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President Bush recently called for an end to the “reign of fear” in Burma and announced new sanctions against the military dictatorship in that country, telling the United Nations it should “help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.” But it’s worth noting that not so long ago, a major Republican lobbying firm, whose employees included a long-time friend of the president’s, was lobbying the administration on behalf of the Burmese generals.
The firm in question is called DCI Associates. It also works for a number of major corporate clients, including Google. According to its website, DCI employs “a campaign-style approach to help [clients] address their most critical communications and public policy challenges . . . Our firm consistently delivers results that surpass our clients’ expectations.” CEO Doug Goodyear formerly served as political director for the Colorado state GOP; founding Partner Tim Hyde worked for R.J. Reynolds between 1988 and 1997 and has held several national and state political positions, including the post of Deputy Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Back in 2002, DCI signed a $35,000 per month deal to work for the Burmese junta, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council (it was previously called the State Law and Order Restoration Council until one of the generals figured out that name might not be good for PR). A lead lobbyist for the generals was Charles Francis, chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition (RUC), which describes itself on its website as “a relatively new name in gay political circles.” One triumph, the site says, was when Francis “managed to bring Mary Cheney, the Second Family’s daughter and a former gay and lesbian outreach operative for the Coors brewery, out of the shadows of Colorado and on to the RUC advisory board.” The website also says that Francis’ relationship with Bush (“which is a major asset for his RUC activities”) dates to Texas, when his brother Jim chaired GWB’s 1994 gubernatorial campaign, when Bush defeated Democratic incumbent Ann Richards.
The deal with Burma called for DCI to help identify “potential means of improving relations” between Burma and the United States. Issues to be addressed included the “War on Terrorism,” “human rights,” and the “War on Drugs,” which turned out to be the focus of the contract.
DCI had its work cut out for it, given that Burma is one of the world’s largest producers of heroin and the generals are known to have close ties to international drug traffickers. A Washington Post story in late 2002 said that thanks to DCI, the State Department was “close to recommending Burma’s removal froma list of ‘major’ drug producers,” which would have allowed the junta “to press for significant counternarcotics funding.” The story cited a speech by Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly, who had pointed to Burmese efforts on drugs as a rare bright spot in a “most frustrating challenge for American diplomacy.”
Ultimately, the State Department backed away in the face of protests from Congress, where some of the more finicky members were troubled by the junta’s use of rape against civilians as a weapon of war. In 2003, Burma terminated its deal with DCI.
Incidentally, Burma employed two other lobby shops with strong GOP connections during the 1990s–Jefferson Waterman International, and a firm headed by Edward von Kloberg. Both quit because they were disgusted by the junta–not for its human rights record, but because it stiffed them for fees. Von Kloberg committed suicide two years ago, jumping from a castle in Rome with a copy of a 1997 issue of Prime magazine whose cover featured a picture of him with President George H.W. Bush. Draw your own conclusions.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Number of free condoms handed out by the Brazilian government in advance of Carnival this year:
The best way to measure happiness is simply to ask people how happy they are.
Following three weeks of clashes between protesters and government forces that killed at least 17 people, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced a two-day extension of Carnival. “Happiness will conquer the embittered,” he said during an appearance at a recreation center.
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”