How much to do you have to pay to radically alter US foreign policy and shatter over 35 years of diplomatic protocol? Well, apparently $140,000 will do.
According to a recently released lobbying disclosure document, that’s how much the Taiwanese government doled out to Bob Dole (Bob Dole!) and his law firm, Alston & Bird, from May to October, in order to make the Trump-Tsai call a reality. But that’s not all that Taiwan got for its money.
Over a six month period, the 93-year-old Dole set up meetings between Trump campaign staff and Taiwanese emissaries, briefed the campaign’s policy director and helped to write the “most pro Taiwan” Republican Party platform in history. Dole was the only former Republican presidential nominee to endorse Trump and his presence at the Republican convention was played up as an example of party unity. In the end, his efforts on behalf of Taipei resulted in last Friday’s protocol-shattering phone call.
The conversation between Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was the first official communication between an American president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader since 1979. At first, Trump seemed to try to portray it is as an out of the blue phone call from Tsai. Later, Vice President-elect Mike Pence termed it as a “courtesy call.” However, mounting evidence shows that it was in fact the result of a coordinated effort between Taiwan lobbyists and Trump staffers, which could signal a significant shift in cross-strait policy.
Beijing has primarily blamed the call on Taiwanese “shenanigans” preying on Trump’s absence of foreign policy experience. While Taiwan’s influence in the world has been on the decline in recent years, its power in American politics only seems to be getting stronger. According to Politco, Taiwan spends $170,000 a month on a fleet of conservative lobbyists that it has groomed over time to influence government policy. Those investments finally seem to be paying off, bigly.
One example is the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation which has received funding from Taiwanese companies. Foundation staffers now play an influential part in Trump’s transition team. During a radio interview yesterday, Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation and economic adviser to Trump during his campaign, said that if China doesn’t like the Taiwan phone call, then “screw ’em.”
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