The Washington Free Beacon, a new website on the right, has a particular fascination with promoting weapon sales to Taiwan. In addition to daily hits on the Obama administration and Democrats, the Free Beacon has multiple posts calling for more F-16 fighter jet sales to the island nation, and has branded skeptics of militarization as “pro-China” activists.
The site, however, fails to disclose the fact that its sponsor is a lobbyist for a firm dedicated to helping Taiwan advance its policy agenda.
Michael Goldfarb, a former Republican staffer and writer, founded the Free Beacon with “several million dollars” in January of this year. Listed as the chairman of the 501(c) group that sponsors the Free Beacon website, Goldfarb is also a partner at the lobbying and public relations firm Orion Strategies, LLC.
The contract between the Taiwanese ambassador and Goldfarb’s firm, renewed last year for a period that ends on September 30, 2012, stipulates that Orion will be paid $180,000 a year to “provide advice and consulting services concerning Taiwan’s strategic goals.”
Orion’s advocacy, according to disclosures filed with the Justice Department, has centered on promoting US authorization to sell Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. Mike Mitchell, Goldfarb’s partner at Orion, makes weekly calls to Congress to press lawmakers and their staff on the issue, from arranging Congressional visits to Taiwan to prepping for Senate hearings.
As Goldfarb’s firm quietly peddles influence for Taiwan’s arms agenda in Congress, his site provides a megaphone. A Free Beacon article from earlier this year quotes an anonymous “industry representative” to demand that the Obama Administration “release the 66 new Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52+ fighter aircraft that Taiwan [has] requested to purchase.” Another Free Beacon piece promoting increased arms sales calls National Security Council member Evan Medeiros, a policy expert the Free Beacon claims played a “key figure in killing the planned sale of new F-16 jets to Taiwan,” a “key pro-China activist.”
There is no disclosure on the Free Beacon website that its chairman is paid to lobby for Taiwan and other interest groups.
Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TX) efforts on behalf of Taiwan have been guided, and publicized, by Goldfarb-related organizations. Orion has met with Cornyn or his staff more than fifty times in the last year on Taiwan-related issues, including “congressional strategy to promote F-16 sale[s] to Taiwan,” legislation to force new F-16 sales, and travel to the country.
The effort has paid off. On November 18, 2011, Cornyn placed a hold—a privilege given to Senators to unilaterally block almost any presidential appointee—against Mark Lippert to become an assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. Cornyn said he would block the nomination until the administration reconsidered the sale of 66 new F-16 jets to Taiwan. A week prior to the hold, Orion discussed Lippert-related strategy with Cornyn’s office, according to disclosures.