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During Covid Shutdown Morrisey’s Firm Lobbied for Communist China

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from left, David Jones, De’Ana Dow, John Raffaelli, Jim McCrery, Denise Henry Morrisey and John O’Neill

On July 11, 2020, US Attorney General William Barr warned in a speech at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum that Americans who do business in China should be wary of efforts to “cultivate and coerce” them into promoting the Chinese Communist Party’s Objectives – potentially in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  The Justice Department had seen more and more Chinese “officials and their proxies reaching out to corporate leaders to favor policies and actions favored by the Chinese Communist Party.

Documents obtained from the Department of Justice have shed light on the lobbying activities of Capitol Counsel, a powerful firm linked to West Virginia Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Patrick Morrisey. However, it is not Morrisey himself but his wife, Denise, who serves as a Managing Member at Capitol Counsel. The firm has been one of the key facilitators of the relationships between government officials and the Chinese.

Reviewing these documents exposes a troubling connection between the firm and the China-United Exchange Foundation during the Covid-19 pandemic.  And more recent filings indicate the firm’s involvement in lobbying for US-designated Communist Chinese military companies like mobile phone software manufacturer Xiaomi and semiconductor giant Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

The China-United Exchange Foundation, known for its efforts to gain influence in Washington, has a long history of collaborating with prominent lobbyists to access Beltway power centers. John Dotson, a China-watcher at the Global Taiwan Institute, has been meticulously tracking the foundation’s lobbying endeavors. Dotson notes that the Exchange Foundation has engaged in a “continued pattern” of seeking influence, and its previous partnerships with Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and the Center for American Progress have raised eyebrows.

Founded by Denise Morrisey and Democratic lobbyist John Raffaelli, Capitol Counsel has been representing the Exchange Foundation since 2014. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the firm reported facilitating “coalition building” with the Association of Former Members of Congress on behalf of the Exchange Foundation. Capitol Counsel lobbyist Martin Gold has been actively involved in organizing policy discussions at the association, focusing on contentious topics like Hong Kong’s national security law, U.S.-Chinese economic relations after Covid-19, and the summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It’s worth noting that Capitol Counsel’s links to the Association of Former Members of Congress run deep, with former congressman Charles Boustany serving as both a partner at the firm and the association’s president. Boustany has taken the lead in organizing several China-related policy discussions for the association, often co-sponsored by the Exchange Foundation.

Surprisingly, at these events, the financial ties between Capitol Counsel, the Exchange Foundation, and the Association of Former Members of Congress are not openly disclosed. Capitol Counsel acknowledges arranging policy discussions for the Exchange Foundation in its filings with the Justice Department but conveniently omits any mention of the association’s involvement. Furthermore, the Exchange Foundation’s affiliation with the Chinese government is also left unmentioned during panel discussions at the association.

One particularly concerning instance occurred during a panel discussion on Hong Kong’s national security law in July 2020. Capitol Counsel lobbyist Martin Gold interviewed participants, including Allan Zeman, a Hong Kong-based businessman who propagated unfounded claims from Chinese officials about “foreign forces” behind protests against the law. Notably, Gold did not disclose that Zeman also serves as a counselor for the Exchange Foundation.

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The financial arrangement between the Exchange Foundation and Capitol Counsel is equally disconcerting, with the firm receiving at least $180,000 annually for its consulting services. Additionally, the Exchange Foundation sponsors the Association of Former Members of Congress’s annual gala, although the exact amount involved remains undisclosed.

In a related matter, recent reports have emerged regarding Capitol Counsel’s representation of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), a Chinese semiconductor manufacturer. SMIC enlisted the firm’s services to advocate against potential blacklisting by the U.S. Commerce Department due to alleged ties with the Chinese military. This move showcases how Chinese tech companies are proactively seeking to protect their interests in Washington amid increasing scrutiny from U.S. authorities.

The discovery of Morrisey’s Capitol Counsel connections to Chinese interests during critical periods, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and US blacklisting concerns, raises serious questions about the potential influence foreign entities may have on trade, policy and government affairs. As the 2022 elections approach, this revelation adds another layer of complexity to the political landscape, especially for a candidate like Patrick Morrisey, whose wife holds a prominent position in the lobbying group. Cleary few people could possibly influence West Virginia’s governor more than a first lady.  It remains to be seen how these developments will impact his gubernatorial bid and the broader public perception of the intertwining relationships between lobbying firms and special interests.

Related Sources:

Capitol Counsel letter to China – United States Exchange Foundation

Capitol Counsel Statement for Foreign Agents Registration Act

Senate Lobbying Registration for SMIC

The Hill: Gold Leaving Covington for Capitol Counsel

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Washington Free Beacon

University of Southern California – Chinese Government Lobbying in US Politics

ForeignLobby.com – April 13, 2021

Charleston Gazette-Mail: May 7, 2021

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  • Staff Writer

    From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting “Staff Writer” indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.

From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting "Staff Writer" indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.

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