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In late July, Venable partners James Jatras and James Pitts journeyed to the Philippines and secured a lucrative contract lobbying for the Philippine government. The purpose of their $75,000-a-month retainer: to win U.S. funds for a series of political, economic, and defense programs in the republic. But the government backed off the arrangement after it was disclosed in the Philippine press this month and ignited a firestorm of criticism from opponents of the beleaguered administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. “Philippine politics are sort of infamous for one hand deciding something and the other side reversing it,” says Allen Hicken, a political scientist specializing in the Philippines at the University of Michigan. Pitts has had contact with Philippine officials for years. And just last year, the firm was paid $75,000 to arrange a meet-and-greet session with U.S. government officials for then-presidential candidate Fernando Poe, a one-time movie star who passed away shortly after losing the election. After the latest disclosure, politicians on the archipelago chastised the president for spending hundreds of thousands on foreign lobbying at a time when the country’s economy is struggling. The Arroyo administration has denied paying for the deal with government funds, claiming National Security Advisor Norberto Gonzalez acted on his own, according to reports in the Philippine press. The republic has paid Venable $225,000 — a three-month advance, according to public filings. Meanwhile, Gonzalez was taken into custody by the Philippine Senate last week for refusing to answer questions about the deal, according to a Philippine Embassy spokesperson in Washington. Jatras and Pitts declined to comment.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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