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‘Vultures’ hire Albright to lobby

Madeleine Albright speaks at a meeting in the California Commonwealth Club.
Former US Secretary of State is the new ally of ‘vulture fund’ Elliott Managment

The federal government’s attempt to carry out a new debt swap to pay bondholders in Buenos Aires instead of New York has led billionaire and head of Elliott Management Paul Singer to seek help in his lobbying battle against Argentina from former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Singer, who has already spent millions of dollars in his lobbying campaign, has hired the consulting firm of Albright to lobby for him in Argentina, the New York Post revealed yesterday. Albright’s co-chair and former US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has already been in Argentina trying to mobilize opposition to the government, sources told the US newspaper.

A Czech-born American politician and diplomat, Albright was the first woman to become the Secretary of State. She was nominated by former president Bill Clinton in 1996 and was unanimously confirmed by a Senate vote of 99-0. She holds a PhD from Columbia University and numerous honorary degrees.

Albright currently serves as a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and is also a board director of the Council on Foreign Relations. But she passes most of her hours on Albright Stonebridge Group, her global consultancy firm she founded with Carlos Gutierrez.

“ASG works as an integral part of the organizations we serve, helping navigate international markets, overcome obstacles and implement strategies to build and preserve value,” says the website of the firm that works in many regions of the world.

In Latin America, Albright Stonebridge Group is focused in Brazil where it has a team of 15 people to work in a “broad range of sectors and a wide variety of matters” such as energy, agriculture, healthcare, life sciences, aerospace, financial services, mergers and acquisitions and the protection of intellectual property rights.

While clients are not mentioned in the website, the company describes two case studies in Latin America. Albright Stonebridge Group says it was hired by a pharmaceutical company in Brazil to establish a partnership with the government and by a telecommunication firm to “shape a more effective and rational legislation.”

Lobbying action

Singer, who owns Elliot Management, a US$17-billion hedge fund, is the leading “vulture investor”—a financial speculator who buys up the bonds of debt-strapped nations for pennies on the dollar and then demands payment in full. When Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in 2001, Singer moved in and bought up US$48 million in bonds. He is now demanding that those bonds be paid at full-face value — US$1.5 billion — plus interest and fees.

Singer’s rap sheet is consistent with hard-nosed vulture tactics. He is a leading Republican fundraiser, and a member—along with former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Iraq War designer Richard Perle—of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. He helped bankroll Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and is a bitter critic of “unpayable” social welfare programmes, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

According to calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Singer has given financial support to 56 congressmen or senators since 2004 (five of them Democrats) and to several dozen candidates who didn’t make it to Congress, always by way of Elliott Management. On a personal level, Singer appears as the sixth-largest campaign donor for the 2012 presidential elections. His US$745,000 in contributions went exclusively to Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s defeated challenger.

But the people who head up the main lobbying organization behind Singer’s current campaign, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), sit on the high councils of the Democratic Party and would likely be part of any Hillary Clinton administration. ATFA’s two co-chairs are Clinton’s former undersecretary of commerce, Robert Shapiro, and Clinton appointee to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg.

Shapiro was an adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and a senior adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 run for the White House. Soderberg, who served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy, was also a member of Clinton’s National Security Council and an alternative representative to the UN with the title of ambassador. She is currently a Democratic Party activist in Florida and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Soderberg and Shapiro have written numerous opinion pieces on Argentina using their Clinton administration credentials and, depending on the publication, have not always disclosed their lobbying ties. The three snookered the progressive Huffington Post into running opinion pieces until journalists Christina Wilkie and Ryan Grim uncovered their ties to ATFA.

Herald with online media

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