Big bucks and big names are proving to be corporate America's weapons of choice in a heightened lobbying push to head off any U.S. retaliation for China's reported involvement in the unfolding political fund-raising scandal.
Henry A. Kissinger, secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations and longtime adviser to major American businesses in China, is a key adviser to corporate leaders of a lobbying campaign announced last week by more than 1,000 top companies seeking expanded U.S.-China trade relations.
Alexander M. Haig Jr., former secretary of state under President Reagan, also is advising both American companies and the Chinese government's maritime shipping company in the campaign.
Both former Cabinet secretaries have received lucrative fees as deal-makers for business clients with ventures in China, and both have a large financial stake in expanded U.S.-China trade relations, according to Asia trade experts.
The multimillion-dollar business campaign to retain China's most-favored-nation trading status and get China into the World Trade Organization strains the limits of lobbying disclosure laws and possibly violates the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), according to Justice Department officials.
Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Haig are not registered with the department as foreign agents, even though the law requires registration and disclosure of activities and compensation by U.S. residents representing foreign government or business interests in the United States.
The Justice Department would not say whether a review had been conducted to determine whether Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Haig or their associates have violated the FARA.
Like many prominent Americans advocating enhanced U.S.-China trade ties, Mr. Kissinger's consulting firm maintains that it does not work directly for the Chinese government or Chinese business interests, but advises U.S. companies that are in or want to be in the China market. In the United States, they aid the Chinese cause through public advocacy, op-ed writings and media appearances.
The two men did not respond to inquiries by The Washington Times, but Mr. Haig told the New Republic in a recent article: "I have business dealings all over the world, including my own country, and I don't think that deprives me of the ability to make judgments on international affairs, which I spent a good part of my life involved in."
Mr. Kissinger, who travels frequently to China for top-level meetings with Chinese officials on behalf of U.S. corporate clients such as Coca-Cola, the insurance conglomerate American International Group, the Chase Manhattan Bank and other companies, also has served as a paid media expert for ABC News, CBS, and CNN.
Mr. Kissinger also has advised the Indonesia Lippo Group, linked to the Democratic fund-raising scandal, and was in Jakarta in November 1994, during a conference of the Asian Bankers Association, at the invitation of Lippo's billionaire founder Mochtar Riady, according to a conference participant.
Known as "Mr. China," Mr. Kissinger has defended Beijing while promoting his view of diplomatic and commercial "engagement" with the authoritarian regime. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy students, Mr. Kissinger publicly defended Beijing's action against the demonstrators and opposed calls for U.S. sanctions.
In February 1995, Mr. Kissinger personally admonished House Speaker Newt Gingrich after the Georgia Republican, on a visit to Taipei, called for Taiwan's admission to the United Nations as an independent sovereign state. Mr. Kissinger even summoned the speaker to his New York home for discussions credited with moderating Mr. Gingrich's pro-Taiwan stance, said a friend of the speaker's. Mr. Gingrich did not respond to inquiries.
The $26 billion American International Group, a major Kissinger client with offices in Shanghai, is a leading organizer of the multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign by the newly formed Business Coalition for U.S.-China Trade. Other backers include Boeing, Motorola, General Motors, General Electric, and IBM.
Just today, Vice President Al Gore was on hand in Beijing as China signed lucrative deals with Boeing and General Motors. China's civil aviation authority will buy five Boeing passenger jets for $685 million and, in a $1.3 billion joint venture with a Chinese automaker, General Motors will manufacture 100,000 new cars a year in China.
Mr. Haig, adviser to United Technologies, another backer of the lobbying effort, has performed a similar deal-making role in Beijing, while promoting Chinese arguments as a syndicated newspaper columnist and "expert consultant" to major news organizations.
Mr. Haig helped United Technologies, a Hartford, Conn., jet engine and elevator manufacturer, win more than a dozen joint ventures in China.
Mr. Haig, who also served as White House chief of staff for President Nixon, is now in China on undisclosed business. He also currently serves as "honorary senior adviser" to China's government-controlled maritime operation, the China Ocean Shipping Co., or Cosco, which hopes to take over closed U.S. naval facilities at Long Beach, Calif.
Mr. Haig was unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman in his Washington office declined to discuss his compensation agreement with Cosco.
Lobbyists for the companies have been holding secret weekly strategy meetings since revelations of the Asian fund-raising scandal and reports that former Democratic Party fund-raiser John Huang sought China's help to pump campaign cash into the Clinton-Gore re-election effort, said aides of coalition Executive Director Calman J. Cohen, a former counsel at the U.S. Trade Representative's Office.
A separate $750,000-a-year grass-roots public relations campaign to boost China's image through the Internet, schools and community organizations was launched simultaneously by six major corporate backers. The nationwide campaign is being set up by Washington-based Edelman Public Relations Worldwide.
"This is not a Washington-centric effort," said Daniel Leonard of Edelman.
The companies have formed a U.S.-China Education Foundation to prepare advocacy materials and set up community groups to bolster commercial relations with China, he said.
In the l995-96 election cycle, law firms hired to represent Beijing and Chinese companies also contributed large sums -- often bundling contributions from firm partners to finesse contribution limits.
- Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, a Cleveland law firm registered as the Chinese Embassy's foreign agent, gave $108,168 to candidates from both parties. Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat on the House National Security and Intelligence committees, received $13,300 in 28 separate contributions from different Jones Day lawyer-lobbyists. Mrs. Harman represents Torrance, Calif., which boasts a high concentration of Chinese immigrants, who were targeted by Mr. Huang and other Democratic fund-raisers.
- Dorsey & Whitney, a Washington firm representing the China Chamber of Commerce for Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters, gave $56,263, mostly to Democrats, in 110 separate contributions.
- Hogan & Hartson, a Washington firm representing the U.S.-China Business Council, a coalition of American corporations and trade associations with business interests in China, gave $339,824 in 457 contributions to candidates and campaign committees of both parties.
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