By BRYAN RAHIJA
I'd wager that until this week, most Americans (except, of course, for the dutiful readers of this humble blog) probably hadn't heard of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Now, as the ugly scandal involving News of the World unfolds, the 1977 statute has been thrust into the limelight.
The FCPA makes it illegal for U.S. companies to bribe foreign officials, and this week, several lawmakers have called on the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate whether News Corp., Rupert Murdoch's media heavyweight and parent company of the now-shuttered News of the World, violated the Act.
Yesterday, CNN reported that Attorney General Eric Holder is looking these requests to investigate and other allegations:
"There have been serious allegations raised in that regard in Great Britain; there is an ongoing investigation," Holder told reporters in Sydney, Australia.
"There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate those same allegations. And we are progressing in the regard using the appropriate federal agencies in the United Sates."
But there's another wrinkle in this story worth pondering. As some groups have pointed out, last summer, Rupert Murdoch donated $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce. The money came in just a few months before the Chamber launched a misguided campaign to weaken the FCPA.
"The timing certainly raises questions about who is bankrolling this campaign—if it's not News Corporation who is it?" Joshua Dorner of the Center for American Progress told the Guardian.
The Chamber of Commerce dismissed the suggestions of a link between its campaign and the News of the World scandal as "preposterous" and "completely false". "Our efforts to modernise an outdated act have been ongoing for nearly a year," a spokesman said, adding that the aim of the proposals was to obtain clear rules of the road for American businesses.
Point taken—the link between the Chamber's campaign to water down the FCPA and an infusion of Murdoch bucks may not be ironclad. But there's no denying that the Chamber's efforts would do little to discourage the abominable behavior alleged to have gone on at News of the World. Even before this scandal, the Chamber's case against the FCPA looked pretty weak. But now it looks even worse.
Bryan Rahija edits POGO's blog.