How Thai citizens financed pro-Thaksin lobbying efforts in the U.S.
Thai Government used public funds to pay for BGR’s lobbying services on behalf of a third party, businessman and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. For almost 2 years, from September 2012 to May 2014, Thaksin and Thai Government were represented by the same US lobby firm, BGR Government Affairs. The governing party was Thaksin’s former party, Phew Thai, and the prime minister was Thaksin’s sister. Pheu Thai Government paid BGR a monthly fee of US$30,000. Thaksin received the lobbying services as a gift. BGR’s highly controversial clients BGR Government Affairs is part of the Washington-based BGR Group (formerly known as Barbour, Griffith and Rogers), one of the US’s top lobbying firms. BGR Government Affairs is frequently hired by autocrats to whitewash their brutal regimes. In September 2016, for example, Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s regime hired BGR Government Affairs. In a desperate attempt to limit the damage caused by the US sanctions, BGR and the DRC government signed a contract worth $875,000. ( https://www.opensourceinvestigations.com/ ) Thaksin Shinawatra is a Thai businessman who was the prime minister of Thailand between 2001 and 2006. The Thaksin regime was riddled with blatant conflicts of interest, rampant corruption, and gross human rights violations. Thaksin Shinawatra caused a worldwide uproar in 2000, when Thailand’s anti-graft agency found that, in an attempt to conceal his wealth, he had illegally transferred tens of millions dollars’ worth of shares to his maid, chauffeur and other domestic staff, making them among the richest people in Thailand. Following a year- long political crisis, Thaksin’s government was ousted in a coup in 2006. Thaksin left the country to avoid facing legal charges. In October 2008, he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in absentia over a corrupt land deal, but he remained out of the Thai authorities’ reach and managed to maintain his influence over Thai politics. An oral and free of charge agreement concerning Thai election On 30 June 2011, three days before Thai general election, BGR Government Affairs filed a registration form with the U.S. Department of Justice, which monitors foreign lobbying. According to the disclosure file, signed by the firm's general counsel, Daniel R. Murphy, Thaksin Shinawatra was BGR client. Thaksin was identified as a Thai national with an address in Dubai, engaged in “advocacy for democracy in Thailand”. The agreement explicitly concerned “the July 3, 2011 elections in Thailand”. The statement revealed a very strange arrangement. The BGR-Thaksin agreement, the lobbying firm said, was not the result of a formal written contract. It was an “oral agreement to contact [U.S.] Administration officials and Congressional offices about the July 3, 2011 elections in Thailand on behalf of Thaksin Shinawatra”. BGR lobbyists “communicated with the State Department and Congressional offices on behalf of Thaksin Shinawatra” encouraging “the U.S. Government to be an advocate for fairness, transparency, and democratic process in Thailand”. Even more strange, Thaksin received the lobbying services from BGR, one of the most profitable U.S. lobbying firm, as a gift: “No fees or compensation was received”, the statement said. Pdf down below: 2011_June_Thaksin_BGR By the filing date (June 30th ) the lobby work concerning Thai election was complete, but BGR continued to represent Thaksin Shinawatra. Thai Government hired Thaksin’s lobbyists On 3 July 2011, Thaksin’s political vehicle, the Pheu Thai party, won a majority in general election. The party's main slogan during the campaign was “Thaksin Thinks. Pheu Thai Acts”. Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was appointed Prime Minister of Thailand in August 2011. On 14 September 2012, the Thai Government hired Thaksin’s lobbyists. Thai Embassy in Washington signed an agreement with BGR Government Affairs. The Washington based lobby firm was hired to provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and assistance on economic development and policy matters before the US Government, the US Congress, and select state governments, as well as academic institutions and think-tanks”. BGR was also supposed to offer “strategic public relations counsel as needed and as directed”. In exchange to BGR lobbying services, Thai Government offered to pay a monthly fee of US$30,000. Pdf down below: 2012_Sep_BGR_Thai_Embassy_Agreement Thai Government paid for BGR’s lobbying services on behalf of Thaksin Pheu Thai governed Thailand until May 2014 when Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted and Pheu Thai Government was replaced. The agreement between Thai Government and BGR applied to the entire Pheu Thai administration. It was terminated in May 2014. Pdf down below: 2014_June_Thai_Embassy_BGR By then Pheu Thai Government had paid BGR about US$630,000. From September 2012 to May 2014, BGR represented both Pheu Thai Government and Thaksin Shinawatra. In fact, the same BGR lobbyists (like Jonathan Mantz or Edward M. Rogers Jr.) represented both Thaksin and Pheu Thai Government at the same time. But Thaksin didn’t pay for BGR services. BGR lobbied on behalf of Thaksin Shinawatra (for example, the firm contacted members of Congreslands) while being paid by the Thai Government. Pdf down below: 2013_June_Thaksin_Thai_Embassy_BGR rsz_2013_Dec_Thaksin_Thai_Embassy_BGR_2_Part1 (part 1) rsz_2013_Dec_Thaksin_Thai_Embassy_BGR_2_Part2 (part 2) 2014_June_Thaksin_Thai_Embassy_BGR