Marriott shared lobbyists with Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington

In January, Marriott stated “we don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and we do not intend in any way to encourage or incite any such people or groups.”[i] But a review of lobbying records shows that Marriott has twice hired lobbyists who were already representing Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the United States, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO).[ii]

TECRO hired Heather Podesta + Partners. Marriott did the same.

Heather Podesta + Partners (now called Invariant)[iii] registered to represent TECRO in May 2012[iv] and continued to do so until the relationship was terminated in December 2014.[v] As part of their representation, the firm held meetings with nine members of Congress,[vi] and also sent social invitations to several wives of members of Congress and cabinet members.[vii] Over the course of their representation, TECRO paid the firm $725,000.[viii] (Click here to see records of Heather Podesta + Partners lobbying on behalf of TECRO.)

Taiwan is the only foreign agent Heather Podesta + Partners or Invariant has ever registered to represent.[ix]

Marriott hired Heather Podesta + Partners in May 2014.[x] The firm (under its old and new names) has filed lobbying disclosures as a representative of Marriott every quarter since then.[xi] Marriott has paid Heather Podesta + Partners/Invariant $880,000 since the firm registered as Marriott’s lobbyist.[xii]

Marriott also hired Venable LLP when it was registered as a lobbyist for Taiwan

Marriott first hired Venable LLP as a lobbyist in February 2002.[xiii] Marriott retained Venable as a lobbyist until 2017.[xiv]

Venable registered as a lobbyist on behalf of TECRO in May 2001.[xv] Venable and TECRO signed agreements continuing the lobbying representation in January 2003,[xvi] July 2003,[xvii] and January 2004.[xviii] The US Department of Justice Foreign Agent Registration Act database does not include a notice of termination from Venable as an agent for Taiwan.[xix] Venable received over $250,000 for its work on behalf of TECRO.[xx]

A third-party vendor built the survey that was at the center of Marriott’s email gaffe in January; after the incident, Marriott terminated its contract with the vendor.[xxi] What due diligence does Marriott engage with in hiring contractors when it comes to issues that are politically sensitive to China?

 

[i] “Statement from Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.,” Marriott Media Center, 1/11/18. http://news.marriott.com/2018/01/statement-from-arne-sorenson-president-and-ceo-marriott-international-inc/.

[ii] The United States does not recognize Taiwan as a country, and Taiwan does not have a formal embassy in the United States. TECRO describes itself on its website: “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) is the Republic of China’s principal representative office in the United States. As such, TECRO in the United States is responsible for maintaining and developing bilateral relations between Taiwan and the United States.” “TECRO Profile and Mission,” Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, retrieved 6/5/18. https://www.taiwanembassy.org/us_en/post/18.html.

[iii] “Heather Podesta,” Invariant, retrieved 6/6/18. http://invariantgr.com/team/HeatherPodesta.html.

[iv] Registration Statement filed by Heather Podesta + Partners, FARA/US Dept. of Justice, 5/14/12. https://www.fara.gov/docs/6103-Registration-Statement-20120515-1.pdf.

[v] Supplemental Statement filed by Heather Podesta + Partners, FARA/US Dept. of Justice, 6/26/15. https://www.fara.gov/docs/6103-Supplemental-Statement-20150626-6.pdf.

[vi] The members were: Kent Conrad, Michael Bennet, Sheldon Whitehouse (Supplemental Statement, 12/29/12); Sherrod Brown (Supplemental Statement, 6/21/13); Angus King, Claire McCaskill, Al Franken, Mark Begich (Supplemental Statement, 12/20/13); and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Supplemental Statement, 6/30/14). All FARA filings are available on the FARA/US Dept. of Justice website, retrieved 6/6/18: https://efile.fara.gov/pls/apex/f?p=185:200:3828446201584::NO:RP,200:P200_REG_NUMBER:6103.

[vii] Supplemental Statement filed by Heather Podesta + Partners, FARA/US Dept. of Justice, 6/21/13. https://www.fara.gov/docs/6103-Amendment-20130621-1.pdf.

[viii] Payment information from FARA filings by Heather Podesta + Partners: $175,000 (Supplemental Statement, 12/29/12); $150,000 (Supplemental Statement, 6/21/13); $150,000 (Supplemental Statement, 12/20/13); $125,000 (Supplemental Statement, 6/30/14); $125,000 (Supplemental Statement, 12/19/14).

[ix] See Historical List of all Registrants (Active and Terminated), FARA/US Dept of Justice, retrieved 6/6/18. https://efile.fara.gov/pls/apex/f?p=185:110:0::NO:RP,110:P110_USECNTRY:N.

[x] LD-1 Disclosure form (Heather Podesta + Partners representing Marriott International), US House of Representatives Lobbying Disclosure, effective 5/1/14. http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/ldxmlrelease/2014/RR/300652275.xml.

[xi] See the US Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, retrieved 11/27/18. https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=selectFields&reset=1.

[xii] See the US Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, retrieved 11/27/18. https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=selectFields&reset=1.

[xiii] Lobbying registration, Venable LLP (Registrant) for Marriott International (Client), US House of Representatives Lobbying Disclosure, effective 2/4/02. http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/pdfform.aspx?id=9001455.

[xiv] Data from US Senate Lobby Disclosure database, retrieved 11/27/18. https://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=selectfields.

[xv] Exhibit AB to Registration Statement, Venable Attorneys at Law (Registrant) on behalf of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (Client), US Dept of Justice/Foreign Agent Registration Act, 5/25/01. https://www.fara.gov/docs/5435-Exhibit-AB-20010529-GUM8GT04.pdf/

[xvi] Exhibit AB to Registration Statement, Venable Attorneys at Law (Registrant) on behalf of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (Client), US Dept of Justice/Foreign Agent Registration Act, 8/8/03. https://www.fara.gov/docs/5435-Exhibit-AB-20030815-HNHDXV01.pdf

[xvii] Agreement between Venable LLP and TECRO, US Dept of Justice/Foreign Agent Registration Act, 7/1/03. https://www.fara.gov/docs/5435-Exhibit-AB-20041210-I8VU6P04.pdf.

[xviii] Agreement between Venable LLP and TECRO, US Dept of Justice/Foreign Agent Registration Act, 1/1/04. https://www.fara.gov/docs/5435-Exhibit-AB-20040218-HUODLF03.pdf.

[xix] In the FARA Historical List of all Foreign Principals, searching for Taiwan and Venable shows 2 entries: the first lists a foreign principal registration date of 5/29/01 and a foreign principal termination date of 4/30/02; the second a registration date of 8/15/03 and a termination date of 10/31/05. The contracts signed by Venable and TECRO in the database partially cover these periods.

[xx] Payment information from FARA reports to Congress: $45,000 for the six months ending 5/31/02 (FARA First Semi-Annual Report for 2002); $60,000 for the six months ending 12/30/03 (FARA Second Semi-Annual Report for 2003); $28,978 for the six months ending 5/31/04 (FARA First Semi-Annual Report for 2004); $10,000 for the six months ending 11/30/04 (FARA Second Semi-Annual Report for 2004); $72,000 for the six months ending 5/31/05 (FARA First Semi-Annual Report for 2005); $34,500 for the six months ending 11/30/05 (FARA Second Semi-Annual Report for 2005). All FARA reports to Congress hosted at the US Dept of Justice FARA website, retrieved 6/6/18. https://www.justice.gov/nsd-fara/fara-reports-congress.

[xxi] Xu Junqian, “Marriott announces ‘rectification plan’ to regain trust,” China Daily, 1/18/18. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201801/18/WS5a600374a310e4ebf433e9ac.html.