MARCH 18, 2009
Barack Obama’s third pick to head the Commerce Department has questionably close ties to companies that do business with China as well as shady Chinese fundraisers yet he will approve sensitive imports to the country if he gets confirmed this month.
A Washington D.C. newspaper reports that Commerce Secretary nominee Gary Locke has legally represented major firms doing business with Beijing and that he was forced to refund several political donations from key players in a Chinese influence buying investigation.
The former Washington State governor, who is of Chinese descent, has been an attorney at a major Seattle law firm since completing his second term in 2005. Locke is a key part of the firm’s China practice, which has offices in Shanghai and represents several state-run Chinese companies, including banks, airlines and technology firms.
This could present a conflict of interest if not the potential for corruption since the nation’s Commerce Secretary oversees all export controls and technology transfers at the agency that promotes foreign and domestic commerce.
One government official who held senior positions at various agencies stresses the urgency in disclosing Locke’s past fundraising and views on high technology transfers to nations such as China. Because the Commerce Department has total control over all dual-use technology, as the agency’s head Locke would be able to steamroll any military concerns coming from the Pentagon.
Regardless, the third pick could be the charm for Obama. The president’s first choice to run the Commerce Department, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew his nomination amid a corruption scandal into a shady California company that got a lucrative state contract after donating big bucks to his political action committee. That federal investigation is ongoing.
Obama’s second choice, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, withdrew abruptly after clashing with the administration on several issues, including the controversial stimulus package and the U.S. Census. The Republican lawmaker said there were “irresolvable conflicts” and that “we are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
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