Former Sen. Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who ran for President in 1996, is known for his dry wit and television commercials after 45 years of public service.
What he is not known for is his work as a powerful lobbyist in the nation’s capital for Indonesia.
Espousing the Pacific nation’s value to the United States as an ally in the war on terror, Dole is also trying to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for the Indonesians—at the expense of an American company.
The Indonesian government paid the Alston & Bird law firm nearly $850,000 to have Dole and nine other lobbyists wine and dine Washington officials during a five-month period in the past year. Another political insider, Jonathan Winer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for International Law Enforcement and chief counsel to Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats’ presidential candidate, is part of Dole’s team.
One of the top tasks for Dole and company is protecting the interests of Indonesia’s state oil company Pertamina in a huge, multi-million dollar legal case brought against it by Karaha Bodas Co., a Cayman Islands-based joint venture between U.S. companies Caithness Energy and Florida Power and Light Co.
In 1998, Karaha Bodas had a contract with Pertamina to build a geothermal plant in Indonesia, which was voided by the since-ousted Suharto dictatorship. The Geneva Arbitration Court found Pertamina liable for breach of contract, and KBC subsequently took Pertamina to court across the globe—in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, even Singapore—to freeze the company’s assets and collect up to $299 million in damages and interest. Pertamina has said it wants to settle the case, but Karaha Bodas has held firm and pushed ahead with its litigation.
“Pertamina owes KBC a lawful debt and they should pay it as soon as possible,” said Chris Dugan, lead counsel for Karaha Bodas in the case.
“Pertamina believes that the arbitration award is fundamentally flawed and is the result of inherently improper procedures,” said Matthew Slater, Pertamina’s lead counsel. “Pertamina has acted within its rights to raise these defenses in court.”
In a December 18, 2003 letter from an Indonesian minister, Dole was personally asked to advocate for Pertamina.
Dole, who has lobbied for foreign clients in the past, including Oleg Deripaska, Russia’s youngest billionaire, soon accepted Indonesia’s offer to lobby for Pertamina. But he was not alone; Indonesia has hired two other firms that have lobbied Congress and the executive branch on its behalf over the past year.
Pertamina’s legal troubles were clearly of high concern to Dole and his compatriots, according to Alston & Bird’s foreign agent disclosure filings with the U.S. Department of Justice. The firm’s lobbyists called and met with State Department officials 12 times, including the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Ralph “Skip” Boyce, to discuss the lawsuit.
Both Dole and Winer declined to comment on their work for the Indonesian government when contacted by the Center for Public Integrity.
“The State Department has not intervened on Pertamina’s behalf and they should not intervene on Pertamina’s behalf,” said Dugan, the Karaha Bodas lead counsel.
Slater, the Pertamina lead counsel, felt the case could affect America’s image abroad. “I think the litigation has implications for important United States interests that could be addressed to the court.”
But Pertamina’s legal battles were not the only advocacy tasks assigned to Dole and his team by their Indonesian employers. Alston & Bird lobbyists have also been promoting Indonesia’s status as the biggest Muslim democracy and as an ally in the Bush administration’s war on terror.
Indonesia’s representatives called or met with the National Security Council, including Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, more than a dozen times. Lobbyists from Alston & Bird also met with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and called Cofer Black, the State Department’s counter-terrorism expert.
Indonesia is an active member in the war on terror. The Australian embassy in Jakarta was bombed earlier this month, killing at least nine people. Indonesian authorities suspect Jemaah Islamiah, an Al Qaeda-linked Islamic militant group also believed responsible for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.
Dole’s lobbying team discussed “anti-terrorism assistance programs,” “terrorist issues,” and “Indonesia foreign assistance.” They also lobbied for reinstating military aid to Indonesia, crossing the aisle to speak with Kerry’s Senate staff to better understand the Democratic Party’s stance.
Funds to the Indonesian army were cut off years ago due to their human rights abuses during the East Timor crisis in the late 1990s. Human rights issues continue to be points of “friction” between Indonesia and the United States, according to the State Department.
Dole’s team has also been stumping for Indonesia on Capitol Hill. Alston & Bird representatives contacted the United States-Indonesia Society, or USINDO, a non-profit group that organizes trips to the multi-island nation for political delegations. By January 2004, Dole’s team had met with several congressional staffers who were traveling to Indonesia.
This past January, USINDO sponsored an all-expense-paid junket for five top Capitol Hill staffers, including stops in Jakarta and Bali. According to USINDO, the group spent a week learning about counter-terrorism, human rights, and the upcoming presidential elections, which were held in July, with a runoff earlier this week.
Such trips are nothing new for USINDO. Since its founding in 1994, the group has spent more than $1 million to send congressional staff and American students to Indonesia.
Soon after the January trip, newfound support for Indonesia suddenly sprouted on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Dan Burton, a powerful Republican from Indiana, announced in February that he was creating an Indonesia Caucus, which he said would bring together members interested in helping the country. Mark Walker, Burton’s chief of staff, was part of the January junket sponsored by USINDO.
“What is going to end this threat of global terror is changing the hearts and minds of people,” said Nick Mutton, Burton’s press secretary. “Indonesia is one of those countries trying to do that.”
A USINDO vice president, Dan Getz, organized the January trip for the congressional staff. Getz left USINDO and joined Burton’s staff on the human rights subcommittee in April of this year and traveled to Indonesia for the Indiana representative this past July to observe elections along with the Carter Center.
Dole’s team also contacted the staff of Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash. Both have joined the Indonesia Caucus, with Wexler co-chairing the group with Burton.
“Certainly, having a staff member or a chief of staff travel to Indonesia will provide the congressman with first-hand information,” said Jonathan Katz, Rep. Wexler’s legislative director. “But Wexler has had an interest in Indonesia for a while.”