That will mark a strategic shift for a company that has focused on key relationships with influential players in the nation's capital to resolve specific, narrow, disputes.
One key example: This spring, former U.S. Treasury Chief of Staff Jim Wilkinson joined Alibaba as head of strategic communications in San Francisco. In his Washington days, Wilkinson helped guide former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson through the early stages of the global financial crisis. That stint led to him being depicted in the movie "Too Big to Fail," in which he was played by actor Topher Grace. Earlier, Wilkinson was a spokesman for Gen. Tommy Franks during the Iraq War.
Alibaba has been most focused on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, working to get in the official good graces of the U.S. government on intellectual property and trade secrets rules.
A particular concern has been the U.S. Trade Representative's "notorious markets" list of foreign companies. The government says that designation "identifies markets around the world that harm American businesses and undermine our workers, through the infringement of intellectual property rights."
A spokesman for the USTR said all decisions about the notorious markets list are made "based on the facts and circumstances of each case."
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In 2011, the U.S. Trade Representative added Taobao, an eBay-like online marketplace owned by Alibaba, to the notorious markets list. The USTR noted that "pirated and counterfeit goods continue to be widely available on China-based Taobao."
The designation was a political headache for Taobao and Alibaba, and it presented a possible speed bump on the way to an American IPO. So Alibaba's outside lobbyists in Washington went to work.
The company hired Washington lobbying firm Sidley Austin on a contract that has been worth $10,000 per quarter to push its agenda before the USTR. Among the lobbyists who would take on the case for Alibaba, conveniently, was James Mendenhall, former general counsel of the USTR.