Citgo Petroleum, the US refining subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, had a big year on the lobbying front in 2014. According to current records at OpenSecrets.org, the company spent $2.16 million on DC lobbying, a five-fold increase over 2013. It was the 9th-biggest among the 100+ clients of Cornerstone Government Affairs and fourth-biggest at Brownstein Hyatt. But it really shone by becoming the biggest client of the year at both Dutko Grayling and Squire Patton Boggs.
Yes, that Patton Boggs. From Ken Silverstein’s article on the lobby house from last week:
And no one is, or was, more symptomatic or responsible for this pathetic state of dysfunction than Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., who died last September… Boggs was a richly-paid lobbyist who ran his firm like a brothel, once saying, “We pick our clients by taking the first one who comes in the door.” With that as his guiding principle, Boggs and his firm compiled a client list that included America’s biggest, most criminally minded corporations and the world’s worst dictators.
Really a worthwhile read, so go click over there. It takes a lot of work to be the #1 client of Patton Boggs. The company had 179 paid clients last year. Following well behind PDVSA you find companies with massive regulatory worries. (Note that all figures were current at time of writing. Future disclosures may change the ranking.) So what was all that money spent on? We’ll probably never know exactly, but one can make an educated guess. There was only one Citgo-related political issue that became big in Washington last year after not having been present the prior year, and that was the issue of sanctions against Venezuelan human rights violators. First, a very limited sanctions bill was halted with well placed concern-trolling in March. Then, in August, Mary Landrieu stopped the bill again under pressure from Citgo, as Caracas Chronicles informed us at the time. Now, we don’t know, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this money was spent defending Venezuela’s political leadership from possibly having their US visas revoked. I think this because Citgo has a habit of acting in a way that looks an awful lot like part of the state, rather than an oil company. Think: the company’s purchase of planes for Venezuelan state airlines, or its foundation donating money to help Venezuelans get bone marrow transplants in Italy, assist flood relief in Venezuela, and remodel the Venezuelan embassy in DC. If that was the goal, it worked, for a while. But the sanctions bill ended up passing. It went into effect in December and this week the list of sanctioned persons was expanded to include the family members of alleged rights violators. The good news is that the people of Venezuela who paid those $2.1 million really wouldn’t have had anything useful to do with that money, as there are no unmet human needs in the tropical socialist paradise. Bonus: Petroleos de Venezuela (not listed as PDVSA or Citgo) spent another $100,000, according to OpenSecrets. That made the company the second biggest client at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications.
UPDATE: Alek Boyd covered Venezuela’s cozy relationship with Patton Boggs almost a decade ago.