Transportation, health care and high-tech firms aren’t the only special interests angling for the ear of President Barack Obama since he replaced George W. Bush. Turnover at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. also means some foreign governments are seizing the opportunity to try to ingratiate themselves to the executive branch.
A change of parties in the White House, says Patton Boggs managing partner Stuart Pape, “creates uncertainty and uncertainty creates opportunity.
“Some countries are very well staffed by their embassies in Washington and some of them, for a variety of reasons, need some assistance.—
Patton Boggs has been happy to oblige.
Although Pape declined to discuss his firm’s clients, recent public filings show that firm is one of the dozens of downtown shops hustling for lucrative contracts representing foreign companies, governments and political parties.
In January, Patton Boggs signed up the Embassy of Sri Lanka “regarding its relations with the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.—
Patton Boggs is paid $35,000 per month for its services, according to the one-year contract on file with the Department of Justice.
Another firm, LeClairRyan of Richmond, Va., signed a $25,000 per month deal — plus expenses — to “facilitate a state visit for the king— and “assist Morocco in being viewed by the United States as a key ally in building relationships in Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world.—
The firm did not respond by deadline to a request to discuss the contract.
And Morocco is hardly alone among its neighbors in enlisting the help of lobbyists since Election Day.
Since Nov. 1, 2008, Libya, Georgia, Turkey and others have signed contracts with downtown firms.
Former Rep. Bob Livingston’s firm (R-La.), the Livingston Group, signed a vague deal late last year with the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, a nonprofit group run by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing.
A second filing, from March 21, 2008, listed a $200,000 per month contract between Livingston’s firm and the Gaddafi government, which the U.S. government de-listed in June 2006 as a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.
Livingston’s office declined to discuss his contracts with foreign governments.
In March, Dickstein Shapiro, through the Gephardt Group, also signed a deal with Turkey, which Obama visited during his much-publicized trip to Europe earlier this month. According to its FARA filing, the firm will “serve as the Republic of Turkey’s counsel in connection with the extension and strengthening of the Turkish-American relationship in a number of key areas that will be the subject of much debate during the 111th Congress, including trade, energy security, counter-terrorism efforts and efforts to build regional stability in the broader Middle East.—
The firm, which did not return a phone call to discuss the contract, is paid $35,000 per month.
Former Cold War foes also proved to be lucrative prospects during the past six months. Gregory Maniatis, a senior European policy fellow at D.C.’s Migration Policy Institute, signed the Georgian National Security Council to a deal worth 360,000 euros (about $470,000) for 11 months of work. Maniatis will split the fee with Daniel Kunin, a longtime consultant to the Georgian government.
Alston & Bird LLP signed a $35,000 per month deal with Ketchum Inc. to represent the Russian Federation. Both Maniatis and Alston & Bird did not respond to messages.
Not all of the post-Election Day registrations are for existing governments. BKSH & Associates filed in January to represent Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, “crown prince and deputy ruler— of Ras Al Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates, a position he held for more than 40 years until 2003, according to the Sheikh’s personal Web site.
Now living in London, Al Qasimi is paying BKSH $30,000 per month, in part, for “executive branch monitoring and liaison,— according to FARA documents filed Jan. 29. Al Qasimi paid for numerous ads in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Roll Call and other publications congratulating Obama after the election.
“The sheik’s interest and focus is really on continuing the work he did when he was in office and developing a strong relationship with the United States,— said Al Qasimi spokesman Chris Lehane, a partner in the PR shop Fabiani & Lehane. “He had a particular interest in promoting a sustainable future from an environmental perspective in the Middle East, promoting education exchange programs, economic relationships and strategic relationships.—