Expert says Cayman should court US law makers

| 12/10/2010

(CNS): The Cayman Islands financial services sector should be lobbying congress in order to influence legislation that affects offshore jurisdictions, an expert has said. Rob Herriott, a former Washington staffer, told an audience of delegates at a conference last week that it is not possible to change people’s minds at the last minute when legislation is coming to the table. He warned that to really influence US legislation impacting their business they needed to cultivate relationships with law makers over a long period. Pointing out that there were very few members in congress who had experience of financial services or were even economists, he said there was still considerable misunderstanding about the world of offshore finance that they needed to address.

Speaking at the Campbells’ Cayman Fund Focus conference, which took place at the Ritz on Friday, Herriott, who is now an investment consultant, told delegates that the congressmen would be voting on legislation based on what their advisors and staffers told them. As a result, in order to influence votes Cayman had to build up relationships with the congress members’ staffers and begin the education process long before relevant legislation came to the House of Representatives.
“You need to identify congress members who have constituents affected by the financial industry and tie Cayman’s interests to the interests of those constituents,” he explained. He said if people from Cayman could send the message that offshore finance was good for US jobs, then they would gain traction with law makers.
He pointed out, however, that even with education there were members who simply did not believe in tax competition and who will never be influenced by lobbying from Cayman firms, but he said there were others that were not hostile but just needed information and understanding. Admitting that it was not easy, Herriott pointed out that it was a long term project that needed a long term commitment to education and influence and was achievable only over time. Approaching legislators on the eve of a vote was far too late he said.
He applauded Cayman Finance for its efforts but noted its focus had been mostly on the media, whereas Herriott recommended that the local private sector build congress contacts as that would in the long run have some direct influence over legislation when it mattered.
He pointed out that there was a need for the Cayman Islands Government, Cayman Finance and other private sector entities to be coordinated in their efforts. He said the more people there were attempting to influence the law makers in Washington, the louder the message but it was important it was the same message.
The former Washington staffer also acknowledged that there was a feeling among US lawmakers that supporting Cayman or offshore finance was not necessarily a popular position to take but Cayman had to defend itself against such misinformation by getting those congressmen to begin speaking up about the connection with offshore and US jobs and economic growth.
Herriott said that there would be a political switch in the membership of congress soon and that the Cayman Islands had an opportunity to begin influencing members that may well be more inclined to listen, and it should not miss the chance to cultivate supporters.
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  1. Anonymous says:

    Following this presentation a local expert gave his presentation entitled "No Duh!".

  2. Anonymouse says:

    Is’nt courting a US Lawmaker the same as putting a vampire in charge of the bloodbank???

    At least that is how it works in local politics. Court a Politician and you will pay through your nose.

    I listen to the US news everyday. The US President and Vice President has recently been questioning foreign influence in the financing of the upcoming mid term elections. Obviously they want to know which Lobbyist are passing funds to support certain candidates for office.

    Could our next headline be: Cayman Islands found meddling in US Political affairs????

    Just asking, because I clearly remember certain candidates for US President visiting our Islands during the Primaries before the last US Presidential campaign only to disappear from the race shortly after..

  3. Scrooge McDuck says:

    Influencing members?

    Well there you have it,  I didn’t say it he did. As this gentleman has pointed out, the concept that government is "by the people..for the people" may be quaint, but it is in fact not the day to day reality.  Lobbying by special interest groups is the way legislation is brought forward and ultimately passed.  Once (Our?) elected members are ensconced in their various positions, the real work of influence peddling begins.  How many citizens (voters) have the ready access to law makers and their assistants on a daily basis that lobbyists are afforded? Write a letter to your Congressman with your concerns about legislation.  You will receive a kindly form-letter in return. 

    From financing elections, to the revolving door in government positions to industry the prime example of how twisted this system has become is obvious. There is nothing wrong with influencing legislation, it is a cornerstone of democracy, but who’s interests are we speaking of? Would you or I have the same influence as Exxon, CitiBank, Dow, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Enron, or Halliburton?  And is the overall benefit not so much what may be good for citizens, the economy, or the environment, but what may be good for "business"?  In many cases these are mutually exclusive and even contradictory. 

    There is no clear definition of the benefits, if any, to citizens, as we are left out of the loop.  Jobs?  Where are they?  Housing?  Where is it?  Peace and Prosperity for All?  When and where will it take place?  What definition of success is proposed to uninformed and self-interested lawmakers is given to them. Over a golf game and cocktails.  "You scratch my back….

    "the scum always rises to the top" –  Hunter S. Thompson

  4. ZAPP says:

    COURT US LAW MAKERS and end up with another marriage of convenience.?