Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CAARI VP Ellen Herscher Response to Post on Clay Constantinou

Ellen Herscher has made the following response to my post entitled, "Clay Constantinou of Patton Boggs-- CAARI's Chief Lobbyist?" (see: http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/) on the Museum Security Listserve:

From: Ellen Herscher It is unfortunate that Mr. Tompa does not get his facts straight before spinning his conspiracy theories: Ambassador Constantinou very recently became affiliated with Patton Boggs and had no connection with them more than a year ago when the Cyprus MOU was under consideration by the State Department. For the record, CAARI is a 501(c)3 organization: it does not lobby nor does it employ lobbyists.

While I appreciate Ms. Herscher's clarification of one point in my post that I had indicated I could not confirm on the Patton Boggs website, her own post does raise some additional questions.

The first relates to her statement that Patton Boggs had "no connection" to Ambassador Constantinou. Typically, associations with large law firms do not happen overnight. It can literally take six months to a year for someone to join a large firm. Thus, even if Ambassador Constantinou had not yet joined Patton Boggs in July 2007, he may have been in the process of doing so. And let's face it. Having someone with Constantinou's Cypriot connections on board could not but help with "client relations" with Cyprus for not only Patton Boggs, but for CAARI as well. See: http://www.pattonboggs.com/cconstantinou/ (listing awards received from Cyprus).

Perhaps, Ms. Herscher can check with Ambassador Constantinou about his start date and provide us with further information whether he was in the process of negotiating with Patton Boggs at the time the Cyprus MOU was being finalized. But the far more relevant question that remains is whether Ambassador Constantinou or anyone else from Patton Boggs helped convince the State Department to overturn prior precedent and insert coins into the Cyprus MOU. That, of course, is not answered in Ms. Herscher's post.

Ms. Herscher's statement that "CAARI is a 501 (c) (3) organization: it does not lobby nor does it employ lobbyists" also only raises additional questions.

Most significantly, how does Ms. Herscher define the term "lobbying?" Does she only define it in a technical fashion as a contact that triggers a reporting requirement under a statute or more broadly, in the common sense of the term as "any attempt to influence legislators or officials?" See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying

However one defines the term, CAARI representatives do appear to have done more than just show up at the CPAC meeting on Cyprus. Indeed, the words of CAARI's own president suggest a far deeper involvement in the decision to extend import restrictions to "coins of Cypriot type" than Ms. Herscher implies. See Cyprus News Agency, “CAARI-30 Years Interview with Gustave Feissel” available online at: http://www.cna.org.cy/website/english/subject1.shtm#GF (“CAARI, according to Feissel, has been instrumental in the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding between Cyprus and the US to restrict the import of Cypriot antiquities into the US, including for the first time ancient coins.”). At a bare minimum, a CAARI newsletter indicates that Ms. Herscher herself facilitated a meeting between the Greek Cypriot Director of Antiquities and officials of the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center to discuss "cultural property issues." See: J. Green, "Cyprus Director of Antiquities, Dr. Pavolos Flourtzos, Visits the U.S.," 31 CAARI News 3 (Winter 2006) (available online at: http://www.caari.org/newsletters/CAARI-News-31.pdf) Facilitating such a meeting constitutes "lobbying" in my book, even if it is not in Ms. Herscher's.

1 comment:

Wayne G. Sayles said...

The fact that CAARI was not influencing "legislation" in this particular episode may technically skirt the strict IRS definition of "lobbying", which Dr. Herscher apparently is referring to. However, the mounting evidence in this, and other posts here, suggests the possibility of collusion between the U.S. State Department and special interest groups, including CAARI, in the pre-ordained addition of coins to the Cyprus MOU. That would clearly be an adulteration of the purpose and intent of CPIA and CPAC. Regardless of the legal implications, which are yet to be determined, it certainly does not speak well for the archaeological community that this sort of backroom political manipulation, has become "modus operandi".