Tom DeLay, Rum, and Protectionism
jbone at place.org
jbone at place.org
Wed Oct 22 08:40:14 PDT 2003
See, it's not about ideology, it's about *money* and *political
support.* Wakeup, "fiscal conservatives." The line the GOP spins at
you to pluck your "free trade" and other economic heartstrings is NOT
compatible with their actual behavior.
Delay's work for rum maker criticized
By Julie Malone, Palm Beach Post-Cox News Service
Monday, October 20, 2003
WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's behind-the-scenes
attempt to help the rum maker Bacardi-Martini Inc., fend off Cuban
competition is drawing fire on Capitol Hill.
Watchdog groups already have objected to the Texas Republican's
efforts, along with some business interests. And last week, four House
Judiciary Committee members formally protested after an article in the
Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that DeLay planned to slip an
amendment revising U.S. trademark statutes into the annual defense
The amendment had not been properly "vetted" by their panel, which is
supposed to oversee trademark law, said the letter signed by the
Judiciary Committee objectors, who included one Republican, Arizona's
Rep. Jeff Flake.
Jonathan Grella, spokesman for DeLay, confirmed that the majority
leader is seeking to pass the Bacardi amendment but added that he had
not yet decided where to insert it.
DeLay's effort is not the first attempt to help the Bermuda-based
company run by a politically plugged-in Cuban exile family. Bacardi's
Miami-based U.S. division has donated generously to both political
parties -- and particularly to DeLay -- for the past several years.
The rum company won a major Capitol Hill victory in 1998, when then
Sen. Connie Mack, a Florida Republican, inserted an obscure amendment,
known as Section 211, into a catch-all spending bill that was 4,000
pages long. Hardly anyone noticed the measure until months later when
it became apparent that the language cleared the way for Bacardi to win
its lengthy court battle for the U.S. rights to one of the world's
oldest rum labels, Havana Club. The label also is claimed by
Pernod-Ricard, a French company that now sells rum by that name in
partnership with the Cuban government.
The legislation, which denies U.S. protection to foreign trademarks
when government confiscation is involved, has stirred controversy here
and abroad. France complained to the World Trade Organization, which
ruled that the United States has violated treaty obligations. The WTO
has given the United States until the end of the year to revise its law.
DeLay is seeking to insert new language to bring the statute into
technical compliance with the WTO ruling, while continuing to protect
Bacardi. Critics charge that the "fix" would still violate U.S. treaty
Several major corporations, including Dupont, Ford Motor Co. and
General Motors have joined in asking Congress to repeal Section 211
altogether to avoid possible retaliation by Cuba's President Fidel
Castro against their own trademarks. Cuba could export counterfeit
brands that would "pose a threat to the reputation of our products,"
warned the companies, members of the pro-trade group USA Engage.
Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative watchdog group, also
opposes special treatment for Bacardi. "We think it has an adverse
influence on the taxpayers, on consumers and on the economy," said the
group's president, Thomas Schatz.
Also objecting is a liberal group, Citizens for Responsibility and
Ethics in Washington, whose director Melanie Sloan links Bacardi's
success in Congress to its campaign donations.
DeLay's spokesman Grella responded that "It's wrong and unethical to
link legislative activity to campaign contributions."
A spokeswoman for Bacardi was unavailable for comment and did respond
to messages left by a reporter.
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