Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No Surprise Arizona Senator Jeff Flake Agrees With Obama About Cuba Sanctions

Washington • A bipartisan group of senators, including Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, moved to expand on the president’s overtures toward Cuba, introducing a bill this week to lift the ban on American travel to the communist country.
Flake says his record as one of a few congressmen who have repeatedly voted against sanctions for Iran is irrelevant. He says he long has opposed all such unilateral penalties, whether against Iran, Sudan, Cuba, Myanmar or any country.That opposition, he said, dates back to his time in Namibia, where he saw the damage that sanctions can have on innocent people.
Well before Flake was a leader in the campaign to eliminate the pet projects and grants that lawmakers add to spending bills, he was a registered foreign agent who represented Namibia and a uranium mine in the southern African nation that gained independence in 1990. Flake has since received $100,000 in contributions from mining interests and voted a number of times against penalties on Iran.
In Washington's revolving-door climate, it's not unusual for lawmakers and lobbyists to switch back and forth.
Flake says his lobbying past has never been a secret and that it was tied to his "love affair" with southern Africa, where as a young Mormon he did missionary work. He says his focus was on helping the transitional government of Namibia emerge as a democracy and develop its economy.
According to Flake and federal records, the future congressman came to Washington as a public affairs executive with the firm of Shipley, Smoak & Henry, where he first represented Namibia.
He soon moved to Namibia as executive director of the Foundation for Democracy, a group established to draft Namibia's constitution. Flake's campaign says he worked for the foundation from April 1989 to 1990.
In 1992, Flake returned to Arizona, where he headed the Goldwater Institute, a think tank, until he was elected in 2000.
But after leaving Shipley, Smoak & Henry, Flake also owned and operated Interface Public Affairs from 1990 to 1991. Flake acknowledges that he was registered foreign agent and was paid $7,000 a month for representing Rossing Uranium Limited, which was majority-owned by Rio Tinto Zinc.
He said in his 1990 foreign agent registration with the Justice Department that his job was to "introduce the corporation and its citizenship activities within Namibia to the U.S." ... and to "attempt to promote the image ... and good relations between the United States and Namibia."
Flake said his focus was on helping lift apartheid-era penalties against the country and the mine. He said he did not know until last October that Iran owned a 15 percent stake in the Rossing Uranium, an interest that he said pre-dates the Iranian revolution that deposed the shah, an ally of the West.
"I don't know how a congressman who claims to be transparent doesn't disclose this beforehand," said real estate investor Wil Cardon, Flake's opponent in the GOP primary Aug. 28. "It makes me question every vote he has taken when it comes to Iran."
Cardon added: "It's also confusing to me that Flake has taken tens of thousands of dollars from the mining industry. From a guy who was a lobbyist before going to Washington, and claiming to fight special interests, it's interesting how beholden to special interests he has become."
Since joining Congress, Flake has received at least $97,000 from mining interests, including Rio Tinto, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracked donations through the 2010 election cycle.

He has backed legislation favorable to mining interests in Arizona. Last year Flake proposed ending a ban on uranium mining claims around the Grand Canyon. In 2009 he introduced a land swap bill that would enable Resolution Copper, an arm of Rio Tinto, to develop a mine in eastern Arizona.