Critics, watchdogs question stealth Cuba lobbying campaign

Opponents of the Obama administration’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba and some ethics watchdogs are questioning the lack of transparency behind a million-dollar advocacy campaign that pushed for the historic thaw.
Two articles — one that was published in the September/October issue of Mother Jones, and another in the January edition of The Nation — detail the back-channel negotiations and behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign leading up to President Obama’s December rapprochement to change five decades of U.S. policy and renew ties with the island nation.
Both reports also give a Denver-based progressive government relations firm, the Trimpa Group, credit for an elaborate behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign that helped press the administration into action on Cuba.
But there are no lobbying disclosure records on Congress’s searchable database on the Trimpa Group’s Cuba campaign, according to a Washington Examiner review of the files.
For two years leading up to the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba, opponents of the policy heard rumors of various lobbying and public advocacy campaigns taking place on the issue, but could never track the funds or identify who was orchestrating it.
“All we want is a level playing field,” said Jason Poblete, a lawyer and registered lobbyist representing 10 American families pressing the Obama administration to recover billions of dollars in seized assets the Castro regime took after the country’s 1959 revolution.
“Americans who were injured by the communist regime in Cuba deserve justice,” he said. “The U.S. government and elected leaders need to speak for them and defend their interests.”
Several ethics watchdogs interviewed for this article say lobbying disclosure is based on self-reporting, and there are so many loopholes and so little enforcement that it’s difficult if nearly impossible to tell if firms are breaking the spirit or the letter of the disclosure law.
Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, said it’s conceivable that the Trimpa Group did nothing legally wrong in failing to file lobbying disclosure reports. But she also said that doesn’t make it right.

Washington Examiner

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