May 3, 2017

Is Corey Lewandowski Violating Lobbying and Foreign Agents Registration Laws? Public Citizen Calls for Investigation

Former Trump Campaign Manager Set Up Domestic and International Lobbying and Consulting Businesses; Has Trump’s Ear But Hasn’t Registered as Lobbyist or Foreign Agent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today called (PDF) on the U.S. Department of Justice, the Secretary of the U.S. Senate and the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate whether Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, is violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA) or the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA).

After the election, Lewandowski established two new political consulting firms: Washington East West Political Consulting and Avenue Strategies. He and his partners now control them.

According to Politico, Washington East West Political Consulting envisions itself as an international consulting firm seeking to represent Eastern European governments and other foreign interests in the United States. The company boasts that it has the ability to leverage its “trusted relations with the U.S. Administration” and promises to arrange “meetings with well-established figures,” including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and “key members of the U.S. Administration.” But the company is not registered under FARA. Nor is Lewandowski registered as a foreign agent under FARA.

The second lobbying group, Avenue Strategies, is a consulting and lobbying firm. It is registered under the LDA and represents several paying clients before the federal government, including Puerto Rico.

Although both consulting businesses were founded by Lewandowski and Trump campaign veteran Barry Bennett, only Bennett is registered as an active lobbyist under the LDA. Lewandowski is not registered as a lobbyist under the LDA. Yet he appears to be undertaking substantial activities that aim to influence American public policy for both international and domestic interests, and he routinely shows up at the White House, Public Citizen’s letter said.

“Corey Lewandowski and his businesses are soliciting domestic interests and foreign governments, offering to use his close ties to Trump to grease their path into the White House. Most people who do that must register as a lobbyist or foreign agent,” said Robert Weissman, Public Citizen president. “What is certain is that this is yet another blatant example of influence-peddling in what already is the most ethically conflicted administration in recent history. What we need to learn is whether Lewandowski is complying with the law.”

“Corey Lewandowski is pushing the bounds of lobbying rules (not to mention Donald Trump’s so-called ‘drain-the-swamp’ pledge) by pitching foreign politicians on retaining him by offering access to Trump, Pence and other top administration officials,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “Despite the fact that this has become the new normal in the Trump era, we cannot acclimatize, and Public Citizen will work to hold him accountable.”

Added Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, “The indications are strong that Corey Lewandowski may well have crossed the threshold for registration under either one of the two lobby disclosure laws. Lewandowski used to be a registered lobbyist until 2011. He developed very close ties to President Trump and leading officials in the Trump administration. His consulting firms are using that access as a selling point for soliciting and generating international and domestic business. And Lewandowski makes full use of that access to this day.”

For instance, Lewandowski arranged a meeting at Mar-a-Lago between President-elect Trump and Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump ridiculed Slim; after their meeting, Trump tweeted about Slim, calling him “the great businessman from Mexico” and “A GREAT GUY!”

Lewandowski insists that neither Slim nor his company, Telmex, provided compensation to Lewandowski or any of his consulting businesses for arranging the meeting. But payment is not a relevant factor in determining whether someone should register under FARA, Holman said. The question is whether the person provides representation before a U.S. agency or official.

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