A Lobbyist: – Short Answer – A politically connected well paid salesperson who solicits “ideas” and “suggestions” to politicians on behalf of a client(s).
Conflict diamonds: Illicitly mined rough diamonds used by African “rebels” to become rich and through their newly found wealth, fund conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville)
In the News….
Today in Washington D.C. a cadre of well salaried lobbyists who represent the global interests of U.S. manufacturers, will meet with senators and congressional members in offices, coffee shops, health clubs and restaurants. The meetings at these typical Washingtonian – Insider – establishments that are nestled along the Potomac River is strictly about business. There is little discussion about the kids and the grandkids. Their time is precious and therefore valuable.
What is being discussed among the elite / privileged is how to circumvent a new federal law which requires companies to declare products that contain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Why is this tid-bit of information important you may ask? Conflict diamonds – a mineral- have become synonymous with the often used term, “blood diamonds”; meaning a diamond mined in an African war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord’s activity. These war zone countries are where approximately two-thirds of the world’s diamonds are mined and produced for a world-wide market / consumption.
The Dodd-Frank act is a provision that was slipped into the financial reform legislation signed by President Obama on July 21, 2010 requiring companies to disclose / declare all products that contain minerals from the DRC. – Democratic Republic of Congo-
The mandatory disclosure follows “public pressure” to connect “conflict minerals” as the catalyst that fuels political coups and in many instances, ethnic genocide.
Rick Goss, a vice president at the Information Technology Industry Council:
“This will affect almost every US manufacturing sector. It covers coltan and ultimately tin, which are minerals that are used in a multitude of technological industries.”
Widespread use of “conflict minerals” from these African war zones in electronic products has often generated headlines attacking billion dollar companies such as Apple and Microsoft for selling “genocide phones”.
Coltan is a dull black metallic ore from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. Tantalum, the by-product of Coltan is used to manufacture electronic capacitors, which are used in consumer products such as cell phones, DVD players video game system and computers. Are we starting to get the big picture here?
On one side of the proverbial fence there exists a rocketing global demand for technical consumer products which use minerals like coltan that is extracted from African mines by poor, uneducated African workers whose life and well being while living in a war zone means little to those who desire / want the minerals…minerals that create global profits that are beyond our wildest dreams. If you really would like to know how the super-rich “blings” aka “living large”, please Google the DeBeers diamond family on the internet.
On the other side of the proverbial fence there is a mixture of legitimate social activists that are sincerely concerned about poor, exploited and often murdered Africans and a mixture of wealthy mine owners who are concerned about their market share. A share that is often affected / disrupted by African rebels who “illegally” mine for the valuable minerals as they too look for their “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow.
However, it’s the potential “conflict tag” that comes with the highly demanded minerals that bothers U.S. manufacturers. With the negative stigma that is attached to minerals, minerals that are needed to propel the technology of the 21st century, there is a chance that the negative publicity that comes from having an association with “conflict minerals” could (1) add extra tariffs that are paid for by the companies that manufacture the products which are then passed on to the consumer who buys the products and (2) create a boycott from human right groups that are offended that poor Africans are being exploited and murdered for global profit.
Both being formulas that could be disastrous for U.S. manufacturers in an already shaky world economy.
U.S. companies that violate the new rules will be at risk for fines, court orders and adverse publicity under the normal disclosure sanctions applied by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Business organizations state they support the intent of the new law but remain skeptical about its far-reaching nature. These business organizations are preparing to lobby the SEC over the regulation that implements the law. The precise wording of the new rule, to be finalized by April 2011, is seen as crucial in determining the provision’s impact.
David Levine, of McDermott Will & Emery, law firm:
“If the law is implemented to require manufacturers whose product components contain conflict minerals to track back the sources of the materials to establish an audit trail, that could be a task of mind-boggling complexity.”
The National Association of Manufacturers said it supported “the underlying goal of the provision but we are concerned about the mechanisms designed to achieve that goal”.
So, the question remains as we use our technical toys, has the 21st century’s desire for African minerals exploited the poor and in most cases uneducated African, creating the catalyst for genocide in many African countries? Inquiring minds want to know. Sound off.
Until next time Louisianans, Good Day, God Bless and Good Fishing.