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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Foreign Lobbying and the National Prayer Breakfast

Kenneth P. Vogel and Elizabeth Dias at NYT report that alleged Russian agent Maria Butina used the National Prayer Breakfast to cultivate influential American contacts.
Ms. Butina’s spy-thriller-like tactics hint at the more widespread, if less sensational, international maneuvering that pervades the prayer breakfast, and the lucrative opportunities it creates for Washington’s corps of lobbyists and fixers, according to more than half a dozen people who have been involved in peddling access around the event.. 
With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.
Even the quickest of meetings, particularly if they are captured in photographs, can help politicians with their domestic political audiences by allowing them to suggest that they either have support from American leaders, or have extracted concessions from them — making trips to the breakfast well worth any travel costs or consulting fees to arrange meetings.