Once a Powerful Lawmaker, Bob Dole Transitions into Top Lobby

WASHINGTON — Dennis Morgan had a problem with Washington.

His company needed Environmental Protection Agency approval to sell a controversial lumber treatment chemical, but the EPA had delayed acting on his request.

Then he hired Bob Dole. Suddenly, the EPA started moving.

“They were ignoring us,” Morgan, president of Oregon-based Forest Products Research Laboratory, said in an interview. “Unless I hired someone of Bob Dole’s stature, I would have been lost in the halls of the EPA forever.”

Once a powerful Senate leader and Republican nominee for president, Bob Dole over the last decade has remade himself into one of Washington’s most influential lobbyists.

While the career has been lucrative, his lobbying work has at times created political problems for his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., during her six years in office.

To avoid any suggestion that she was working on her husband’s behalf, the Dole’s both say they have worked hard to separate his lobbying work from her official duties.

In Washington, it’s common for former lawmakers to become well-paid lobbyists, and several sitting lawmakers have spouses who are lobbyists.

Bob Dole, 85, is by far the most prominent member of both groups.

Since losing his presidential bid in 1996, Bob Dole has kept busy doing charity work, making speeches, writing books and cutting ads for Viagra and Pepsi. He first registered as a lobbyist in 1999, and today works at the firm Alston & Bird, earning more than $1 million per year, the Washington Post has reported.

Bob Dole’s spokesman, Mike Marshall, said the former Republican senator from Kansas chose to lobby because “of the value he felt he could bring others who need to understand Washington.”

Through Marshall, Bob Dole declined an interview request. Elizabeth Dole also declined to be interviewed.

Over the last decade, Bob Dole has lobbied on behalf of:

–A half dozen foreign countries, including Taiwan, which he fought to bring into international organizations; Indonesia, for which he sought aid and training from the U.S. military; and Kosovo, for which he helped build U.S. support for the establishment of an independent nation;

–Some of the world’s wealthiest – and most controversial – businessmen, including a Russian billionaire with reported ties to organized crime and a Chinese auto manufacturer worth $840 million who, facing arrest in his native country, fled to the United States;

–Companies whose activities created a backlash in Congress, including a financial services company that was charged with defrauding members of the military and a state-owned Middle Eastern company that wanted operate to U.S. ports.

Bob Dole’s clients have also included hospitals, drug companies, technology firms and disability advocacy groups.

In interviews with half a dozen of Dole’s clients this week, all said his prominence was an important reason they hired him. But other factors contributed to their decision to retain him, including his detailed knowledge of the Senate and federal policy and long history of advocating for their causes.

Elmi Berisha, a real estate investor and native Kosovar who lives in New York, coordinated with leaders in his homeland to hire Dole to push for U.S. support for Kosovo independence.

Berisha said Dole’s long support for Kosovo while he was in the Senate made him a natural advocate. The country declared independence in February with U.S. backing.

“If not for Sen. Bob Dole, I don’t think it would have happened,” Berisha said.

When Elizabeth Dole joined the Senate in 2003, Bob Dole told reporters that he would have to be “more cautious” to avoid the appearance that he and his firm were lobbying his wife’s office.

Brian Nick, Dole’s current chief of staff, said his predecessor made clear to staffers at the beginning of her term to avoid any association with Bob Dole’s lobbying work to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Nick said the couple does not discuss his lobbying clients. Nor, he said, do Bob Dole or his associates actively lobby the senator or her staff, though records show Bob Dole’s associates have at times contacted 
Elizabeth Dole’s office on behalf her husband’s clients.

“I think the only time I’ve seen Bob Dole in our office is a Christmas party or a birthday party,” Nick said.

Marshall, Bob Dole’s spokesman, said it was not difficult to keep their two jobs separate. “They understand they can’t discuss certain matters and they don’t,” he said.

Bob Dole’s lobbying for certain clients have proved politically troubling at times for his wife.

For example, Elizabeth Dole strongly opposed a bid by Dubai Ports World, a company controlled by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, to operate some U.S. ports.

When it was reported that Bob Dole was a lobbyist for the company, Democrats demanded she recuse herself from any congressional action, even after her husband said he would not lobby Congress on the matter.

“To be truthful, politically speaking, it was a disaster,” Nick said of the Dubai issue.

At least once, the Doles found themselves on the same side of an issue. Separate from her husband, Elizabeth Dole in 2003 also lobbied the EPA on the agency’s delayed decision on Forest Products Research Laboratory’s request to use the controversial lumber treatment chemical.

Elizabeth Dole wrote in support of EPA approval of the chemical on behalf of a North Carolina company that also was affected by the decision, according to National Journal. She later wrote another letter on behalf of another North Carolina company that opposed EPA approval of the chemical.

The Doles’ efforts to keep his lobbying work completely walled off from her Senate office have not been completely successful, federal records obtained by Media General show.

Lobbyists that represent foreign governments are required to disclose with the Justice Department their specific encounters with lawmakers on behalf of those countries.

The records show that Alston & Bird lobbyists who worked on Taiwanese and Indonesian lobbying accounts supervised by Bob Dole contacted Elizabeth Dole’s office on two occasions on behalf of those countries.

In the case of Taiwan, Bob Dole’s lobbying associate Marshall Harris contacted the office by email to set up a short “meet and greet” for Elizabeth Dole with the Taiwanese ambassador, Nick said. Harris could not be reached for comment.

