Thursday, February 23, 2006

CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight Discloses More Carlyle Ties To UAE

A report this week on CNN's Lou Dobbs tonight details the growing links between the Carlyle Group, which has close business ties to several former U.S. government officials, including former President George H.W. Bush, to the United Arab Emirates and Dubai Ports, the state-owned company attempting to purchase a London-based company which operates major U.S. ports. Several of the ties are ones we have already reported on, but there are new ties to report as well.

According to the CNN report, the United Arab Emirates is a major investor in the Carlyle Group. That included a major investment in a buy-out fund of Carlyle's worth $8 billion. The Carlyle Group purchased a shipping container business in 2002 from CSX, which two year later sold its port business to Dubai Ports. Treasury Secretary John Snow ran CSX before joining the administration and sits on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. which is charged with approving the sale of the port management company in question to Dubai Ports. The administration also appointed a high ranking Dubai Ports official, David Sanborn, just last month to run the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Neil Bush, brother of President Bush, has received substantial funding for an educational software company he runs from UAE investors. Why must Neil look for foreign sources to fund a U.S. software company? Given the former President's business ties to the Carlyle Group, none of which must be publicly disclosed and the president's brother's financial ties to the UAE, it is not unreasonable to believe that those ties might have something to do with the fast track approval this deal has been given, and the President's stubborness in defending a deal which might seriously compromise U.S. national security.

The complete transcript of the report on Lou Dobbs Tonight can be found below:

DOBBS: President Bush's family and members of the Bush administration have long-standing business connections with the United Arab Emirates, and those connections are raising new concerns and questions tonight in some quarters about why the president is defying his very own party leadership and his party in defending the Dubai port deal. Christine Romans reports.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, the private equity investment firm where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser and is a who's who of former high-level government officials. Just last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm, invested in an $8 billion Carlyle fund.

Another family connection, the president's brother, Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors. A call to his company was not returned.

Then there is the cabinet connection. Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX/. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars. In Connecticut today, Snow told reporters he had no knowledge of that CSX sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers."

Another administration connection, President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations.

ROMANS: Now, some members of Congress, some of whom have already confirmed Sanborn, say they'd like to take a closer look at this nomination. But it's not just administration connections that Dubai has in this deal, Lou. It's now aggressively lining up representation on the Hill, bipartisan representation.

DOBBS: Lobbyists as representation, including Bob Dole. It's a remarkable effort. It's a -- it can be a tremulous feeling to stand between $7 billion and those who want to exchange that money irrespective of the consequences. Thank you very much.

Christine Romans. The United Arab Emirates not only has friends in high places in government, it also has high-powered lobbying connections. This oil- rich nation has been lavishing hundreds of thousands of dollars on K Street, lobbying friends to push its point of view and its goals. One of those friends we found out today is none other than Senator Dole, former Senator Dole. Lisa Sylvester has the story.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To deflate criticism, Dubai Ports World has gone on a hiring spree. The bipartisan lobbying firm headed by former congressman Tom Downey and Ray McGrath was hired last week. Senator Bob Dole and the lobbying firm he works for, Alston & Bird, also got a call. DPW, owned by a member of the United Arab Emirates, is pushing hard to keep Congress from blocking the deal.

TED BILKEY, COO, DUBAI PORTS WORLD: We're going to do anything possible to be sure that this deal goes through.

SYLVESTER: And they're tapping former lawmakers to do their bidding.

ROBERTA BASKIN, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: An ex-senator is a perfectly-placed lobbyist because an ex-senator, of course, is going to have more gravitas. An ex-senator can actually go onto the Senate floor. SYLVESTER: But lobbying Congress is not new for the United Arab Emirates. The country has a team of U.S. lobbyists representing its interests. Records filed with the Department of Justices Foreign Registration Office show the UAE paid at least four lobbying firms more than $720,000 last year. According to Senate disclosure records, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce spent at least $100,000 lobbying Capitol Hill in the first half of last year. But the heavy lobbying efforts could backfire. It's now drawing attention to the influence of foreign governments on U.S. policy. Senator John Kerry has written Treasury Secretary Snow asking for full disclosure of the lobbying efforts on behalf of DPW. Congressman Curt Weldon echoed the need to know more about how this deal was sealed.

REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We're talking about a corporation that is majority interest owned by another government. That's unlike the British or other companies that come in and invest in America. You're talking about a company that largely has a government control its operations.

SYLVESTER: One problem with foreign lobbying is the lack of transparency. Lobbyists representing foreign governments have to register with the Department of Justice, but the records are not easily obtained and the information included on those disclosure forms are usually very vague with government entities revealing as little as possible -- Lou.

DOBBS: Imagine that, revealing as little as possible in Washington, D.C. I'm shocked. Lisa, thank you very much.

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