(Updated: Aug. 18 12:30 p.m.)
A group representing U.S. investors left holding the bag for bad loans to Argentina spent at least $60,000 to buy ads on prime Washington news junkie-viewing time over the weekend and may be teeing up more ads for New York City, according to contracts that landed on Political Ad Sleuth, a Sunlight tool for tracking political advertising.
The ads, which were set to air during the Sunday ABC news show “This Week” on Washington’s channel 7 and during Channel 5’s Fox News Sunday, are being produced by an organization that highlights the unusual alliances forged by the global economy. The American Task Force Argentina employs three prominent Democratic strategists with close ties to former President Bill Clinton. But one of the group’s most deep-pocketed members — and a prime beneficiary if it succeeds in its goal of forcing Argentina to make good on its defaulted loans — is hedge fund manager Paul Singer, the leading donor to Republican super PACs so far in this cycle.
At the heart of the dispute are about $95 billion in loans that U.S. investors made to Argentina in the early 2000s and which the country says it cannot repay in full. Many of the U.S. creditors are refusing to accept Argentina’s effort to restructure its debt. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the creditors in a controversial decision earlier this year and the Latin American nation is now in default.
Singer founded Elliott Management, one of the groups of hedge funds that took Argentina to court to get back money the investors had loaned the perennially troubled country. But most of his hired guns in DC are Democrats, including Nancy Soderberg, a longtime foreign policy advisor to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and former Clinton aide. According to the American Task Force Argentina’s most recent filing with the IRS, Soderberg’s salary was more than $174,000 in 2012.
AFTA officers also include longtime Democratic adviser Robert Shapiro and Robert Raben of the Raben Group, a public affairs firm that has made $180,000 lobbying on the Argentine issue so far. Shapiro — who owns the Raben Group, according to AFTA’s filing to the IRS — told Sunlight that this weekend’s ads are an attempt to reach the press and policymakers to counter the bad press the investors are getting from Argentina. A press release on the Argentine Embassy’s website refers to the American investors who are attempting to get their money back as “vulture funds” for pushing the country into another financial crisis.
Shapiro pooh-poohs that kind of talk. “This is not a poor developing country versus Wall Street,” he said. “This is an autocratic regime that is trying to foster domestic support by opposing America.”
American Task Force Argentina’s ad tries underscores that message by countering Spanish-speaking investors against pictures of a heavily made-up Cristina Kirchner, Argentina’s president. The group has produced a Spanish-language version of the ad and filed paperwork indicating that a buy may be imminent on New York City’s Telemundo.
As for his unusual alliance with Singer, Shapiro said his interest lies in the “large implications for the global system of lending,” if Argentina continues to stiff its creditors. He said “this will hurt every other developing country in the world” by making potential investors more risk-averse. As for Singer, Shapiro said, “he has a financial interest.”