Monday, September 04, 2006

Investigation: Rep. Dan Burton Pushed State Department to Help Prosser

In our ongoing investigation of Jeffrey Prosser's campaign donations and apparent favors received from Republican congressmen, Political Videos can now report that Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) wrote a letter to the U.S. State Department on Prosser's behalf in October 2005. Burton received a campaign donation of $2,100 from Dawn Prosser, Jeffrey Prosser's wife and president of the Prosser ICC Foundation, on July 14, 2005.

The letter appears in the appendix to a hearing (pdf doc.) report of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Western Affairs held on October 19, 2005. Burton is chairman of the subcommittee. The letter, written in the first-person, is unsigned in the hearing report, but the State Department response, sent on March 15, 2006, is addressed to the chairman (Burton) and written "in response to Questions for the Record (copy attached) that you recently submitted."

Burton's letter refers to a protracted legal dispute between Prosser's International Communication Company (ICC) and the government of Belize concerning his stake in the national telephone company, BTL. Prosser agreed to purchase BTL for $57 million in 2004, and made one payment of $28 million. That payment was financed by the sale of preferred stock in the Virgin Islands telephone company, Vitelco - another Prosser holding, which Prosser loaned to ICC. The Virgin Islands public service commission blocked further loans and Prosser was unable to meet his subsequent commitments to Belize. The preferred shareholders sued Prosser, claiming they were not informed about the loan and did not authorize it, forcing him and at least two of his companies to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2006. In the meantime, Belize media reported in January this year that Prosser lost his shares in BTL to the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, after pledging them as security for a $30 million loan on which he defaulted.

In his 2005 letter to the State Department, Burton wrote:

As you know, the country of Belize considers itself both a Central American and a Caribbean country, and given the fact that the purpose of the Committee’s hearing is to assess, in part, the economic climate and investment culture of the Caribbean region, I wanted to discuss with you Belize’s year-long dispute with the United States-based company ICC over the ownership of Belize’s major telecommunications company, BTL.

Burton then provided a list of 13 questions, including:

If the Government of Belize continues to defy the Court judgments against it, what action is the State Department prepared to take to protect the rights of U.S. investors?

Does the State Department believe it has a responsibility to protect the rights of U.S. investors in Belize?

The State Department reply, written by the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, noted that some of Burton's information was inaccurate, including his assertion that Belize had "expropriated" ICC's holdings:

The State Department has not reached any determination regarding whether property has been expropriated in this case. In light of the known facts at this point, it would be premature to do so.

Jeffrey Prosser was dubbed a "world-class phone-sex operator" by the Columbia Journalism Review in 1998, a reference to his ownership of the telephone company (GT&T) of Guyana. A large percentage of GT&T's profits derived from phone sex traffic and Guyana was labeled one of the world's worst offenders of "dial-a-porn" services by the FCC.

Dawn Prosser, who contributed $2,100 to Rep. Burton's reelection campaign, is Jeffrey Prosser's wife and heads the Prosser ICC Foundation, an ICC "philanthropic organization." The Foundation is housed in an historic building with "sweeping views" in the Virgin Islands.

The Prossers have made large campaign donations to a number of Republican candidates for the 2006 election cycle, including $8,400 to Sen. George Allen, $4,200 to Sen. Jim Talent, $10,000 to Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC, and $4,200 to Rep. Jerry Weller, who delivered a letter to the prime minister of Belize on Prosser's behalf in 2005.

No stranger to controversy, Dan Burton publicly admitted in 1998 to fathering a child out of wedlock, and famously said of former President Clinton, "This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."

For more information, please consult the following Political Videos articles:

Investigation: Republican Phone Sex Sugar Daddy Goes Belly Up
Sen. Allen Urged to "Hang Up Phone" on Prosser
Investigation: Rep. Jerry Weller Pressured Belize on Prosser's Behalf
Chicago Trib Reports on Phone Sex Donations

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