Sunday, April 17, 2005

WaPo reveals yet another conservative/lobbying mess

The Washington Post reports on the strange shift of the conservative Heritage Foundation on Malaysia. First they were critical of the Malaysian PM, and then, suddenly, when one of their founders started lobbying for Malaysian business interests in the U.S., they were positive. There are all sorts of interesting connections--Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, etc.--and the IRS is interested.

For years, the Heritage Foundation sharply criticized the autocratic rule of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, denouncing his anti-Semitism, his jailing of political opponents and his "anti-free market currency controls."

Then, late in the summer of 2001, the conservative nonprofit Washington think tank began to change its assessment: Heritage financed an Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2001, trip to Malaysia for three House members and their spouses. Heritage put on briefings for the congressional delegation titled "Malaysia: Standing Up for Democracy" and "U.S. and Malaysia: Ways to Cooperate in Order to Influence Peace and Stability in Southeast Asia."

Heritage's new, pro-Malaysian outlook emerged at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage's president, began representing Malaysian business interests. The for-profit firm, called Belle Haven Consultants, retains Feulner's wife, Linda Feulner, as a "senior adviser." And Belle Haven's chief operating officer, Ken Sheffer, is the former head of Heritage's Asia office and is still on Heritage's payroll as a $75,000-a-year consultant.

On Sept. 27, 2001, Belle Haven hired Alexander Strategy Group, a Washington lobby firm run by Edwin A. Buckham, a former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), to help represent Malaysian clients. Linda Feulner works as a consultant for Alexander Strategy Group as well as for Belle Haven. Experts say that the relationship between one of Washington's most influential conservative think tanks and a network of lobbying firms collecting fees from Malaysian business interests -- well in excess of $1 million over two years -- could pose a problem for Heritage's tax status as a nonprofit group. The fees were disclosed in reports filed with Congress and the Justice Department.

There's much more.


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