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Policom Touts Tripartisan Approach To Lobbying

Packs a punch with diversity, strategic alliances


January 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

In the future, what marked the beginning of a new era in lobbying in Puerto Rico may be traced back to the formation of Political Communications Inc. (Policom).

At least that’s the aspiration of the firm’s three founding partners, attorneys Greg Cortes, Federico "Fred" Gordo, and Luis Batista-Salas. Having set up shop a year ago in a strategically located office right in front of the Capitol building, the three political heavyweights are out to significantly change both the face–and nature–of lobbying, Puerto Rico style.

As Policom President Fred Gordo tells it, the firm represents a break from what until now was the typical pattern and profile of local lobbyists–that of lawyers associated with the island’s big law firms. The 15-person organization, he says, represents a sea of change inasmuch as Policom is solely dedicated to the lobbying business, pools the skills and influence of a team of seasoned tripartisan talent, and outsources integrated legal, accounting, and public relations services for its clients.

"We saw an extraordinary gap between private sector business interests and the public sector, and that the gap wasn’t filled by the traditional law firms," says partner Luis Batista-Salas.

According to Batista-Salas, Policom’s strength lies in its capacity to provide lobbying services that integrate legal support, public relations support, and advocacy, as needed, before both local and federal government authorities. In addition to their local political connections (Cortes and Gordo are long-time Popular Democratic Party affiliated operatives, while Batista-Salas is a veteran statehooder), the trio has also cultivated high-level allies in Washington.

Cortes, like Gordo is a Democrat at the national level. During the Clinton presidency, Cortes became a top Democratic Party fundraiser. Batista-Salas, on the other hand, is currently First Vice Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, as well as General Counsel to the Republican Party in Puerto Rico. Policom also partners with Washington-based firm Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healey. In New York, the firm partners with Antonio Burgos, who last month accompanied then Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg on his trip to the island.

Batista-Salas told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that Policom’s partners join forces in working with clients to help transcend political divisions and avoid political problems.

"The kind of dialogue that we engage in helps us avoid unnecessary partisan clashes," Batista-Salas indicates. "We really do believe that there’s more that unites us than divides us."

Among Policom’s most notable successes has been its lobbying on behalf of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. The firm put its resources to work to successfully defend the rum tax rebates that help fund the Trust, as well

assure that the Trust receives 800 acres of former U.S. Navy property in Vieques that the Trust will administer.

So far, the firm’s clients have included a mix of both on and off-island businesses, including Interstate General Corp., Equus Corp., and Browning Ferris Industries. Batista-Salas says the firm sees room for further growth in providing assistance to retail businesses seeking to expand operations, as well as in assisting all kinds of organizations in their efforts to participate in federally sponsored programs.

Gordo notes that Policom also works with other island law firms in representing clients that they have in common. He said the firm sees itself as a new ally in Puerto Rico’s economic development, and has begun to work closely with local industry and civic organizations in advancing their clients’ interests.

The growth of the local lobbying industry has been accompanied by efforts to regulate it. Sen. Roberto Prats (PDP-at large) introduced a bill last year to create a registry of lobbyists, so that the public knows who is paying for lobbying services and what policy or governmental matters are the object of lobbying in Puerto Rico.

"I favor the regulated development of the lobbying industry, I was myself a lobbyist in Washington," Prats told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "The fact is that lobbyists provide input, which helps legislators make fair and informed decisions that, in turn, lead to better laws," Prats said. "But, at the same time, we need to have a transparent process so that the public knows who is lobbying for what interests."

The senator noted that 48 of the 50 states have lobbyist registries, and he expects that early in this year’s legislative session, the local House of Representatives will pass a similar version of his bill to create this type of registry in Puerto Rico.

"We’ll probably see a House version that eliminates the need to report the quantity of money that lobbyists receive from their clients, and I can understand that," Pratt said. "The important part is that through this mechanism, who is involved in lobbying and for what interests will finally be public information."

Gordo said his firm supports the establishment of the registry, as long as privileged information between lawyer and client is protected.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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