The records show that Taiwan asked Bob Dole to coordinate Alston & Bird’s lobbying activities, and requested that he set up meetings with two senators per month.

Nick, Elizabeth Dole’s chief of staff, said she and her staff were not asked to take any action on behalf of Taiwan as a result of that meeting with the ambassador, nor did they. He said it was common for Elizabeth Dole to meet with ambassadors.

In the case of Indonesia, the records indicate that a meeting with “Sen. E. Dole” occurred April 9, 2004.

Nick said the office had no record of a meeting on that date with anyone from Alston & Bird or anyone related to Indonesia. But, he said, around that time, the lobbying firm forwarded an invitation from the Indonesian government to join other lawmakers on a trip to that country. Elizabeth Dole declined, Nick said.

Though there are other ways senators can influence policy, a review of bills and amendments sponsored by Elizabeth Dole during her term did not reveal any related to Taiwan and Indonesia.

The Taiwan and Indonesia contacts were in no way illegal, congressional ethics specialists said. Both contacts occurred before the Senate voted in 2007 to restrict some lobbying by spouses of lawmakers, and those new restrictions affected only direct lobbying by the spouses, not their associates. 

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Bob Dole’s Lobbying Clients Over the Last Decade

Client NameIncome to Dole’s FirmIssuesBob Dole and/or His Lobbying Associates Targeted
Atmel Corp.$220,000“Smart Card” and encryption technology regulationsHouse, Senate, Dept. of Homeland Security, Dept. of State
Cord Use (formerly Cordus Corp.)$120,000Issues related to banking of umbilical cord blood, stem cell legislationHouse, Senate
Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation$60,000An earmark for a national training center to help disabled people start new careersHouse, Senate
DP World FZE$320,000Legislative and regulatory approval of controversial plan by Middle Eastern company to operate U.S. portsHouse, Senate, Dept. of Treasury, Dept. of Homeland Security, White House
Elmi Berisha$180,000Support for independence for KosovoDept. of State
First Command Financial Services$280,000Mutual fund regulation. The company, which works with military members, in 2004 settled a fraud case with the Securities and Exchange CommissionHouse, Senate
Forest Products Research Laboratory$80,000Environmental Protection Agency regulation of a lumber treatment chemicalEnivronmental Protection Agency, Senate
Kansas Health Foundation$40,000Tax provisions for charitable contributionsSenate
National Association for Home Care and Hospice$430,000Medicare and prescripiton drug coverage, home health care regulationsHouse, Senate, White House, Dept. of Health and Human Services
Northwestern Memorial Hospital$140,000Real Estate Transaction with Dept. of Veterans AffairsDept. of Veterans Affairs
Oleg Deripaska$260,000Visa issues on behalf of Deripaska, a Russian billionaireDept. of State
Praecis Pharmaceuticals (acquired by GlaxoSmithKline plc)none reportedMedicare prescription drug reimbursementUnknown
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago$140,000Real Estate Transaction with Dept. of Veterans AffairsDept. of Veterans Affairs
Servipronto de El Salvadornone reportedLegal dispute between the El Salvadoran franchise company and U.S.-based McDonald’s and visa issuesUnknown
Spatial Technologies Industry Association$20,000Homeland Security issues related to Geospatial and GIS mappingSenate, Homeland Security
StemCyte$40,000Establish national inventory of supplies of umbilical cord bloodSenate
Syngenta Crop Protection$160,000Environmental Protection Agency regulation of Atrazine, a chemical used in herbicidesHouse, White House, Senate, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency
Yang Rong$140,000Rong was the third richest man in China until a dispute with the government forced him to flee the country and sue the Chinese government in U.S. courts to recover assetsDept. of State, Dept. of Commerce, House
Tyco International$80,000Tax law related to offshore profitsSenate
American Society of Anesthesiologists$600,000Doctor supervision of nurse anesthetistsWhite House, House, Senate
Chocolate Industry Coalition$340,000Food labeling and labor standards legislationDept. of Commerce, Dept. of State, Dept. of Labor, White House, House, Senate
Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registrynone reportedPromotion of open international trade on the seasUnknown
National Structured Settlements Trade Association$220,000Legal treatment of structured settlements from liability lawsuitsHouse, Senate
Yohannes Hardian Widjonarko$200,000/month retainerWorked on behalf of Indonesian businessman connected to Indonesian government to increase trade between his country and Indonesia, increase foreign investment and beef up U.S. military assistance to IndonesiaSenate, Dept. of State
IndonesiaunknownDealings with Dept. of State, legal dispute involving state-owned Indonesian oil companyDept. of State, Senate
Taiwan$25,000/month retainerPromote Taiwan’s joining international organization, set up meetings with U.S. lawmakersHouse, Senate, White House
Montenegro$20,000/month retainerPromotion of investment in Montenegro, meetings with lawmakers on issues related to MontenegroHouse, Dept. of State, Dept. of Defense, Senate, White House
Kosovo$30,000/month retainerPromote U.S-Kosovo relationsHouse, Senate, White House
United Arab Emirates$35,000/month retainerFree trade agreements, investment lawUnknown
Cyprus$12,500/month retainerMeet with Cyprus officials, set up meetings with Republican lawmakersUnknown

*Source: Justice Dept. Records, Senate Records, Interviews

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