The Secret Trade Deal of 2007

This post, written by David Sirota, originally appeared on Working For Change

This is another in a series of ongoing posts following the announcement of a secret free trade deal on May 10, 2007 between a handful of senior Democrats and the Bush administration.

Three weeks after a group of senior Democrats announced a secret free trade deal with top Bush administration officials, Democratic K Street lobbyists are now telling reporters they are making passage of the deal a top priority, likely meaning another NAFTA-style campaign to ram the deal through Congress. Many - if not most - of these lobbyists are former lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff using their ties to Congress to twist arms. Not coincidentally, just last week, congressional Democrats gutted a lobbying reform bill by removing provisions that would have forced lawmakers and staff to wait at least two years before becoming paid lobbyists. Nonetheless, despite the K Street campaign, business interests say they are increasingly worried that they will not have the votes in Congress to pass the secret deal, whose legislative text remains secret. Here is today's update.

NATIONAL JOURNAL - DEMOCRATIC K STREET LOBBYISTS RAMPING UP PRESSURE TO PASS SECRET TRADE DEAL: National Journal this week reports that "business lobbyists and K Street trade advocates are gearing up to help the Democratic Congress pass" the secret trade deal, even though the legislative text of the deal remain hidden from the public and from rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers. The story notes that, for instance, Democratic corporate lobbyist Scott Parven is "eager to do his part to bolster support for the free-trade agreements." He said: "We need to have more Democratic business lobbyists talking to Democratic members and staff." Parven then went on the attack against the labor, environmental, small business, agriculture and consumer protection organizations who oppose the deal. "We need to provide a substantive counterpoint to activists on the left who are banging members over the head saying this is a terrible deal." Another Democratic business lobbyist added, "The reality is that Democrats are going to be split on trade issues, so the business community's main agenda is going to be to shore up virtually unanimous support among Republicans in the House and work with Rangel and Levin and the leadership to get 70 to 100 Democrats."The lobbyist "said that K Street supporters of the deal are coordinating with the pro-trade New Democrat Coalition to win over hesitant Democrats."

K STREET FRETS OVER POSSIBILITY OF MAJOR OPPOSITION TO SECRET DEAL: Inside U.S. Trade last week reported that "U.S. industry supporters of the bilateral free trade agreement with Peru have privately expressed fears that a vote in the trade committees could be tighter than expected when the deal comes up. In the Senate Finance Committee, while Montana Sen. Max Baucus was at the press conference announcing the secret deal, "some supporters are worried that Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) may vote against the Peru FTA." The newsletter additionally reports that the legislative language of the secret deal remains secret, but lobbyists "are aware that House Democrats opposed to the template will closely scrutinize the legal text and the extent to which it lives up to the conceptual framework." The pressure to release the details for public analysis means "Democratic [Capitol Hill] staff wants to make sure it will stand up to that scrutiny."

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