Republican congressional candidate Rosemary Becchi is continuing to work as a lobbyist during her attempt to oust first-term Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair).
Lobbying disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Secretary of State in the first and second quarters of 2020 list Becchi and two other employees at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as lobbyists on behalf of Western Union.
“They are a client of my firm.” Becchi said. “They’ve been with my firm for a very long time, so it’s not something new.”
It’s not clear that lobbying for Western Union presents any vulnerability for Becchi, despite the firm’s past problems.
In 2017 — before Becchi joined Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck — the financial services company paid $586 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over its failure to combat money laundering carried out using its services and for aiding and abetting wire fraud.
Western Union’s platform is also used to abet a variety of scams, though the firm has some policies and guidelines in place to block such swindlers.
Last year, Western Union announced a new policy to prevent their company from being used to process financial transactions tied to human trafficking and modern slavery. That came after the company settled a probe by the New York Department of Financial Services over allegations that they flouted suspicious transactions to Western Union locations in China that were linked to human trafficking.
The lobbying report filed by Becchi’s firm lists financial fraud, human trafficking, terrorist financing and anti-money laundering issues as their specific lobbying issue
There’s no indication that those failures disproportionately impacted New Jersey or the 11th district, a fact that Micah Rasmussen, director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, said would likely blunt political attacks over a given lobbying client.
“Unless there’s a specific conflict between the 11th District’s interests and Becchi’s representation of her clients, which seems to be something she is likely to have been able to avoid with Western Union, she should be fine on the merits,” Rasmussen said. “Voters do not seem to focus on the revolving door between lobbyists and who they lobby in Congress.”
Moreover, there’s nothing that suggests her lobbying work included anything improper.
“I represent clients. I represent them on different matters, whether it’s keeping them informed or helping them with tax matters,” she said. “I am a tax lawyer, and when you make outreach to the government, according to the rules, you need to identify those contacts, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something nefarious.”
Becchi served as tax counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee more than two decades ago and runs Jersey First, a non-profit advocating for lower taxes and spending in the Garden State.
The lobbying disclosures list international remittances, money transfers, data protection, and anti-money laundering, financial fraud, human trafficking, terrorist financing, issues related to Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States reform, remittance taxes, Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax provisions and the Bank Secrecy Act as the specific lobbying issues taken on behalf of Western Union.
In a 2008 investors’ meeting, Western Union said changes to laws meant to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing could impact the firm’s performance.
Specific clients aside, it’s possible that Becchi’s lobbyist job could cause her some political headaches.
“Where she could run into an issue is that the profession is not highly regarded by the public,” Rasmussen said. “So, you could imagine the Sherrill campaign pejoratively referring to her as ‘Lobbyist Rosemary Becchi.’”
But the Republican candidate wasn’t concerned about that possibility.
“No, because I advocate for lower taxes,” she said when asked whether she worried about attacks over her professional career from Sherrill’s campaign. “I have, for my entire career, been a tax policy expert and an advocate for my clients.”