Pakistan has a new man in Washington. The country’s government, which came under fresh leadership after elections on Feb. 18, has hired Locke Lord Strategies partner Mark Siegel, a longtime confidant of the late Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December while campaigning. The contract is worth $900,000 a year.
Bhutto’s party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, was one of two that took control from the party of Pervez Musharraf, who remains president but has lost much authority over the coalition-style government.
Siegel, who will lead a team from Locke Lord and will also be tasked with coordinating other foreign agents, worked with Bhutto for nearly 25 years as a speechwriter and adviser. He helped write her last book, “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West,” which was published after her death.
During Bhutto’s two stints as prime minster, Siegel also served as the country’s lobbyist here.
“This is such a remarkable thing for me personally to think of this as continuing my work for what Benazir would have wanted done,” said Siegel, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee.
As a result of the government power shift, Pakistan has decided to end its relationship with Van Scoyoc Associates, which took over the lucrative account from former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Texas).
Siegel’s work will include arranging meetings with Members, Congressional aides and executive branch officials, and public affairs efforts such as writing opinion pieces and reaching out to the media.
He said the new Pakistan government wants to focus more on social and economic matters and less on military issues.
“This new government believes that the way to contain extremism and terrorism is to build an economically prosperous and stable Pakistan,” Siegel said.
Since 9/11, Siegel said, the U.S. government has given $10 billion in military aid to the country that many believe is home to Osama bin Laden. “I think the U.S. government is moving away from putting all its eggs in the Musharraf basket,” he said. “We’ll be working closely with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the appropriations committees. We need to make sure we are truly economic and social allies.”
Downtown Diversity. Republicans may have coined the K Street Project, but a group of Asian-American lobbyists has taken on the H Street Project moniker for their own year-old networking group.
Started by H.K. Park, an associate vice president at The Cohen Group, the H Street Project has about 30 members, all of whom are lobbyists with Asian roots.
“It’s meant to be a networking platform to gather information about activity on the Hill,” Park said. “It’s about networking for jobs, too. And it’s part social. We haven’t decided to get involved in fundraising or supporting certain Members yet, but that might happen down the road.”
The H Street Project takes its name, Park said, from the street that runs through Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood. It also borrows from the now-famous K Street Project, he said, referring to the GOP-run effort to install loyal Republicans into K Street jobs.
H Street’s mission is to help Asian-American land lobby jobs.
“We may try to work closely with the head-hunting and lobbying firms in town to let them know there’s a pretty organized group of people who they can recruit from,” Park said. “We want to be a resource to them when they’re looking for more diversity.”
The bipartisan H Streeters, who gather for regular informal lunches, have met with representatives from the presidential campaigns and with Asian-American Hill staffers.
“In D.C., seeing Asian-American lobbyists or Hill staffers is a rarity,” said H Street member Josh Brown, a Korean-born lobbyist at CBS. “We thought it would be a good idea to get us all together.”
Other participants include Howard Moon of Amgen, Priya Dayananda with KPMG and Georgette Furukawa, a legislative assistant for Sony Electronics.
Furukawa said most of the H Street lobbyists have more seniority than she does.
“I feel like this gives me a way to ask questions, if I need to know about x, y, z or whatever committee,” she said. “I can ask somebody without feeling embarrassed about it. It’s like a family.”
Setting Up Shop. After 14 years on Capitol Hill and a stint at the Commerce Department, GOP operative Ron Bonjean says it was time to go to the private sector.
“I had worked on hundreds of major legislative efforts and high-level crises,” said Bonjean, who was press secretary for then-Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) when he lost his leadership spot after comments made at a birthday party for former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). Bonjean also served as the top press aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill). “I thought I would offer my talents to the private sector, who may be dealing with significant challenges and require strategic advice and assistance. Plus, I am getting married in June.”
So, Bonjean opened The Bonjean Company, which will focus on strategic work for clients in communications and lobbying.
His clients so far include the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “I’m going to be media-training Republican Senators,” he said. One of his tips: “Don’t talk inside-the-Beltway speak. Don’t talk about Senate procedure. Don’t use the word cloture. Talk in ways the American people can understand.”
He also has signed up financial services and energy clients on communications matters and is planning to branch out into lobbying as the business grows. “I have a strong Rolodex,” he said.
“My plan is to grow the firm over time. I hope to have a strong base of clients to be able to hire in-house professionals.”
Office Surgery. The American College of Surgeons is heading to the Hill. The group has broken ground on new digs near Union Station that will provide the docs easier access to Members. “This building represents the American College of Surgeons’ commitment to working with policymakers,” President Gerald Healy said in a statement.
K Street Moves. Sean O’Hollaren, who previously was the Bush administration’s top Senate liaison, has been named senior vice president of global government relations for Honeywell International Inc., replacing Tim Keating, a Democrat who flew over to Boeing to become senior vice president for public policy. Keating starts on June 2.
O’Hollaren had worked at Honeywell before joining the Bush administration and had been a lobbyist for Union Pacific. Keating, who was hired to run Honeywell’s operation at the height of the K Street Project, will be a corporate officer at Boeing in charge of state, federal and worldwide policy efforts and will report to the company’s CEO. He replaces the retiring Tod Hullin. “The opportunity to work for a company like Boeing was just too difficult to pass up,” Keating said.