The FBI was quick to respond to a WorldNetDaily report that
questioned whether there had been an attempt to bribe members of
Congress to change their vote on the bill to grant Permanent Normal
Trade Relations status to China — approved by the House last week.
Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah
The FBI showed up at the office of
Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah, first thing last Thursday morning, just hours after the publication of an exclusive WorldNetDaily story,
“China-trade vote: The bribes have it? The Congressman says he
rejected $200,000 to change his stance.”
Cook made the claim that multinational corporations tried to influence him to vote for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, which he opposes.
Cook told WorldNetDaily he didn’t know whether similar attempts have been made to influence other congressmen on the issue as well. On a 237-197 vote, the House voted to grant the much-coveted permanent trade status to communist China, ending 20 years of controversial annual reviews. The vote was expected to be neck and neck, but it passed with 19 votes beyond what was needed.
“I didn’t say there was an actual bribe,” Cook told WorldNetDaily after the FBI visit. He described the efforts made by lobbyists to influence his vote as “legalized bribery” that goes on all over Capital Hill.
The FBI is not taking any action following questioning of Cook in his office, according to Cook’s aide Richard Kuchinsky.
“They backed off,” Kuchinsky told WorldNetDaily. The FBI will not investigate further because the actions taken by numerous corporate donors do not fit the legal definition of a bribe.
“In some ways, what happens is a form of legalized bribery,” said Cook. “In that sense there are companies, through their associations, that tell you they would like you to vote a certain way. They make it subtly clear — very clear even if it’s kind of a subtle approach — that campaign contributions will continue to roll in. And then if you take a stand against something that they’re for, then all of a sudden you get no more contributions from them. That’s what I was referring to. That’s a different thing than an actual bribe,” explained Cook.
“I have very likely lost over $200,000 in multinational corporate PAC money by taking the stand I took, but that’s not the same thing as saying I turned down a $200,000 bribe,” he added.
Cook’s comments in the WorldNetDaily report also received attention from other members of Congress and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Some congressmen complained to Cook that he was “insinuating that they were bribed” by the way he commented about efforts to control his vote on PNTR with China, Kuchinsky told WorldNetDaily.
Upset officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also called Cook shortly after the story came out. Cook had made the claim that many of the donors were from Chamber of Commerce 200 political action committees, according to Kuchinsky.
Those who complained were actually upset by the use of the world “bribe” in the headline of the article, not by what Cook said. Kuchinsky said they were put at ease when it was pointed out to them that Cook did not use the word, and was not quoted as using the word. The choice of the word “bribe” was WorldNetDaily’s.
Although Cook did not use the word “bribe,” he did characterize the approach of moneyed interests in this way in the original WND report: “I have turned down over $200,000 in multinational corporation PAC money if I would change my vote.”
Cook went on to complain about the way special interest political action committee funds are used to influence voting on Capital Hill.
“They are not over in China lobbying for democracy,” said Cook of the lobbyists who hold out campaign contributions as the carrot on a stick to obtain favorable congressional votes. “They are lobbying us and offering contributions in order to protect their slave trade and their blood money,” Cook added.
Cook remains firm in his adamant stand against Permanent Normal Trade Relations with communist China, saying there are many justifiable reasons to defeat the bill, which now goes to the Senate for a June vote.
“We’ve been trading with China for 30 years, yet they remain the most repressive government in the world. U.S. companies may prosper, Chinese government officials may prosper and even some of the Chinese people may be better off economically. But money cannot replace freedom or justice or security,” said Cook.
He said he would not do as the lobbyists ask and close his eyes to the human rights abuses, political oppression and religious intolerance of the Chinese government.
Despite the questioning from the FBI, concern from his fellow congressmen, and lack of support from the lobbyists, Cook has attracted attention from talk-show hosts and average citizens all across the country. People who never heard of him are now calling his office.
“Merrill’s getting a lot of phone calls in his Washington, D.C., office from all over the United States giving him kudos for his stand. People are offering to send him money. They put two and two together and say, ‘gee, if they’re not going to send him any money, I will,'” said Kuchinsky.