Sen. Marco Rubio is under fire this week for hiring an outside corporate attorney as his chief negotiator during the Gang of Eight amnesty negotiations in 2013. Usually when creating legislation, lawmakers choose someone currently on staff to help negotiate the legislation.
Enrique Gonzalez was a Florida lawyer who had represented a number of clients that would benefit from the legislation and had been a personal friend to Sen. Rubio for nearly twenty years. His hiring reaffirms the notion that those seeking an expansion of immigration do so because it would benefit them financially.
According to reviews of emails and interviews about those negotiations it seems that Gonzalez started to insert legislation that would help a small number of companies, specifically clients he had represented such as universities, cruise liners, and media companies.
Both Sen. Rubio’s staff and Gonzalez say that they followed the letter of the Senate Ethics Committee laws since Gonzalez broke all ties with his previous firm, Fragomen and was told not to converse with any Fragomen staff for assistance in the negotiations. According to Gonzalez he had not plans at that time to return to the firm.
Yet, in mid-July of 2013 after the bill had passed the Senate but was stalling in the House Gonzalez agreed to leave Rubio’s office to rejoin his old firm.
Through interviews it seems that Gonzalez played a very influential and forceful role in the discussions. Many of the provisions he wrote seemed to be tailored to specific organizations. One such provision would have allowed foreign workers to enter the U.S. for 90 days to make repairs on cruise ships, allowing these companies to bypass the long and costly visa process.
"It would have been high impact for a very small number of companies," said one person who was involved with the talks.
During the Judiciary Committee’s markup of the bill in May 2013 Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voiced concerns about Gonzalez’s provision to exempt graduates with advanced degrees in STEM fields from visa caps. "It appears to be a special provision for higher educational institutions and outlets," Sen. Grassley said.
While Gonzalez may not have explicitly violated conflict-of-interest ethic rules he clearly sought to use his position to influence legislation for his previous and potentially future clients.
You can read more on this story at CNN.com.
Updated: Fri, Feb 19th 2016 @ 10:17am EST