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Mitt Romney makes an early appearance in lobbying filings

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It's not surprising that a Republican stalwart like Bob Dole, the party's 1996 presidential candidate and, prior to that, the Senate Majority Leader, would have occasion to speak with current GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But the context is: Dole's firm, Alston and Bird, disclosed that he's started to lobby Mitt Romney on behalf of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office of the United States (TECRO), the diplomatic mission of Taiwan to the United States.

Filings made to the Justice Dept. under the Foreign Agents Registration Act show that Dole has reached out to many politicians on behalf of TECRO, including the Gen. David Petraeus, director of Central Intelligence, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to whom he sent a letter regarding diplomatic immunity. Dole also sent a missive to Valerie Jarrett, White House about the dragon boat festival.

But the most recent disclosure shows that Dole had more contacts--four letters and an email--with advisers to Romney's presidential campaign than he did with the Obama administration. Dole sought meetings for Jason Yuan the TECRO ambassador to the United States, with Romney advisers including a pair of former officials in the George W. Bush administration, Dov Zhakeim, who served as under secretary of Defense, and Mitchell Reiss, former State Dept. director of policy planning. He also reached out to Alex Wong, the primary campaign's director of foreign, defense and judicial policy, and Karen Healy, who was Masachusetts lieutenant governor during Romney's term as governor.

Lobbyists like Dole help TECRO negotiate the difficult relationship it has with the United States, which, as a condition of officially recognizing the government of the People's Republic of China, cannot maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. As the State Department puts it, “Maintaining diplomatic relations with the P.R.C. has been recognized to be in the long-term interest of the United States by six consecutive administrations; however, maintaining strong, unofficial relations with Taiwan is also a major U.S. goal, in line with our desire to further peace and stability in Asia.”

According to Justice Dept. records filed under FARA, which requires foreign agents to disclose their campaign contributions, the Romney campaign has received support from lobbyists for foreign clients. Tom Loffler of Akin Gump gave $5,000 to Romney for President in January. Akin Gump’s Stephen Kho gave $500 to Romney last November. And Jeff Choudhry of the Nickles Group donated $1,000 to Romney for President last December.

Alston and Bird is a large lobbying firm with many high-paying clients--Influence Explorer has tallied $71 million in reported lobbying income going to the firm since 1991. Since 2009, Alston and Bird has registered 100 clients, including AT&T, American Beverage Association and AFLAC.