PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- With Caribbean leaders counting on a direct connection to US President Donald Trump to boost their domestic and regional political image, very few of them are willing to fork out the exorbitant price tags that many of the big shot lobbying firms in Washington DC are charging to set up a call.
But when it became known that Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had received a call from Trump last Sunday, observers’ eyebrows were raised as they tried to analyze the real reason behind the call.
And even though for most of them the answers were somewhat evasive, the Guyana Guardian’s correspondent bureau in Maryland was able to ascertain that the call was organized by a paid political lobbyist firm that also handles lobbying work in Washington DC for Russia, Iraq, and Nigeria among others.
According to the Guyana Guardian’s findings, Trinidad and Tobago has been pressing for a Trump phone call since January 24 this year, and had approached two major lobbying firms in Washington, including a mid-size agency that is closely tied to the Republican Party.
However, even though the exact price tag for arranging the call was not provided to the Guyana Guardian, the publication was reliably informed that the retainer fee is a standard US$28,000 plus additional charges for the prescribed service.
And based upon existing standard figures from the same firm, organizing a phone call with President Trump will cost from US$450,000 (TT$3,043,000) upwards to about US$2 million depending on several other factors.
These fees are not paid to the president or endorsed by the president in any way. They are basically sums charged by an agency with connections, who will generally press the president’s inner circle to encourage him to make the call for one reason or the other.
While using lobbyists to advance interests in Washington, and to communicate with the US president is nothing new, or technically wrong, citizens in most small island nations such as Trinidad and Tobago are often wary of the cost that is often placed on taxpayers to hire lobbyists.
Trinidad and Tobago remains the first and only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to receive a call from the US president himself.
The call is believed to have lasted for about two and a half minutes.
On the other hand, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness received a call from US Vice President Mike Pence, which is also suspected to be organized by a hired lobbyist.