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Charlotte Observer |’Yes’ vote on CAFTA is a winner for Hayes

March 12, 2006

The headline just proves who our members of congress respond to, and why we need to get the corporate shills out of office, and get officials that will REALLY represent their CONSTITUENTS!

‘Yes’ vote on CAFTA is a winner for Hayes
Last-minute switch on trade agreement brings rewards to GOP congressman
WASHINGTON – For the Bush administration and for much of corporate America, nothing was higher on last year’s “to-do” list than getting Congress to pass CAFTA — a controversial free trade agreement with six Central American countries.

That’s why, ever since then, they’ve been showering Rep. Robin Hayes with gratitude.

The Concord Republican, who saved the pact by changing his “no” vote to a last-minute “yes,” is getting high-profile, expensive help in his re-election bid:

• First lady Laura Bush, who rarely stumps for House members, came to Charlotte last month to help Hayes raise a reported $300,000. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman soon followed, meeting with Hayes and N.C. textile producers, who had been divided on CAFTA.

• Political action committees for 30 companies and business groups that led the fight for CAFTA donated almost $80,000 to Hayes’ campaign last year — most of it after the July vote.

• House GOP leaders have also pitched in, though their largess came in the month before the 217-215 House vote. That June, Hayes’ campaign got $35,000 from the leaders’ PACs — including $10,000 from House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

It was Hastert who approached Hayes the night of the House vote — at midnight, in the House Cloak Room — and told him they needed his vote.

Hayes says he changed his vote only after getting promises that the Bush administration would do more to help the embattled textile industry. And even some CAFTA opponents gave Hayes some credit last November when the White House negotiated a deal that limits Chinese imports of textiles and clothing.

“What we do is based on doing the right thing for the 8th District,” said Hayes, who also pointed to last-minute pro-CAFTA calls from a few textile companies. “(Campaign contributors) believe in our philosophy and in our view of government.”

Did the Hastert donation weigh on him?

Hayes said he doesn’t keep track of when such checks come in. And besides, he said, Hastert gives him the maximum amount each election cycle — “based on trust and respect, not money. This is a guy who attended a Kannapolis-Concord football game with me.”

One group that opposed CAFTA says Hayes is being rewarded for putting his allegiance to the GOP and outside businesses above those of his constituents — many of whom blame free-trade agreements for massive textile job losses.

“His flip-flop has lost him a lot of support in his district,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “So he’s trying to make up the difference with…this windfall corporate payoff.”

Four Democrats have lined up for the chance to take on Hayes. And they’re talking CAFTA.

Fayetteville lawyer Tim Dunn kicked off his campaign in front of a Richmond County yarn mill that’s closing. And Larry Kissell, an ex-textile worker from Montgomery County, has campaigned at some events with a pygmy goat that he calls “CAFTA.” Also running: John Autry and Mark Ortiz.

Washington political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said Hayes’ corporate allies know he cast a politically difficult vote. But Hayes’ rescue of CAFTA also means he has a pile of IOUs to call in.

“When you take one for the team, you expect the team to help out,” said Rothenberg, a veteran Congress watcher. “I’m sure some (business) people are more enthusiastic for Hayes because of that CAFTA vote.”

Ditto the White House.

“First ladies often don’t get involved in politics,” Rothenberg said. “For her to go to a fundraiser for a House member — it is out of the ordinary.”

Maybe so, but Hayes believes she would have accepted his invitation even if he had voted against CAFTA. In past election years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney came to Hayes’ district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans.

“Obviously we don’t agree with the executive branch…all the time,” Hayes said. “But our philosophy is very close to theirs. We cooperate when it’s in the best interest of our district.”

None of the Democrats who’ve filed for Hayes’ seat have raised anywhere near the money he has. But Hayes said he needs a robust campaign treasury to defend himself against attacks by national groups — Democrats, liberals and labor unions.

“We’re used to being a target,” he said. “We owe it to our constituents to be competitive…and get our message out.”

