LCC paid the Ferguson Group, a D.C. lobbying firm, $54,000 last year. By contrast, the Office of the Vice President of Governmental Affairs at MSU has an annual budget just shy of $1 million and a three-person office in D.C.

Part of that might also be chalked up to the fact that many community colleges came late to the lobbying game. A decade ago, only a handful of the nation's largest schools and systems employed their own lobbyists in Washington.

Today, "as they have in other areas, such as fund-raising, community colleges have become more savvy in terms of the value and need for such activities," said Norma Kent, vice president for communications at the American Association of Community Colleges.

But there is still an issue of how community colleges are perceived.

"When you make an award to the University of Chicago, I always thought everyone said, 'That's a good idea. That must be worthwhile,' " LCC President Brent Knight said. "If you gave a similar amount to a community college, nobody would know your name, and you wouldn't get the same sort of support."

Knight has been able to overcome such perceptions in the past.

Three decades ago, as president of Triton College in suburban Chicago, a foundation denied his pitch for a continuing education grant. Knight made a second pitch on video and shipped a television and VCR to the foundation's office. He ultimately got the money.

LCC actually spent less on federal lobbying last year than it did in 2004, but the intention, Knight said, is to work smarter.

"We have increased emphasis on gathering great ideas, creative ideas, ideas that follow contemporary issues and serve the community," he said.

"It's fair to say that I expect us to do better."

Tide turning?

"For a community college, to be competitive, you have to do this on a dual track," said Ron Hamm, a partner with the Ferguson Group who works with LCC, "meaning you have to seek grants as well as appropriations and that's what we've been working on."

Appropriations have been reasonably good to the college this summer. LCC got $190,000 in May to create a fast-track nursing program for military medics. The U.S. House of Representatives approved $420,000 for an advanced auto technology and electric vehicle training program last month. The senate has yet to vote on the latter.

But grant funding may hold the bigger promise, particularly as President Barack Obama has made community colleges a focal point of his economic recovery plans.

Last month, in a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Obama announced a $12 billion program to increase community college graduation rates and strengthen job training, noting the projected growth in jobs requiring at least an associate's degree.

Many of the details haven't been laid out. Congress hasn't funded the program. LCC would have to compete for the grants. Still, it's a sign that community colleges' fortunes could be turning.

"I think, at this point, I'd categorize it as hopeful," Knight said, "but I wouldn't go any further than that."

Federal lobbying by LCC

Lansing Community College has spent nearly $300,000 on federal lobbying in the past five years and brought more than $19 million in federal funds. Federal funds appear in the chart below in the year in which the grants were awarded, though, in some cases, the money was received over multiple years.

Lobbying expenditures Funds received

Dykema, Gossett, Rooks, Pitts

2004-05 $104,000 $3,407,553

2005-06 $72,000 $4,167,711

2006-07 $0 $7,079,717

2007-08 $54,000 $1,865,156

The Ferguson Group

2008-09 $54,368 $2,783,244

Source: LCC

3 defense firms' lobbying cost $35M: 2008 mark a record for trio with ties to Southern Arizona

Defense contractors with ties to Southern Arizona spent a record $35 million last year lobbying government.

The biggest spender by far was Northrop Grumman Corp., whose global business empire includes a Sierra Vista division with 1,000 employees.

Northrop Grumman hurled $20.7
million at lobbying efforts, up from $10.8 million a year earlier. The biggest single lobbying contract was half-a-million dollars paid to a firm led by former Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and John Breaux, D-La.
The company spent less on such hired guns so far this year. First-quarter reports filed with the U.S. Senate by Monday's deadline show that Northrop Grumman's lobbying cost $2.6 million, down from $3.3 million for the same period last year and from $4.3 million in the final quarter of 2008.

Defense analyst John Pike, director of, is not surprised that many defense contractors have doubled or tripled their lobbying budgets over the past decade.

quot;Everyone is spending more, so these contractors are in a race with every other interest group feeding at the public trough,quot; Pike said.

Economist tallies swelling cost of Israel to US

Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today's population, that is more than $5,700 per person.
This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.

And now Israel wants more. In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country's recession-bound economy.

Considering Israel's deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don't pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.

Israel's request could be part of a supplemental spending bill that's likely to be passed early next year, perhaps wrapped in with the cost of a war with Iraq.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It is already due to get $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid in fiscal 2003. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years.

Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel.

"Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel," argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine.

These foreign-aid costs are well known. Many Americans would probably say it is money well spent to support a beleagured democracy of some strategic interest. But Stauffer wonders if Americans are aware of the full bill for supporting Israel since some costs, if not hidden, are little known.

One huge cost is not secret. It is the higher cost of oil and other economic damage to the US after Israel-Arab wars.

In 1973, for instance, Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to win back territories Israel had conquered in the 1967 war. President Nixon resupplied Israel with US arms, triggering the Arab oil embargo against the US.

That shortfall in oil deliveries kicked off a deep recession. The US lost $420 billion (in 2001 dollars) of output as a result, Stauffer calculates. And a boost in oil prices cost another $450 billion.

Afraid that Arab nations might use their oil clout again, the US set up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That has since cost, conservatively, $134 billion, Stauffer reckons.

Other US help includes:

• US Jewish charities and organizations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is "a net drain" on the United States economy, says Stauffer.

• The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel, and $600 million in "housing loans." (See editor's note below.) Stauffer expects the US Treasury to cover these.

• The US has given $2.5 billion to support Israel's Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects.

• Israel buys discounted, serviceable "excess" US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to "several billion dollars" over recent years.

• Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel.

US help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel's manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers.

• US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer estimates. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.

• Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. That cost $40 billion over 10 years, says Stauffer.

Stauffer's list will be controversial. He's been assisted in this research by a number of mostly retired military or diplomatic officials who do not go public for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic if they criticize America's policies toward Israel.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of housing loans guaranteed by the US.

No one knows full cost of Israel's settlement ambitions

ERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's effort since the 1967 Mideast war to fill the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jews has grown from the scattered actions of zealous squatters into a network of 142 towns and villages that house nearly 240,000 people.
Now that Israel plans to spend some $2 billion to dismantle just 25 of the settlements — for which U.S. aid has been requested — it raises the question of how much money has been poured into populating these biblical lands with Jews, and exactly where it came from.

The official answer: No one knows.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres estimates Israel has spent about $50 billion since 1977, when the hard-line Likud government took over from his Labor party. Other former finance ministers and government officials don't discount a price tag — commonly floated but never documented — of $60 billion.

"No one eye in the world saw the whole picture," says Labor Party lawmaker Danny Yatom, a confidant of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. "Most of it is not camouflaged, but it is not possible to connect A to B to C to D to E to F to G."

Calculating an exact figure is impossible because much of the building was financed through winks and nods, an opaque state budget and secret military spending that in some cases violated Israel's laws and undercut international peacemaking efforts, according to official Israeli inquiries as well as Associated Press interviews with past and present officials, settlers and their opponents.

Among the methods used, the interviews show, were government subsidies, shadowy land deals, loopholes in military spending, and an auditing bait-and-switch in which U.S. aid was used to free up billions of dollars for spending on the settlements formally opposed by the United States.

Even today, with preparations under way for demolishing 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, housing and roads continue to be built in West Bank settlement blocs Israel wants to keep in a final peace deal with the Palestinians. This contradicts the internationally backed "road map" peace plan to halt settlement expansion.

And a government-commissioned inquiry in March revealed similar methods were used to build and expand dozens of unauthorized West Bank "outposts" — set up as flag-showing exercises and usually consisting of a handful of people in mobile homes.

It found widespread government complicity in establishing more than 100 such outposts, and the inquiry's chief, former prosecutor Talia Sasson, called the government's actions "a blatant violation of the law."

Last year, the funding of the outposts came in for sharp criticism from the State Comptroller, the government's main watchdog. It found at least two cases where the Housing Ministry funded outposts that the military had ordered demolished.

Now settler leaders, eager to embarrass Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over his Gaza withdrawal plan, say they had official backing in all their ventures.

"Let me be very, very clear: It's not a question of dark-of-night grabs, or hide-and-seek or deceit on anyone's part," said lawmaker Yitzhak Levy of the pro-settler National Religious Party, who headed ministries in Likud and Labor governments.

"It is government policy," he said.

The settlements started after 1967 under Labor governments, which sought to confine them to border areas they considered necessary for national security. But then Likud came to power in 1977, claiming a God-given right to the whole West Bank and Gaza Strip. The chief settlement advocate was Ariel Sharon, the former general who — now as the prime minister — has ordered the Gaza pullback.

