Carlos Mercader (horizontal-x3)
Carlos Mercader (archivo / GFR Media)

WASHINGTON – The contracts with lobbyists and consultants of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) for this semester already exceed US$335,000.

That total does not include the contract with lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, headed by the former Donald Trump campaign director, Corey Lewandowski.

The contract with Lewandowski’s firm has still not been published on the web page of the Office of the Comptroller and PRFAA has opted for having the details to their agreements with consultants known only through that government office.

Up to now, the costliest of the agreements made public is that with lobbying firm Cornerstone Government Affairs, worth US$43,750 per month, for a total of US $175,000 between March and June.

Cornerstone Government Affairs is a “boutique” lobbying firm which prides itself in working on government matters and having bipartisan reach.

On the other hand, the contract with CGCN will cost a maximum of US$125,000 during four months, or US$31,250 per month.

As is the case with Avenue Strategies, CGCN is a republican firm engaged in government matters and strategic communications. “We have close links with members of Congress, high-level committees, and advisers to the leadership, and a broad spectrum of opinion-makers,” notes CGCN on its web page.

Carlos Mercader, executive director of PRFAA, held that the contract with Avenue Strategies should already be (posted) on the web page of the Office of the Comptroller as well, for both were presented at the same time. But, as late as yesterday, it was not among the document of the Office of the Comptroller.

Another agreement

A fourth yet unknown consulting contract, also agreed to in early March, is with Alfonso Aguilar, who until December 2015 was Mercader’s superior at “Alianza Latina Conservadora” (Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles) and headed the PRFAA during the administration of Pedro Rosselló.

Aguilar –who was also director of the Office of Citizenry under the government of George W. Bush and has been a political commentator in the US media -, will receive a maximum of US$35,000 from March to June.

Mercader said that Aguilar “provides strategic consulting in the area of communications in mass media and the development of relations with members of Congress and the Executive, in the conservative sector.” In this sense, Mercader said that Aguilar watches so that there is  “consistency” and “coordination” in the PRFAA message.

During the first semester of the government of Alejandro García Padilla, the PRFAA signed contracts with two lobbying companies totaling US$414,000; one for US$250,000 with Prime Policy Group (from mid February to June 2013) and another worth US$164,000 (from March to June 2013).

By fiscal year 2015-2016, already including the contract with The Roth Group, the contracts of PRFAA with lobbyists neared US$1.3 million.

As opposed to the beginning of the government of Ricardo Rosselló, during the administration of García Padilla, the practice of the PRFAA  –while having only a limited number of the advisers and consultants to the government of Puerto Rico-, was to make contracts with lobbyists public as soon as they were signed.

Emphasis on the fiscal matter

Just like in the García Padilla administration, the most expensive contracts with consultants in the US are those connected with the fiscal crisis.

Under the Rosselló administration, those contracts are executed by the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advising Authority (AAFAF), the government arm that deals with the restructuring of the public debt.

FAFAA has already retained Rothschild & Co. (US$6.4 million this semester), Dentons (US$6 million), Dykema Gosset (US$1 million), y Bank of America-Merril Lynch as consultants.

Its has also considered signing a contract with O’Melveny & Myers, at a time when only 20 days remain to reach a voluntary debt restructuring agreement, for the moratorium on litigations against the government of Puerto Rico expire on May 1.

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