Former Governors Ricardo Rosselló and Wanda Vázquez
Former Governors Ricardo Rosselló and Wanda Vázquez (Archivo)

Washington-The past New Progressive Party (PNP) administration had contracts for nearly $29 million annually with companies that, as part of their tasks, lobbied before the U.S. government in the federal capital, some of them still have contracts with the Pedro Pierluisi administration.

The most important contracts of the past term were with King & Spalding ($13.16 million), and DLA Piper (about $11.6 million), according to the Comptroller’s Office data.

The firm King & Spalding - which had a $7.5 million contract in fiscal year 2019-2020 - has been the leading advisory firm for the Electric Power Authority (PREPA), including legal tasks related to the process seeking to rebuild the power grid.

Besides, since 2018, King & Spalding reported revenues and expenses totaling $1.3 million for its lobbying efforts before the federal government on behalf of PREPA.

In the first quarter of 2021, King & Spalding reported lobbying revenues and expenses of up to $50,000 for efforts in Congress, the White House, the Treasury Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Energy Department, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

DLA Piper, meanwhile, informed Congress that, since 2017, their lobbying efforts on behalf of the Puerto Rican government reach $2.27 million. In the first three months of 2021, that firm reported lobbying on tax issues to “incentivize investment” in Puerto Rico, to include the island in legislation seeking to stimulate the economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and access to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

According to Pierluisi, DLA Piper, Squire Patton Boggs, and Cornerstone Government Affairs are the firms tasked, among other things, to lobby this semester in favor of Democrat Darren Soto’s Bill 1522, which proposes a “statehood yes-or-no federal referendum tied to a process for Puerto Rico’s admission as a U.S. state.

The six statehood lobbyists elected last May 16 would join the efforts by these companies. Governor Pierluisi has asked for a $1.25 million budget under the Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) for these statehood delegates.

DLA Piper, Squire Patton Boggs, and Cornerstone are tasked with lobbying for Medicaid, incentives for manufacturing investment, the federal credit that supports Act 154-2010 (tax on foreign corporations), and the inclusion of Puerto Rico in the Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Pierluisi said.

According to the Comptroller’s Office, DLA Piper has agreements in place -which began in July 2020 and expire at the end of June 2021- with the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) ($500,000) and the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority ($137,000). But before that -through its offices in the United States and Puerto Rico- it has advised the Fiscal Agency & Financial Advisory Authority (FAFAA), the Treasury Department, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Telecommunications Bureau, among other agencies of the Puerto Rican government.

Squire, Patton & Boggs had contracts totaling $795,000 during the past term. According to the Comptroller’s Office, it has agreements in effect until June 30, for $245,000 and $130,000, with the P3A and the Treasury Department, respectively.

Cornerstone - which the last term had contracts of up to $1.01 million - worked with FAFAA and the P3A until December, through contracts of up to $90,000.

According to Pierluisi, Cornerstone continues with a contract with the Puerto Rican government, however, the Comptroller’s Office website does not show an agreement for this semester.

Under Wanda Vázquez Garced’s administration, Cornerstone was tasked with trying to improve the Puerto Rican government’s image in Washington D.C., following the scandals of the Ricardo Rosselló Nevares administration. But the company also went so far as to file reports on efforts during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, when it had no government contracts, according to the Comptroller’s Office data.

Cornerstone even reported lobbying against language pushed by former Puerto Rican Democratic Congressman José Serrano for the Treasury Department, as it did in 2020, to disclose the impact of federal tax benefits received by foreign corporations on the island, and Puerto Rican laws 20-2012 and 22-2012.

In 2019, Cornerstone submitted a proposal to Vázquez Garced’s office and the P3A director that included efforts regarding Medicaid issues for Puerto Rico, which was criticized by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González at the time.

“An unnecessary contract and a waste of $30,000 monthly. What for? I never saw them working on Medicaid or anything else they mention (in their proposal)... I am very sorry for the loss of resources,” said Commissioner González, in a tweet, when El Nuevo Día originally published details of the Cornerstone contract.

Cornerstone reported having lobbied, from 2014 to 2020, in favor of the company CITGO, a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which also had VantageKnight as its representative in Washington D.C. Manuel Ortiz, who was the main lobbyist for the Rosselló Nevares administration, is the president of VantageKnight.

Although with influence over PRFAA at the time, VantageKnight had contracts totaling $1.63 million with the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (Pridco).

Commissioner González’s differences with Ortiz, a friend of the Rosselló family, are no secret.

CGCN Group also had contracts with PRFAA, between March 2017 and December 2018, for a total of $995,000.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, meanwhile, had contracts through December 2020 for $536,250, with PREPA for $287,500 and with FAFAA for $248,750, under the Vázquez Garced administration.

Christie recently announced, once the Donald Trump administration ended, and perhaps thinking of a new presidential pre-candidacy, that he had terminated his lobbying contracts.

Among the lobbyists registered in Congress, the government of Puerto Rico, through FAFAA, had another $220,000 contract with Elmendorf Strategies. And there were other agreements between the OGP and Capital Counsel ($56,000) and the PRFAA with Miller & Chevalier, between March and June 2017, for $30,000.

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