Using his Cabinet posts between 1977 and 1992 — agriculture, defense and housing — he doled out government grants, low-cost loans and tax breaks to settlers. He also gave birth to the idea of advertising the enclaves as bedroom communities just minutes from Israeli urban centers.

Some settlements close to towns in Israel proper were subsidized by giving the inhabitants tax cuts, cheap mortgages and grants of between $6,900 and $57,000 — perks ordinarily reserved for outlying areas.

Maaleh Adumim, the largest settlement with about 30,000 people, received this "priority" status even though it is just three miles from Jerusalem. So did Elkana, an affluent settlement five miles from Israel's economic hub, Tel Aviv.

Settler leader Adi Mintz said even some of the settlers thought the tax breaks for bedroom communities were unfair.

The state also picked up as much as half the tab for hooking up utilities. And pro-settler lawmakers fought to control key ministries such as Construction and Housing, National Infrastructure, and Transportation so they could direct money to settlements.

"When I was at the Ministry of Housing, I set the objective of expanding (settlements in) outlying areas," said lawmaker Levy.

The classified defense budget further propelled expansion, funding troop deployments to guard settlements, and building fences and wide roads for settlers living among more than 2 million Palestinians who adamantly oppose their presence.

The estimates of $50 billion to $60 billion do not include the 32 settlements built on the Golan Heights which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, and whose native populace is Druze, not Palestinian.

In the West Bank, entire settlements were built under the guise of military or security needs, even though they weren't formally authorized by the government, according to Yatom, a former West Bank military commander.

A government official conceded that some uses of military funds "in hindsight ... aren't legal and shouldn't have been done." He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing possible violations of the law by the government.

At times, government watchdogs balked at the way government funds were being used. Most recently, the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the transfer of $2.8 million in 2003 and 2004 from settlement municipalities to a settlement lobby group, which is funding the fight against the Gaza pullout.

Because the state and separate ministerial budgets don't break down outlays by region, it is difficult to identify the flow of money to settlements. Supporters and detractors both say this allowed Israeli governments to hide behind the budget when it came to settlement financing — and forestall friction with Washington.

"The state of Israel didn't want a head-on confrontation with the United States ... therefore Israel always did things with winks and nods," said Mintz, the settler leader.

Despite its declared opposition to settlements, Washington only began taking action in the early 1990s, when Israel sought billions of dollars in U.S. loan guarantees. Washington said it would deduct sums that went into settlements dollar for dollar.

In 2003, when Israel was granted $9 billion in loan guarantees over three years, the cut was $289.5 million. Officials familiar with the issue, and speaking on condition of anonymity, say that low figure was reached with the help of the influential pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

AIPAC officials refused to discuss the issue on the record, but denied they helped to negotiate the numbers.

Israel also used private U.S. donations for which it secured U.S. tax-exempt status, said David Newman, a political scientist at Israel's Ben Gurion University who researched settlement funding.

U.S. tax laws don't exempt donations for political activities such as settlements. Israel separated the World Zionist Organization from the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, a move that allowed donors to inject money into settlements without losing tax exemptions. In reality, the two groups operate under one umbrella, with the same officials, departments and administrators overseeing the activities, Newman said.

Perhaps the grayest area is how Israel expropriated, confiscated or purchased land for settlements.

During the first 12 years of occupation, more than 10,000 acres of land confiscated by the military for security needs were handed to settlers, according to Defense Ministry statistics quoted in "Lords of the Land," a book by Israeli authors Akiva Eldar and Idit Zartel.

Even after Israel's Supreme Court in 1979 raised the bar for security-related land confiscations, the state seized thousands more acres of West Bank land on security grounds and turned it over for settlers, some living in unauthorized enclaves.

The state-funded Jewish National Fund, along with settler groups and their supporters, also bought land from private Palestinians, using middlemen to cloak the sellers' identity and shield them from attack by other Arabs.

Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council in the West Bank, said his council recently paid $10,000 for 11,000 square feet of Palestinian land — about one-twentieth the cost of land just over the border.

During the past four decades, the settler leadership and Israeli governments have manipulated budgets, circumstances and public opinion to make the settlement enterprise into what it is today, Newman said.

"They don't need to play around with the illegal use of money because their network is so strong," he said.