- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

Puerto Rico spends far more on lobbying Washington than any other U.S. state or territory, a study has shown.

From 1998 through the first half of 2002, Puerto Rico spent nearly $20 million to lobby Congress and the executive branch. The average state expenditure for such purposes was about $460,651 during the same period, said the study by the National Stop Puerto Rico Statehood Committee.

The study also noted that the commonwealth’s annual lobbying expenses averaged more than $4 million — “more than the combined lobbying expenditures of the municipal governments of Denver, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County and Chicago.”

The committee’s assessment was based on data compiled and reported by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) in a study titled “Big Spender.” CRP is a research group that tracks money in politics and its effect on elections and public policy.

Steven Weiss, spokesman for CRP, said his group is not connected with the National Stop Puerto Rico Statehood Committee. CRP describes itself as an independent nonprofit grass-roots citizens group that opposes efforts to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.

“Making Puerto Rico our 51st state would impose a massive burden on the federal budget — and American taxpayers — including a $3 billion welfare tab, food stamps for half the island’s 3.7 million people, child support for its high levels of illegitimate births and an unemployment rate double the U.S. national average,” the Stop Puerto Rico Statehood group said in its report titled “Statehood for Sale.”

“In the mid to late 1990s, with Puerto Rico’s government controlled by the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), all this lobbying and fund-raising muscle was focused on pushing for the admission of Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the Union,” the report said.

However, in 1997, Senate Republicans killed a bill that asked Congress to authorize a binding plebiscite on Puerto Rican self-determination. When the referendum was held in Puerto Rico in December 1998, the option “none of the above” beat out supporters of statehood 50.3 percent to 46.5 percent.

“Statehood for Sale” said Senate Republicans showed their “aversion to the possibility of creating a Hispanic state of nearly 4 million residents who would most likely vote with the Democratic Party.”

The study notes that former PNP Gov. Pedro Rosello was a big backer of Al Gore in 2000 and that in the 2001-02 midterm election cycle, 52 percent of Puerto Ricans’ political contributions went to Democrats, compared with 30 percent to Republicans.

While D.C. government officials support statehood for their jurisdiction, they provided no money to lobbying firms between 1998 and 2002, the two reports said.

In January 2001, the pro-commonwealth Partido Democratico Popular came to power in Puerto Rico. Sila Maria Calderon is now governor.

“This administration does not work for statehood,” an official of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration said in an interview yesterday. Instead, it is focusing on issues such as economic development and health care, said the official, who declined to be identified.

But the CRP report noted criticism of Mrs. Calderon’s use of “commonwealth money to lobby” for better jobs in Puerto Rico.

“If you compare [the Calderon administration’s lobbying expenditures] to what the former governor spent on lobbying, we’re rookies,” James Healey of BKSH & Associates told CRP. BKSH, now one of Puerto Rico’s primary lobbying firms, was not among those funded between 1997 and 2000.

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