House Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf doesn't like that former Rep. Rick Boucher is representing a company with ties to the Chinese military. In a letter today, Wolf asked Boucher's firm, Sidley Austin, to drop the Chinese telecom company Huawei as a client.
In the letter, the Virginia Republican argues that the company's ties to the Chinese government and army, and the fears that its products contain "digital trapdoors" that would allow the Chinese to listen in on American communications, should alarm the lobbying firm. Wolf writes to Sidley Austin managing partner Carter Phillips:
In all my years in Washington, very rarely have I seen the leadership of defense, intelligence and civilian agencies come together in such a concerted effort to warn of a security threat from a foreign entity. When the White House, intelligence community, Defense Department and Commerce Department all have worked to block Huawei from gaining greater access to U.S. networks, everyone should take notice. ...
Huawei has also been a leading supplier of critical telecom services to some of the worst regimes around the world. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Huawei "now dominates Iran's government-controlled mobile-phone industry ... it plays a role in enabling Iran's state security network." And given the president's April 23 executive order addressing entities that are providing Iran and Syria with technologies to repress their people, I would think representing Huawei would give you further pause.
For these reasons, I urge you to reconsider your firm's relationship with Huawei. I think you would agree that Sidley Austin's reputation and integrity is worth far more than its contract with a state-directed company like Huawei.
Below his signature, Wolf wrote in his own hand, "This is very important for America. Thank you."
Sidley Austin has not registered the company with the Senate or the Department of Justice, but Wolf's office tells the Alley that former Boucher, fresh off his one-year lobbying ban, is representing the company. Neither Boucher nor Phillips responded to a request for comment.
Clearly, Huawei is trying to capitalize on the prestige and access a former lawmaker can provide the company in Washington. It's unclear if Boucher was lobbying on specific issues for his client or working to make congressional inroads for future action.
But whatever the company is up to, it looks as though Huawei is beefing up its Washington presence registering both Fleishman-Hillard and Strategic Federal Affairs this month. APCO, Strategic Public Affairs and The Walter Group also lobby on Huawei's behalf. The company spent almost $500,000 lobbying after registering in the first quarter of this year, according to federal records.
UPDATE: Huawei also worked its way into the Washington game last month by sponsoring this year's Statesmanship Award Dinner at the Ritz featuring former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry.