Washington Told to Justify Port Deal in Court
The judge set a hearing for Wednesday and said in the order he would issue a preliminary injunction blocking the deal, pending a full investigation, unless he was satisfied with Washington's answers.
The judge asked in the order that federal officials explain why New Jersey officials were not given the same documents and information that Washington used to approve the deal, under which state-owned Dubai Ports World would take over management from the British company P&O.
On Thursday, the State of New Jersey sued the federal government to block the deal on the grounds it violated the 10th Amendment, which says states control anything not explicitly mentioned in the US Constitution.
Earlier, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine urged the governors of states with ports affected by the deal - Louisiana, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania - to join the lawsuit.
Democrat Corzine issued the invitation in letters to each governor, saying the lawsuit "will seek to enjoin this sale of vital assets to a foreign nation without our states having had the opportunity to determine the extent of the threat to the safety of our citizens."
The latest developments came as a second lawsuit was filed in New Jersey over the controversial deal.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey filed a lawsuit on Friday to stop the change of management of its container terminal at Port Newark in New Jersey.
The authority, jointly owned by the states of New York and New Jersey, said the deal violates the terms of P&O's lease.
The transaction is part of a $6.85 billion deal under which the United Arab Emirates company Dubai Ports World DPW would manage terminals at six major US ports.
The plan has sparked protests from federal and local lawmakers and officials who fear the ports' security will be hurt if they are managed by a company whose owner has been accused of having links with terrorist groups.
The Port Authority said it has a right to review changes in port management under the existing lease agreement. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court in Newark, urged the court to declare that the purchase of P&O requires consent of the Port Authority under the lease, that the container terminal is in breach of its lease, and that the lease is terminated.
The suit names P&O Ports North America, and Port Newark Container Terminal LLC as defendants.
US lawmakers opposed to the takeover have cited links between UAE and al Qaeda but President George W. Bush has defended the deal, calling the UAE an ally in his war on terrorism.
"The Port Authority has been deprived of its right to conduct a thorough review of the purchase ... of the identity, qualifications, experience and reputation of the purchasers ... and of the proposed impact that the change may have on the control and ownership," the lawsuit said.
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Role of Senator Dole's Husband at Issue
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
The Washington Post
Friday 24 February 2006
The lobbying of former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole on behalf of the Dubai-owned company set to take over management of terminals at six major US seaports is creating a political problem for his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).
The chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Jerry Meek, yesterday called on Sen. Dole to remove herself from "any congressional oversight" of the Dubai port deal. "The fact that Dubai is paying her husband to help pass the deal presents both a financial and ethical conflict of interest for Senator Dole," Meek said.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Dole rejected the criticism as "a partisan attack" and defended the senator's role as a lawmaker and her husband's as a lobbyist.
"Elizabeth Dole knows that her work is separate from Bob Dole," said her spokeswoman, Lindsay Taylor Mabry. "Bob Dole works for a law firm. Elizabeth Dole works for the people of North Carolina."
Former senator Dole (R-Kan.), 82, said in a written statement yesterday that he is not going to lobby his wife or members of Congress. His law firm, Alston & Bird LLP, helped steer the application of Dubai Ports World through the federal bureaucracy over the past few months, and Dole signed on as a lobbyist for the company this week. His spokesman would not say what lobbying, if any, Alston & Bird is now doing in Congress; the firm's spokeswoman did not return telephone messages.
Dubai Ports World beefed up its lobbying efforts, including on Capitol Hill, after lawmakers threatened this week to scuttle the transaction. The lawmakers said they feared that national security might be compromised by letting a Middle Eastern firm manage key US ports.
Dole's statement said he will confine his lobbying to the Bush administration. "I have not nor will I 'lobby' Members of Congress on this issue, not even at home," he wrote. "I have not discussed the port issue with any Senator or member of Congress or anyone working for the Congress, nor will I do so in the months to come."
The controversy confronting the Doles is an increasingly common one in Washington. According to Public Citizen's Congress Watch, at least three dozen members of Congress have relatives who are professional lobbyists.
Congress Watch and other watchdog groups have loudly criticized the growing trend. "What better way to buy access to a lawmaker than to hire the lawmaker's son, daughter or spouse as their lobbyist on a lucrative retainer?" said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Congress Watch.
Some of Congress's most prominent members have relatives on K Street. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has a son, Josh Hastert, who works as a lobbyist for PodestaMattoon. The son of former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Chester Trent Lott Jr., lobbies for the Livingston Group. A son-in-law of Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is a lobbyist, as are the wives of both Democratic senators from North Dakota - one for professional baseball, the other for insurance companies.
In addition, sons of two senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), are lobbyists. The father of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), former senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), lobbies, as does the wife of House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Blunt's connection to Altria Group Inc., the tobacco and consumer products company that his wife works for, was an issue in his unsuccessful bid to become majority leader.
Lawmakers defend their connections with lobbyists as just another byproduct of the modern world in which spouses are often professionals, as are their children.
Lawmakers also state that their lobbyist relatives do not lobby them personally.
Blunt's wife does not lobby the House of Representatives, a Blunt spokeswoman said. Hastert's son refrains from lobbying the House Republican leadership. Amid news media scrutiny a few years ago, Reid imposed a prohibition against any lobbying in his office by relatives.
Still, the issue remains sensitive. Various proposals to change lobbying laws amid the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal have included bans on lobbying by relatives of lawmakers.