"The Torturers' Lobby"

exerpted from the book

Toxic Sludge Is Good For You:
Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry

by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton

Many of the big spenders on Washington lobbying and PR are governments with severe human rights abuses including Taiwan, South Korea, Pakistan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In 1992, the Washington based Center for Public Integrity published a study titled "The Torturers' Lobby," showing that Washington lawyers and lobbyists, many of whom served as top political advisors to Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, were raking in more than $30 million a year by helping repressive governments improve their images. PR giant Hill & Knowlton topped the list, with $14 million in receipts from countries with documented records of abuse, torture and imprisonment, including Kuwait, Indonesia, Israel, China, Egypt and Peru. China, of course, uses strict media censorship and political prisons to control its population. In 1989 it carried out the infamous massacre of hundreds of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square. Other examples cited by

"The Torturers' Lobby" included:

1) Turkey, which got $800 million in US aid despite being charged by the State Department with widespread human rights abuses, spread $3.8 million around to capitol influence-peddlers, including $1.2 million to Hill & Knowlton.

2) Guatemala, whose genocide against its indigenous population is described in the autobiography of Nobel prize-winner Rigoberta Menchu, laid out $650,000 for Washington lobbying. During 1991-92, while hundreds of Guatemalans were executed for political reasons, fees totaling $220,000 went to the Washington firm of Patton, Boggs & Blow, whose partners included Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown (President Clinton's Commerce Secretary).

3) Nigeria's military government spent $2.6 million from 1991-92, over $1 million of which went to Burson-Marsteller subsidiary Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, one of the top five firms in the "torturers' lobby." In addition to Nigeria, the firm collected another $1.2 million in fees from the Republic of Kenya and Angola's UNITA rebels.

In some cases, "The Torturers' Lobby" showed that countries were spending a large part of their foreign aid from the United States to subsidize Washington lobbyists. Nigeria's $2.6 million in lobbying fees, for example, represented nearly a third of its $8.3 million in US aid. "The system stinks," said Makau Mutua, director of Harvard Law School's Human Rights Project. "It's morally objectionable, all this influence-peddling. There's no doubt several of these countries couldn't afford these lobbyists without the help of the American tax payers."

Toxic Sludge