Campaign Cash at Work in Stealthy NAFTA Expansion: GOP Leaders Eye Omnibus Spending Bill

Oct. 13, 1998

Campaign Cash at Work in Stealthy NAFTA Expansion: GOP Leaders Eye Omnibus Spending Bill

Clothing Industry Contributors Would Obtain Huge Benefits

Lavish political contributions from two major apparel firms are fueling an attempt to slip a damaging trade deal through Congress in the final hours before adjournment.

Republican leaders will decide imminently whether to add a controversial 26-country NAFTA expansion to the giant omnibus spending bill, granting one-way NAFTA benefits to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. CBI NAFTA expansion has never been approved by the Senate and was defeated 234-182 in a House vote in November 1997. GOP leaders are now trying to force a choice between closing down the government or approving legislation they have already opposed.

Sara Lee (Hanes) and Fruit of the Loom contributed more than $340,000 in unregulated soft money to the political parties in 1997 and 1998 and would gain an estimated $75 million annually in tax cuts through lower tariffs if the Caribbean Basin Initiative passes.

“The last-minute push for an already-rejected NAFTA expansion exposes our campaign system for what it is: legalized bribery,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Laws are not supposed to get passed by wealthy special interests cutting special deals behind closed doors.”

Sara Lee, which would gain $50 million a year in tax cuts if the CBI is passed, gave $5,179 in unregulated soft money to the political parties in 1997 and 1998. Fruit of the Loom, which will make $25 million a year from the tax cut, has given a whopping $339,687 in soft money in 1997 and 1998, including $100,000 to the Republicans in August 1998.

Fruit of the Loom’s CEO Bill Farley gave more than $35,000 in campaign contributions to Congressional candidates in 1997 and 1998, while Sara Lee’s CEO John Bryan made $9,550 in personal contributions to candidates.

“Fruit of the Loom slashed 7,700 U.S. sewing jobs last year, more than a third of the company’s entire U.S. workforce, and has announced plans to reorganize under a Cayman Islands parent company, thus evading $100 million in U.S. corporate income taxes. This is not behavior we should reward,” said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.