President Joe Biden this month tapped longtime ally and former Democratic senator Chris Dodd (Conn.) to represent the United States at a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders, a move that could boost Dodd's extensive business dealings in the region.
Dodd will serve as special adviser for the Summit of the Americas, a triennial meeting of leaders from the Caribbean as well as North, Central, and South America. Dodd's selection poses a potential conflict of interest given the former senator's work on Latin American issues at the white-shoe lobbying and law firm, Arnold & Porter. The firm's Latin American practice, which boasts its links to U.S. government officials, provides strategic advice for companies doing business in the region. Arnold & Porter is also a registered lobbyist for multiple countries that will take part in the summit, to be held in Los Angeles in June.
Biden and Dodd have been close friends for decades, stretching back to their days in the Senate. Biden picked Dodd to oversee his running mate selection process in 2020, overlooking allegations of sexual misconduct. Dodd and former senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) allegedly groped a waitress during a booze-fueled encounter at a Washington, D.C., restaurant in 1985. The incident has since been dubbed the "waitress sandwich" affair.
Dodd, who served as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, was also a close ally of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Dodd admitted to giving Weinstein special treatment because of the producer's political support.
Dodd is the latest Biden ally to receive a lucrative presidential appointment. Biden appointed his longtime friend and patron, Joe Kiani, to serve on the prestigious President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Kiani, the founder and CEO of the medical device maker Masimo Corporation, donated $1 million to Biden's charity and bundled $1 million in donations for his 2020 presidential campaign.
Dodd met with Caribbean leaders in Barbados last week as part of his preparation for the summit, which is themed "Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future." The event brings together the heads of governments, business leaders, and civic groups to discuss economic, educational, and social issues in the Western hemisphere. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting an event for CEOs at the beginning of the summit.
Several of Arnold & Porter's clients will have an inside track at the summit, which was last held in Lima, Peru, in 2018. Dodd's colleagues at Arnold & Porter's Latin American unit represent the governments of Ecuador, Argentina, El Salvador, and Venezuela, according to disclosures with the Justice Department.
A spokeswoman for Arnold & Porter told the Free Beacon after publication that Dodd entered into an ethics agreement with the State Department in which he agreed not to participate in any matter that would benefit the firm or its clients.
"He will have no contact with other lawyers or personnel at the firm on substantive matters relating to the Summit during the period that he is special envoy," said Wendy Morigi. She said that Dodd has not been personally retained by any governments in the Western hemisphere and has not engaged in any lobbying activity that would require him to register as a foreign agent.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Update 5:21 p.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Arnold & Porter.