Mexico paid Brock firm for pro-NAFTA efforts

December 16, 1993|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock, who took another step yesterday toward a 1994 Senate race in Maryland, heads a company that collected nearly $1 million from the Mexican government to work for passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

According to disclosure reports filed with the Justice Department, the Brock Group has received about $3.9 million in fees and expenses from clients in other countries since December 1989, including the governments of Germany, Mexico, Panama and Taiwan.

Mr. Brock's firm received about $934,000 from the Mexican government between the spring of 1991 and the fall of this year, according to the reports. Mr. Brock said his company "provided strategic advice to the Mexican government" on winning passage of NAFTA in Congress, which approved the controversial trade deal last month.

Mr. Brock, 63, a Republican, was the first U.S. trade representative and labor secretary in the Reagan administration. He announced yesterday that he has formed an "exploratory committee" to examine his prospects for unseating Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes next year.

Mr. Brock's service to Mexico generated criticism this month from Ross Perot, who has repeatedly criticized former U.S. officials who work on behalf of other countries after they leave the government.

At a rally in Chattanooga, Tenn., Mr. Brock's birthplace, Mr. Perot cited the former Tennessee senator as an example of "what we're trying to stop," according to news accounts of the event. "As far as I'm concerned, this is economic treason for a person to serve in a civilian capacity in government and then ship our jobs overseas," Mr. Perot said.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Mr. Brock said that he would never represent an overseas client in opposition to U.S. policy and that he would not take on any cause that he could not or did not advocate while a government official.

He also said he had complied with ethics laws that prohibit former senior U.S. officials from working as foreign agents for five years after they leave government service.

The grandson of the founder of the Brock Candy Co. Mr. Brock spent eight years in the House before unseating Sen. Albert Gore, Vice President Al Gore's father, in 1970. After losing a 1976 re-election bid, he became Republican national chairman and was widely credited with rebuilding the party after Watergate and paving the way for Mr. Reagan's 1980 victory.

Although he lived in Montgomery County from 1966 to 1971 while representing Tennessee in Congress and has lived in Annapolis since 1985, Mr. Brock could face "carpetbagger" charges, which have dogged the last two Maryland GOP Senate candidates, whose work in Washington brought them to Montgomery County. Linda Chavez ran against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski in 1986, and Alan L. Keyes ran against Mr. Sarbanes in 1988 and Ms. Mikulski last year.

"It's amazing to me, given the track record of the Republican Party in Maryland, that they all of a sudden would embrace a statewide candidate who's never held elective office in the state," said Del Ali of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc., a Columbia polling company.

Nevertheless, some Maryland GOP operatives see Mr. Brock as the answer to their prayers for a heavyweight challenger to Mr. Sarbanes.

A Mason-Dixon poll in August found that 41 percent of Marylanders would vote to re-elect Mr. Sarbanes, a relatively weak showing for a three-term Democratic incumbent in a strongly Democratic state.

If he won the GOP primary next September, Mr. Brock not only would face Mr. Sarbanes, who voted against NAFTA, but he could find himself on the ticket with Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a 2nd District Republican who is running for governor and who was one of the most ardent foes of NAFTA in Congress.

Mr. Brock said he expects to make a final decision on whether to seek the Sarbanes seat by late January or early February. He released yesterday a list of three dozen supporters, including former U.S. Attorney George Beall; William H. Webster, former director of the FBI and the CIA; former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick; Harvey M. Meyerhoff, former U.S. Holocaust Commission chairman and Baltimore philanthropist; Charles Cole, president of First National Bank of Maryland; and Reg Murphy, former publisher of The Baltimore Sun and now executive vice president of the National Geographic Society.

If Mr. Brock runs, he will add his name to a list of GOP Senate candidates that includes Ruthann Aron of Potomac, a member of the Montgomery County Planning Board; William T. S. Bricker, a Towson attorney; Queen Anne's County Del. C. Ronald Franks; Ross Z. Pierpont of Baltimore, a retired surgeon; and Frank Nethken, a former mayor of Cumberland.

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