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Trump team walks back announcement of Dole joining transition. Is it because he's a lobbyist?

Lindsay Wise, Curtis Tate and Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- A day after President-elect Donald Trump's transition team welcomed former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole as a senior adviser, a Trump spokesman said he made the announcement in error.

"Yesterday, I inadvertently mentioned that Senator Dole was joining the transition team as the vice chair," said the spokesman, Sean Spicer. "That is my mistake. Senator Dole continues to be a huge supporter and has been extremely helpful in the transition process, but due to some time commitments that he has, he's not able to take on an official role with the transition executive committee."

Dole's appointment would have violated the Trump team's requirement that anyone working in an official role on the transition sign a pledge that they are not registered lobbyists or working on behalf of a foreign government.

Dole, 93, is a lobbyist at Alston & Bird, a Washington law firm. He also worked as a foreign agent for Taiwan as recently as last month.

In that role, he helped set up a controversial phone call in December between Trump and the Taiwanese president.

The call was part of a monthslong push by Dole and others to improve relations between Trump and Taiwan. It broke with diplomatic protocol because the United States does not officially recognize Taiwan as separate from China.

Dole's firm was paid $140,000 for the work on behalf of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, according to Department of Justice records. Known as TECRO, that office is the functional equivalent of an embassy for Taiwan.

The firm was paid a total of $535,000 to lobby for the Russian Federation in 2009, 2013 and 2014, records show.

Alston & Bird did not reply to a request for comment.

Dole's domestic clients include Boyd Gaming, a casino company that owns 24 casinos in seven states, including Kansas. David Strow, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming, confirmed to McClatchy on Tuesday that Dole is one of the counselors at that firm who currently works for Boyd Gaming.

Boyd Gaming paid Dole's firm $180,000 in 2016 to advocate for the company in Congress on legislation affecting Native American tribes, hotels and casinos.

Senate disclosure forms show Dole also lobbied last year for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit education company, for a total of $230,000.

Dole, a former Republican presidential nominee, will continue to advise Trump and in an "unofficial" role, but "not as an official part of the transition," Spicer said.

Spicer said Dole "has been tremendously gracious with his time and counsel and guidance. We appreciate his continued support. ... That was my fault for getting ahead of what we thought was his addition to the team."

(Kumar reported from New York. Vera Bergengruen contributed to this report.)

(c)2017 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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