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Looking to Collect When the results of Argentina’s presidential election rolled in last week, the Web site of American Task Force for Argentina posted a note congratulating President-elect Cristina Kirchner, then politely suggested that her administration might want to pay its members several hundred million dollars. Formed one year ago, the ATFA represents a group of American creditors who hold Argentine bonds that the nation defaulted on following its 2002 economic collapse. Last month, the coalition hired the Raben Group to lead a collection effort that combines litigation, lobbying, and ceaseless nagging. “For me, the fight is when and how, not whether” Argentina makes good on the bonds, says group founder, Robert Raben, a former aide to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs. The coalition casts a wide net on Capitol Hill, lobbying committees ranging from the Senate Judiciary to the House Ways and Means — anyone with a plausible connection to matters of international litigation or commerce. The group seeks support from members and legislation easing its collection efforts, and for the Treasury Department to stop filing amicus briefs asserting that Argentina’s sovereign status immunizes it against civil suits. Compared with the Raben Group’s usual roster of clients, which includes such progressive stalwarts as Alliance for Justice and Human Rights Campaign, ATFA sticks out: A key member is Elliot Associates, a hedge fund run by Rudy Giuliani finance chairman Paul Singer, a multimillion-dollar contributor to conservative causes. Raben argues the issue boils down not to partisanship but responsibility. If countries such as Argentina are allowed to renege on debt, the reliability of the international financial system suffers, and so do others such as farmers, countries seeking credit, and pension plans that invest overseas. Still, it’s an awkward time to represent Elliot Associates and the other “vulture funds,” which are being accused by humanitarian organizations and the Congressional Black Caucus of undermining the debt relief movement in Africa. “We’re definitely looking at it from the macro perspective,” says Nkechi Mbanu, aide to Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), though she adds that his main concern is the funds’ efforts to collect from impoverished nations like Zambia or Ethiopia. The distinction between those countries and Argentina, which has regained its economic footing and socked away $43 billion in reserves, is one Raben is quick to draw. “Argentina is a highly developed, now-flush country,” he says. “This is not Zaire.” — Jeff Horwitz
African Intrigue A D.C. judge last week agreed to reinstate a breach of contract suit by Carmen Group against two clients over an unpaid bill of more than $129,000. The suit, first filed in May in D.C. Superior Court, had been dismissed in September on procedural grounds. According to court documents, in June 2006 Carmen Group signed a one-year contract for $25,000 a month to represent New Jersey-based Princeton Global and another company, Bead LLC, in landing housing and water projects in African countries such as Ghana and Senegal. The list of potential clients included Bayelsa State, an oil-producing state in Nigeria that, in October 2006, signed its own $2 million contract with Carmen Group — two months after Princeton Global announced a plan to build housing in the state. The suit contains documents showing the tensions in the relationships. For instance, in an April 2007 letter signed by representatives of the Carmen Group and PG about bringing the account current, Princeton Global agreed to withdraw allegations that Carmen Group diverted “into its account any moneys due to Princeton Global from the State of Bayelsa.” Princeton Global didn’t return calls seeking comment. Richard Masterson, a spokesman for the Carmen Group, would say only that the company was seeking payment. — Carrie Levine
Don’t Half a Cow! Members of the International Dairy Foods Association have a beef with cloned Holsteins. With the FDA poised to issue a final risk assessment that might open the barn door to copied cows, the trade association has hired Hogan & Hartson’s Joseph Levitt to make sure it stays shut. The association argues that consumer squeamishness warrants keeping the handmade heifers out of the food chain. “This could potentially have an impact on daily consumption and the nutrition people get in their diets,” says IDFA Vice President Susan Ruland. But the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which has supported research by cloning companies, expects a possible end to the voluntary ban on cloned farm animals by the end of the year. Barbara Glenn, animal biotech director for the group, says that the cost of clones would likely restrict their use to breeding. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is on board: “Our producers have always been open to innovation,” a spokeswoman says. — Jeff Horwitz

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