Washington/New Delhi: Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, which has been expanding its presence in the US, has surprisingly cut down its expenses for lobbying among the American lawmakers to a record low level.
RIL spent a total of $1,20,000 (about Rs 54 lakh) on lobbying in the US during the first quarter of 2011 — making it the lowest amount for a quarter ever since RIL began lobbying for its interests in American power corridors in 2009.
Through its lobbyist Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC (BGR), RIL spent $1,20,000 on lobbying for its interest in the US Senate, the US House of Representatives and the US Department of State in the January-March 2011 quarter, as per the latest lobbying disclosure documents filed with the Senate.
RIL lobbied for its case in domestic and foreign trade areas and BGR provided “strategic counsel on issues related to trade,” as per its lobbying disclosure report for the quarter.
Prior to the latest quarter, RIL has been spending $190,000 on lobbying with the US lawmakers during the every quarter ever since the first quarter of 2009.
RIL had filed its lobbying registration report with the Senate in February 2009.
So far, RIL has spent a total of $1.64 million (about Rs 7.5 crore) ever since it began lobbying in the US in 2009.
RIL has been expanding its US presence through shale gas asset purchases for its core energy business in recent months.
The first instance of RIL lobbying among the US lawmakers — in the first quarter of 2009 when it paid about Rs one crore to its lobbyist BGR — came at a time when it was facing possible sanctions by the Barack Obama administration for its business ties with Iran.
The first disclosure about RIL’s lobbying expenses in April 2009 came in the midst of the US senate and the house of representatives debating new bills to authorise Obama to put strong penalties, including a ban on doing business in the US, against the companies supplying petroleum products to Iran.
RIL, along with five European companies, had been named by the US lawmakers for action for doing business with Iran.
Lobbying is legal in the US and all the lobbyists there are required to file a quarterly report with the Senate, detailing their clients, the departments with whom they were lobbying and the fees charged for the same.
The issue of lobbying has created a big controversy in recent months after leakage of taped conversations a corporate lobbyist had with people from politics, business and media.
The controversy led to talks of government considering to frame regulations for lobbying activities. However, the government and private companies have been officially lobbying in the US for many years to put forward their cases with the American government and lawmakers.
Even the Indian government lobbies for its case in the US and incidentally RIL’s high-profile lobbyist BGR also happens to be the lobbying agency for ‘Republic of India’.
The government paid a total of $180,000 for lobbying on “bilateral US-India relationship” during the first quarter of 2011, while the figure was same in the previous quarter.
BGR lobbied for Indian government’s interests with the US Senate, House of Representatives, US Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of State.
Other Indian entities having lobbied in the US during the January-March 2011 quarter included software industry body Nasscom ($1,10,000) Shiva International, Wockhardt, Carpet Export Promotion Council and Flyington Freighters Pvt Ltd.
In the past, a host of other Indian entities including Tata group, industry chamber CII, L&T, SAIL, Ranbaxy and Sun Pharma have also lobbied in the US.
According to the lobbying disclosure reports, Indian government and companies together paid $1.57 million for the entire 2010, as against $2.2 million in 2009.
Indian government alone paid over $420,000 during 2010 to BGR, while the private sector companies together paid more than $11,50,000 to their lobbyists.
The lobbying for the Indian government was done mostly with the US Senate for issues related to bilateral relationship between the two countries, the disclosure said.
Earlier, Indo-US nuclear deal has been the main lobbying issue for the Indian government.
Indian government’s lobbying bill came down heavily to $420,000 during 2010, from $700,000 in previous year.
While the maximum lobbying expenses incurred by the Indian government was in 2007 at $720,000, India began lobbying with the US lawmakers in 2005, when it incurred a total cost of $240,000 for the same. The corresponding figures for years 2008, 2007 and 2006 were $630,000, $720,000 and $640,000 respectively.
The Indian government has been lobbying among the American lawmakers since 2005 on issues related to nuclear deal and bilateral Indo-US relationships and its total spending has crossed $three million (over Rs 15 crore).
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then US president George Bush had first announced their intention to enter into a nuclear agreement in July 2005.
The first instance of lobbying-related payment was made by the Indian government in the last quarter of 2005. At that time, BGR had said that it “provided guidance and counsel with regard to issues impacting bilateral relations between the US and the Republic of India, including a potential civil nuclear agreement.”