Hayes has gotten big financial help from companies that belong to the Business Coalition for U.S.-Central America Trade — the pro-CAFTA group that took the lead in lobbying Congress.

PACs from 30 members of this club — including Altria, Pfizer, Intel and Wal-Mart — gave Hayes’ campaign $79,750 from January 2005 to January 2006.

Most of the contributions — $44,750 — came in the months after the July 2005 vote. Of the remaining $35,000, nearly half — $16,000 — was donated in June 2005, when lobbying over CAFTA was nearing its peak.

“It’s a pattern (in Washington),” Wallach said. “The corporate PACs lavish money on members before important votes to seduce them into voting the corporate position. Then if they do, they get rewarded afterwards.”

The business community is interested in a host of issues before Congress. But topping its 2005 agenda was CAFTA.

“It was the most important trade vote we’ve had in this Congress,” said Bill Miller, national political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rothenberg said Hayes could be in trouble only if 2006 turns out to be a bad year for the GOP.

“If there is a Democratic wave in November,” Rothenberg said, “he could easily get drowned.”

But, for now, Rothenberg said Hayes is the clear favorite.

And Hayes’ decision to invite the first lady — rather than the president — to Charlotte was politically smart, he said.

“She’s the Bush with the good poll numbers.”

Corporate Thanks

Political action committees for companies and business groups that promoted CAFTA as members of the Business Coalition for U.S.-Central America Trade contributed a total of $79,750 to Rep. Robin Hayes’ campaign from January 2005 to January 2006. Here’s a list of the donations, according to Political MoneyLine, a nonpartisan online service that tracks Congressional contributions:• Altria Group Inc. — $6,000.

• American Apparel & Footwear Assn. — $1,000.

• American Bankers Association — $4,500.

• American Meat Institute — $1,000.

• Associated Builders & Contractors — $10,000.

• Bank of America — $3,000.

• BellSouth — $2,000.

• Boeing Co. — $2,500.

• Caterpillar Inc. — $3,000.

• Citigroup — $3,000.

• Coca-Cola Co. — $2,000.

• Exxon Mobil Corp. — $5,000.

• Federal Express — $2,000.

• Food Marketing Institute — $2,250.

• General Electric Co. — $1,000.

• Grocery Manufacturers of America — $1,000.

• H.J. Heinz Co. — $1,000.

• Intel Corp. — $1,000.

• Microsoft Corp. — $1,000.

• National Chicken Council — $2,000.

• National Cotton Council — $1,500.

• National Milk Producers Federation — $1,000.

• National Pork Producers Council — $2,500.

• Nortel — $2,000.

• Oracle Corp. — $1,000.

• PepsiCo, Inc. — $1,000.

• Pfizer Inc. — $10,000.

• U.S. Chamber of Commerce — $1,000.

• United Parcel Service (UPS) — $500.

• Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — $5,000.

What is CAFTA?

The Central America Free Trade Agreement is designed to further open markets in six Latin American countries — population 44 million — to U.S. products by eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers.

The pact, a high priority for the Bush administration, will be implemented in waves this year, as countries change their laws to accommodate it. First up: El Salvador, where it went into effect March 1. Costa Rica still hasn’t ratified it. The other signatories: the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

CAFTA has been controversial in the United States, partly because many blame the similar-sounding NAFTA — a U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada — for the loss of many textile and other manufacturing jobs.

The textile industry in the Carolinas was divided on CAFTA. Some thought it would only encourage textile and apparel firms to outsource their operations to Central America, where labor and other costs are much cheaper. Others said CAFTA would help fight the surge of Chinese textile imports by boosting Central American textile makers that use American-made yarn and fabric.

The Senate approved CAFTA, 54-45. It passed the House 217-215, after Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., agreed to change his “no” vote to a “yes.”
Tim Funk

Charlotte Observer | 03/12/2006 | ‘Yes’ vote on CAFTA is a winner for Hayes


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