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Lobbyists Ride Out Regime Change in Egypt

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Protesters took to the streets and overthrew the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but the nation’s K Street lobbying team remains in place and “busier than ever,” said Toby Moffett, a principal in the PLM Group.

“We just couldn’t work for a client that was shooting people from the rooftops in Tunis and was violating civil rights with such abuse,” Vistica said. In a Jan. 6 termination letter to Samir Abidi, minister of communications in Tunisia, Vistica said his firm “had demonstrably improved the online perception of your government.” However, he wrote, “it has been and remains our view that improving your nation’s image in the U.S. or elsewhere can only be accomplished if the reputation sought is consistent with the facts ‘on the ground.’” 

But Egypt has a much deeper relationship with the U.S. than Tunisia does, with substantial military and economic aid at stake as well as its key role in ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The Egyptians are very sophisticated at promoting their own interests in Washington,” Graeme Bannerman said. His firm lobbied for the Egyptian government from 1990 until 2007, when he gave up the account and PLM was awarded the contract.

Miner and Silvers worked with Bannerman on the Egypt account, and Bannerman said both men, now partners at Vanguard Government Strategies, were on a friendly basis with many in the Egyptian military.

While neither Miner nor Silvers would comment on their role in lobbying Egypt, records filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act show they have been active in the past year in lobbying key U.S. military officials as well as lawmakers.

For example, last November Miner spoke by telephone with Maj. Jason Figueiredo, the Egypt desk officer for the U.S. Central Command, about the current status of U.S.-Egypt relations and security relations, according to his FARA reports. He also had a phone conversation that month on the same topic with Lt. Col. Jed McCray, the Middle East desk officer for the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

PLM lobbyists also spent much of last fall working to defeat a proposed Senate resolution that called on Mubarak to lift a state of emergency, hold free and fair elections, and end harassment of media professionals and human rights activists. The resolution, by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), never came up for a vote.

Records show that the PLM lobbying team made numerous contacts with lawmakers’ offices on the resolution. Livingston, for example, reached out to the offices of Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), David Vitter (R-La.), Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). 

Last year, lobbyists for Egypt reported making 366 contacts in Washington, the third-most-reported lobbying contacts among Arab countries’ lobbying firms, according to an analysis of FARA records by the Sunlight Foundation.

The two countries reporting more lobbying contracts were the United Arab Emirates, with 407, and Morocco, with 653. Lobbying for the UAE in 2010 were Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, DLA Piper, and the Harbour Group. The Moffett Group lobbied for Morocco.

Three other Arab governments also reported lobbying contacts in Washington last year. They were Algeria, with 50, Saudi Arabia, 20, and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, 19.

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