United States (ProPublica) – by Justin Elliott
Taiwan has terminated its with contract a lobbying firm whose role organizing a trip to the country for a Democratic congressman prompted an ongoing House ethics investigation. House rules ban most trips organized by lobbyists.
Park Strategies, which was founded by former Republican Sen. Al D’Amato, represented Taiwan on Capitol Hill for four years beginning in 2009. Last year, it was paid $20,000 per month plus expenses on the contract.
The House ethics committee is still looking into the trip Park Strategies organized for Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., and his wife to Taiwan in late 2011. After we reported details of the trip last year, Owens reimbursed the $22,000 cost of travel. The trip, which included stays at luxury hotels, later became the subject of attack ads against Owens in his successful campaign for reelection in upstate New York.
Taiwan opted not to renew Park Strategies’ lobbying contract this year, according to documents filed with the Justice Department last month.
Neither Taiwan’s representative nor Park Strategies would comment on whether the Owens matter prompted the termination of the contract.
“The decision was made based on the common practice of reviewing existing contracts as they relate to the current needs of the employer,” said Thalia Lin, spokesperson for Taiwan’s representative in Washington.
Lin noted that Taiwan retains the services of several other public relations firms, and that two other contracts were not renewed this year.
Just as Park Strategies’ contract expired, Taiwan hired another Republican firm, the Nickles Group, to represent it on Capitol Hill. That firm, which like Park will be paid $20,000 per month, is run by another former Republican senator, Don Nickles of Oklahoma.
Park Strategies opened an office in Taipei in 2010 and, besides its work for the Taiwanese government, has been cited in news reports as working for casino operators in the region.
“Our commitment to our Taiwan office and the Taiwan market remains as strong as ever,” said Park Strategies spokeswoman Dana Sanneman.
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