Americas, Elections, New in Lobbying

Ex-Gov. Fortuno ends lobbying for Dominican presidential candidate

Former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno stopped working for Dominican presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo on the same day that Foreign Lobby Report first brought the controversial arrangement to light, newly disclosed lobbying records show.

This news site first reported on June 9 that Fortuno and fellow Steptoe & Johnson partner Douglas Kantor had been working pro bono since June 1 to help schedule meetings for the ruling party candidate and “build relationships” with key audiences. The news caused a media frenzy in the Dominican Republic, where Castillo has been polling behind opposition candidate Luis Abinader in a July 5 election marked by allegations of graft stemming from Castillo’s time as a minister of public works from 2012 to 2019.

Now a newly revealed lobbying amendment filed by Steptoe and Johnson on the evening of June 9 indicate that Fortuno’s work for Castillo ended that day. Both Fortuno and Kantor’s registrations on the account have also been amended.

“Steptoe and Johnson concluded its services on behalf of Mr. Gonzalo Castillo, and this representation is therefore terminated,” the amendment reads.

The filing offers no hint as to whether Fortuno’s brief time working for Castillo produced any results. Neither Fortuno nor Steptoe & Johnson responded to requests for comment. A US representative for Castillo’s Dominican Liberation Party did not respond either.

Spring polling had shown Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party in the lead before the election initially scheduled for May 17 was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. A runoff will be held on July 26 if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote on July 5.

Opposition lawmakers have demanded that the Prosecutor’s Office investigate allegations that Castillo helped steer overvalued contracts to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht during his time as minister. Last year, a Dominican judge ordered that six people including a former Senate president and Castillo’s predecessor as public works minister stand trial over accusations they received millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for construction contracts.

Fortuno represented Puerto Rico from 2005 to 2008 in the US House of Representatives as a Republican, before serving as governor of Puerto Rico from 2009 to 2012.