Aznar in 2m dollar Congress medal cash scandal
22 July 2004, MADRID – Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar used USD 2 million of public money to improve his image in the United Status in order to secure the gold medal of the US Congress, it was claimed Thursday.
22 July 2004
MADRID – Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar used USD 2 million of public money to improve his image in the United Status in order to secure the gold medal of the US Congress, it was claimed Thursday.
Aznar is alleged to have signed a contract with a well-known US lobby firm based in Washington to promote his image.
The contract, signed in secret three months before the 14 March general elections in Spain, was paid for with funds from Spain's Foreign Ministry, according to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.
The contract, which has been seen by Cadena Ser, was signed with the Piper Rudnick law firm, for USD 700,000 for the first seven months work, with additional monthly payments of USD 100,000.
The total which was to be paid was USD 2 million.
The contract, which had confidentiality clauses, did not have a clause which took into account the possibility that Aznar's conservative Popular Party (PP) could lose the general election.
The Socialists won a shock victory after Aznar's government was thought to have tried to manipulate public opinion by claiming ETA carried out the 11 March bombings in Madrid.
It became clear al-Qaeda carried out the bombings in which 191 people lost their lives.
The PP was believed to have tried to stop an electoral backlash because of its backing for the US Iraq invasion.
Cadena Ser said it has seen bills for the payment of USD 700,000 through the Spanish embassy in Washington.
The former Spanish ambassador to the United States, Javier Rupérez, acted as a representative of the Spanish government over the contract.
The contract stipulates the law firm was acting to "assist the Spanish government with publicity and communication strategy".
It also stresses the lobby firm was expected to "support relations with the White House" at a time when Aznar claimed he had a special relationship with President George W Bush.
The radio station said it had a breakdown of the activities the firm was carrying out on behalf of Aznar and bill for the lawyers' work.
During January, the law firm said it had developed contacts with members of Congress and Senators in advance of Aznar's visit to Washington. It had asked them to sign a motion proposing the award of the gold medal of Congress to Aznar.
Weeks before Aznar gave a speech to the US Congress in February, the law firm printed a letter detailing the achievements of Aznar during his eight years as prime minister.
This was sent to members of Congress asking for "assistance" in the campaign in favour of Aznar.
The law firm made a detailed bill of the time spent working for the Spanish government writing a brief letter.
One lawyer, named as J.Boggs, charged USD 805 for a quick meeting with the Spanish ambassador to discuss the letter.
Another lawyer, called D.Marshall, charged USD 1,110 for checking the draft of the letter.
A day later, another lawyer named as J Pickup, charged USD 1,087 to check the draft of a list of Aznar's "achievements".
On 23 January, another lawyer, I. Sanchez, charged USD 672 for a revision of the letter, which took just an hour of his time.
Cadena Ser claimed that there were so few members of Congress and Senators in attendance when Aznar spoke to the Congress that supporters had to get tourists and Congress employees to fill the empty seats.
Congressman Jim Gibbons later made a speech to the Congress in order to drum up support for the proposal.
Three months after the lobby firm started work, they had eventually secured 290 signatures of support for proposal that Aznar should be awarded the medal.
The proposal is currently going through the administrative phase and has not been passed.
Ramón Gil Casares, former PP Foreign secretary of State, confirmed the contract had been signed to improve the image of Spain in the United Status including trade matters.
But he refused to comment when he was asked if the contract was simply to improve the personal image of Aznar and secure him the gold medal of Congress.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news