Federal Lobbying:

China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) Lobbying Activities and Costs

GGD-00-199R: Published: Sep 29, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 2000.

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Michael Brostek
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the efforts of the White House China Trade Relations Working Group, focusing on: (1) whether such efforts violated the antilobbying provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1913 or any applicable appropriations statutes; and (2) how much the administration has spent on its efforts to garner support for China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR).

GAO noted that: (1) after reviewing the documents that the White House and agencies represented on the Working Group provided to GAO through August 31, 2000, GAO has not found any further violations of the antilobbying restrictions, aside from the one violation GAO already reported; (2) the administration spent at least an estimated $1.6 million on its China PNTR efforts through about May 24, 2000, when the House of Representatives voted on China PNTR; (3) GAO computed this amount on the basis of estimates that the White House and agencies associated with the Working Group provided to GAO; (4) these estimates included the cost of personnel working full-time or part-time on China PNTR, trips associated with the PNTR effort, developing the Working Group's Internet Web site, and printing charts, booklets, and other documents; (5) of the $1.6 million, an estimated $1.3 million was for personnel costs; (6) a number of different federal organizations provided personnel for the China PNTR effort; (7) the time period covered by the White House and two agencies' personnel costs included the period from the Working Group's establishment on February 1, 2000, through May 24, 2000, when the House voted on H.R. 4444; (8) for three agencies, the time period was slightly different, all three began January 1 and individually ended on April 7, May 3, and May 31; (9) the White House and 4 agencies reported 21 trips within the United States and to China at an estimated cost of about $299,000; (10) the travel cost estimate does not include the cost of military airfare for a trip to China sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, which was paid for by the Department of State; (11) one agency, the State Department, has not provided travel data; (12) a limitation to the travel cost data is that the trips were not always exclusively devoted to China PNTR; (13) according to agency officials, a large number of trips were related to the specific agency's mission and were planned prior to the emphasis on China PNTR; (14) other costs related to the China PNTR effort, such as printing and the "China Trade Relations Working Group" Web site, totalled about $61,000; (15) all of the reported costs were borne by the Department of Commerce; (16) the bulk of the costs, about $58,000 was for the printing of such items as booklets, briefing books, and state reports; and (17) the design and development of the Web site cost $3,000.

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