As a Senate Leader, Trent Lott Opposed Law of Sea Treaty; As Former Senator, He's Lobbying For It

By Fred Lucas | May 11, 2012 | 1:29 PM EDT

This March 10, 2012 photo provided by Jeff Gilligan, a passenger of the American-based cruise ship Star Princess, shows a fishing vessel adrift in the Pacific Ocean off the Galapagos Islands. (AP Photo/Jeff Gilligan)

( – Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is now lobbying for ratification of the same Law of the Sea Treaty that he opposed when he was as senator because he said it “would put a number of our entities, including the private sector and the military in my opinion at the mercy of the U.N. bureaucracy.”

Lott is a lobbyist with Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a subsidiary of the lobbying firm Patton Boggs LLP. He is partnering with former U.S. Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana. According to lobbying reports filed this year, the firm is being paid $80,000 by Shell Oil Company and another $30,000 by Pike Associates LLC to promote passage of the Law of the Sea Treaty under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

Lott declined to comment for, said Kelly Mixon, public policy advisor for Patton Boggs.

On April 30, the Heritage Foundation investigative reporting website “Scribe,” first reported that Lott is lobbying for the ratification of the treaty. reported this week that 24 Senate Republicans have signed a letter vowing to vote against ratification if the treaty comes to the floor. The letter is still circulating and needs 34 votes to defeat ratification.

The letter, circulating now, is similar to one signed by Lott and other Republican Senate leaders on Oct. 30, 2007 when Lott was the minority whip.

That 2007 letter said, “We are writing to ask that you join us in signing a letter which urges President Bush to withdraw his recent endorsement of U.S. accession to The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement Relating to Implementation of Part XI of that Convention, until these instruments can be more broadly understood by the Senate.

“By its current terms, the Law of the Sea Convention encompasses economic and technology interests in the deep sea, redistribution of wealth from developed to undeveloped nations, freedom of navigation in the deep sea and exclusive economic zones which may impact maritime security, and environmental regulation over virtually all sources of pollution,” the 2007 letter said.

The 2007 letter continues, “To effect the treaty's broad regime of governance, United States sovereignty could be subjugated in many areas to a supranational government that is chartered by the United Nations under the 1982 Convention. Further, compulsory dispute resolution could pertain to public and private activities including law enforcement, maritime security, business operations, and nonmilitary activities performed aboard military vessels.”

Currently, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is pushing for the long-dormant treaty to be ratified.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted at the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea on Dec. 10, 1982. It is intended to define the rights and responsibilities of all nations regarding their territorial waters and the conduct of their ships on the high seas.

While the Reagan administration participated in the U.N. conference, President Ronald Reagan refused to sign the treaty, raising several objections on sovereignty grounds. President Bill Clinton signed on to a revised version in 1994, but that treaty has yet to be ratified by the Senate. In 2007, President George W. Bush endorsed the treaty, prompting objections from Senate Republicans.

Article 82 would require certain members to transfer a portion of royalties from use of the sea’s natural resources to the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica. For the United States, resources located on the U.S. continental shelf – defined as 200 nautical miles or more from the shore – reportedly could be worth billions. So, if the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, the country would be required to transfer part of royalties from drilling for oil and other activities to the ISA.

During a 2007 press conference, posted on the Heritage Foundation website, Lott said the treaty was a bad law.

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“First of all, I am absolutely convinced it undermines U.S. sovereignty,” Lott said. “Secondly, I also think it would create a huge U.N. bureaucracy which would put a number of our entities, including the private sector and the military in my opinion at the mercy of the U.N. bureaucracy.

“Now, once again, the United States would pay for 25 percent of the cost of this new entity but we would not get 25 percent representation on the various panels or groups that would be created by the Law of the Sea conference. I believe it would undermine U.S. military and intelligence operations and I believe it would be a huge problem in terms of navigational rights.”

According to Senate lobbying records, Pike Associates LLC paid the Breaux Lott Leadership Group $30,000 in the first quarter of this year to “support U.S. Senate ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

Shell Oil paid the Breaux Lott Leadership Group $80,000 to lobby for a number of issues, including the Law of the Sea treaty. Listed on the form under “specific lobbying issues,” were “Regulatory and policy related issues related to Offshore Rig Dynamic Positioning Program. Support U.S. Senate ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

Other issues Shell Oil sought Breaux Lott’s help on were, “Climate, OCS oil and gas exploration/drilling, permit issues. Arctic exploration, environmental response protocol and contingency plan measures. Issues related to Keystone XL Pipeline amendments considered on Senate Transportation Bill.”

On both forms after reference to the treaty, listed under “Name of each individual who acted as a lobbyist in this issue area,” were the names of Breaux, Lott, and John Flynn. On the Pike form the name of Matthew Cutts joined these three on the list of individuals acting as lobbyist for ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

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