Taiwan, Morocco & The Diaz-Balart Brothers

CBS - Miami

Surrounded by advisors, the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, smiled warmly into the camera as the American congressman heaped praise upon him.

“Mr. President, let me thank you for your leadership, for your steadfast leadership,” the congressman began during a 2014 video conference between Taipei and Washington. “Mr. President, I cannot tell you how much I cherish the relationship not only between the United States and the Republic of China Taiwan, but frankly the fact that I’ve gotten to work with you, to know you, to trust you.”

The comments by Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart were not surprising. He has been a longtime advocate for Taiwan, serving as the co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus. Through his position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee the Miami Republican has pushed issues important to Taiwan, including efforts to sell them advanced U-S fighter jets.

Adav Noti, the senior director for the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit Washington watchdog group that examines issues related to foreign influence, said he had never seen a circumstance like the one involving the Diaz-Balart brothers.

“My reaction is that it looks terrible and that it should be raising the question among the congressman’s constituents of whether these actions he’s taking to advance the interests of foreign regimes, whether he is taking those actions because he believes it is in the best interest of his constituents or because his brother is getting paid millions of dollars to advocate for them,” Noti said. “None of that is illegal but the fact that that sort of conduct is lawful highlights the need for stronger laws in this area.”

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