Lobbyist Insists His Meeting About 'TPP IP Issues' Wasn't About TPP IP Issues

from the pants-on-fire dept

We recently wrote about the ridiculous revolving door between the USTR and various copyright and patent maximalist lobbying organizations. If you want to know why the USTR always is pushing for maximalist positions, that's a good place to start. Our post was commenting on an article by Tim Lee at the Washington Post, in which he highlighted numerous examples of the revolving door between maximalist lobbying groups and the USTR. One of his very first examples was former top USTR official Ralph Ives, who signed a big deal, and then quickly went to work for a lobbying group that represents medical device manufacturers. Here's what Lee wrote:
The lead American negotiator was Ralph Ives, who was promoted to Assistant USTR for Pharmaceutical Policy soon after the negotiations concluded. He was aided by Claude Burcky, Deputy Assistant USTR for Intellectual Property. Less than three months after the Australia agreement was signed, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that both men would take jobs at pharmaceutical or medical device companies. Their new employers stood to benefit from some of the pro-patent-holder provisions of the treaty. Ives took a job at AdvaMed, a trade group representing medical device manufacturers. Burcky moved to the pharmaceutical and medical device company Abbott Labs.
Later in the piece, Lee quoted Advamed angrily denying that Ives was lobbying USTR on intellectual property issues:
But AdvaMed disputes an accusation from Love that it has been lobbying USTR on patent issues. "Neither AdvaMed nor Ives has ever provided USTR comments on a provision of the TPP IP chapter," an AdvaMed spokeswoman stated by email.
Okay. That was on November 26th at 2:22pm ET. Less than four hours later, Jamie Love over at KEI released a bunch of FOIA'd documents, showing 127 pages of emails between various industry lobbyists and the USTR concerning intellectual property issues on the TPP agreement. Tim Lee noted that not only do those emails show a very cozy relationship between IP lobbyists and the USTR, they show very clearly that Ives was, in fact, lobbying on IP issues. Here, for example, is an email showing a meeting that is scheduled involving the USTR and various "cleared advisors" including Ives, and the subject matter is listed as "TPP IP issues."
Elsewhere in the documents, they show Ives asking for a meeting to "debrief" with Jared Ragland, the Director of the Office of Intellectual Property and Innovation at the USTR. Ives makes his request at 4:51pm on a Tuesday. Ragland has confirmed the meeting by 3:12am Wednesday morning. Ives reached out to Ragland another time elsewhere in the emails. Two other times in the emails, Ragland is seen emailing Ives directly asking for some advice.

But, no, Advamed insists, they never ever talked about intellectual property issues.

Lee asked Advamed to explain and they insist that Ives and Ragland talked about transparency issues, not IP. And that meeting that was supposedly all about "TPP IP Issues"? Advamed insists that the guy who sent that email, Medtronic lobbyist Trevor Gunn, simply misspoke, because he has a habit of calling anything an IP issue:
On Wednesday, an AdvaMed spokeswoman told me that the intellectual property chapter of the TPP was not discussed at any of these meetings. She noted that "Ragland was the lead negotiator for the transparency issues and procedural fairness provision of the TPP." She says that those issues, not IP issues, were the focus of Ives's conversations with Ragland.

As for the "TPP IP issues" e-mail, AdvaMed says that Gunn is simply in the habit of using "TPP IP issues" as a shorthand for all of the issues that he works on, which also includes non-IP issues of interest to medical device companies. The AdvaMed spokeswoman, after consulting with Ives, said that despite the meeting's title, intellectual property issues did not come up during that Feb. 1 conference call.
Let's take a show of hands. How many people actually believe that the former lead negotiator for the USTR on an important intellectual property section of a bilateral trade agreement, who quickly moved to a big medical device lobbying firm, who was clearly in regular contact with the "director of the office of intellectual property" and who was also in a meeting with top USTR officials whose only listed topic was "TPP IP Issues" did not actually talk to USTR officials about IP? We'll wait.

Of course, this is just part of the problem with the total lack of transparency from the USTR. The whole thing is set up to favor these kinds of back room deals, in which "friends" of the USTR (including former USTR officials), now working for maximalist organizations who are hellbent on keeping out competitive innovations, strongly influence the procedures. Elsewhere in the emails, you see a very close relationship with top RIAA official, Neil Turkewitz, who passes along news items to USTR officials (including about the original leak of the March 2011 TPP IP chapter -- the last one that we had seen prior to the recently leaked August version). He also reaches out to set up a meeting for RIAA boss Cary Sherman to express his concerns about the USTR including "limitations and exceptions" to copyright in the TPP. This was big news at the time because the USTR has never included such things (rather than "limitations and exceptions" they should be called "rights of the public") in a trade agreement. Of course, he shouldn't have worried. Later revelations showed that the USTR put in a system to limit fair use, not spread it.

Either way, you see a very cozy relationship between the USTR and maximalist lobbyists. Lee also asked Peter Maybarduk, who's been focused on pharmaceutical issues for Public Citizen and has been heavily active in TPP issues, if the USTR ever emailed him the way they email lobbyists, and the answer, of course, was not at all:
Peter Maybarduk, who works on pharmaceutical issues at the advocacy group Public Citizen, says that he never gets e-mails like that from USTR. "We don't get any request for our take on this or that. If we ask to meet with Probir [Mehta of the USTR's Office of Intellectual Property and Innovation] for example, he'll meet with us. We'll have a conversation. Those conversations have gotten better over time. But it's a complex diplomatic exercise, it's not like a frank exchange of information about what is actually happening."
Reading the emails between lobbyists and the USTR suggests a much chummier relationship... and that's clearly reflected in the dangerous proposals the USTR is pushing. They favor those few companies, but harm competition, innovation and the public. Protecting a few powerful legacy players at the expense of everyone else is the worst of crony capitalism. Just the very fact that it appears the lobbyists themselves are pretending that they're not discussing IP issues with the USTR shows pretty clearly that even those lobbyists know what's going on is a disgusting abuse of crony capitalism to advance their own personal interests over those of the American public or economy. Shameful.

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Dec 2013 @ 8:43pm

    Re: Re:

    Perhaps not all of them, but I would find it delightfully fitting for something like that to apply to every politician and/or public 'servant' that supported surveillance of the public.

    Then when they complained, you simply remind them that they didn't see a problem with it when the camera/mic was aimed at someone else, and besides, you pinky swore that the data would be kept secure, promise.

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