Haitian Turmoil Reaches K Street

Posted March 5, 2004 at 5:22pm

While the details of President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s departure from Haiti remain unclear, new Justice Department reports show that some lobbyists began cutting their ties with Aristide’s government months ago. [IMGCAP(1)]

Foley & Lardner ended its contract with the Aristide government last May after billing about $40,000 for the six months before its September filing for public relations work.

Meanwhile, Dellums, Brauer, Halterman and Associates stopped representing Haiti in November after billing $120,000 from July 7 to Oct. 14, the records show.

Former Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Calif.) and his Oakland-based firm arranged meetings last fall between Haitian officials and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.).

However, several firms appear to still be representing Haiti.

As of its September filing — the most recently available public information — Foley Hoag continued to represent Haiti, though the firm did not report any specific activity to the Justice Department. The Boston-based firm received more than $115,000 in unspecified fees and reimbursements for the previous six months.

Meanwhile, lobbying powerhouse Piper Rudnick inked a deal with Haiti early last year to provide strategic advice and counsel on political and economic matters.

The deal was arranged through Haiti’s top American lawyer, Ira Kurzban of the Miami firm Kurzban Kurzban Weinger & Tetzeli, who has worked with many firms that have lobbied on Haiti-related matters.

Piper Rudnick did not report any fees for its work for the Haitian government.

However, the reports show that Kurzban’s firm charged Haiti $479,744 for work done in the first half of last year.

Kurzban said in an interview Friday that “a substantial part of the money was not for lobbying but for prosecuting human rights violations in Haiti.”

Kurzban said last week that he is still representing Aristide’s government, though the leader is in exile in the Central African Republic. “I’ve had better weeks,” he noted.

One of Kurzban’s chores on behalf of Aristide: arranging a tour of the Caribbean nation for a visit by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), according to the Justice Department records.

Asbestos Battle Hits the Web. With both sides of the asbestos legislation fight hitting the television airwaves, one of Washington’s most creative advocacy groups has launched a Web site to try to build public support for banning the cancer-causing substance.

The Environmental Working Group hopes its Web site — www.ewg.org/reports/ asbestos — will “shatter the myth that asbestos lawsuits are bankrupting the economy.”

The Web site includes a map that tracks where asbestos victims live.

Dutko’s Un-conventional Practice. The Dutko Group has created a consulting practice to help companies figure out the best way to get involved in this summer’s Republican and Democratic conventions.

“A lot of people waste a lot of money by just throwing money out there,” said Steve Perry, a senior partner at the Dutko Group.

Dutko’s Convention Strategies 2004, which is based on a similar practice the firm started for the 1996 and 2000 conventions, helps companies and trade associations identify the types of events they should be a part of as well as figuring out the best use of resources.

Lott Ally Lands Client. Robbie Maxwell, the man once in line to be the Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms, has registered to lobby for Global Security System for a new high-tech emergency messaging system.

He also has registered to lobby for a new ocean surveillance system, according to filings on PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Maxwell worked for Lott in Mississippi and was thought to be the Senator’s pick to be Sergeant-at-Arms when Republicans took back the Senate in 2002. But then Lott was ousted from his leadership post and Maxwell didn’t get the post.

Anti-Bullying Lobbyists. As Congress braces for a debate on gay marriage, the Gay Lesbian Straight Network has hired an outside lobbying firm to press for action on an issue that has not gotten quite as much attention as the fight over a constitutional amendment.

The network has retained Nixon Peabody LLP to seek federal legislation to prevent school children from “bullying and harass[ing]” homosexual students, according to a lobbying filings on PoliticalMoney Line.com.

Wireless Lobby. As the richest merger in wireless history came together last month, new lobbying records show that AT&T Wireless reached out and signed up a lobbying firm that could ensure that the deal is not disconnected in the Senate.

AT&T Wireless has hired ML Strategies and its two lead partners: Mark Buse, a former staff director to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), and David Leiter, who once served as chief of staff to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Soon after inking that deal, AT&T agreed to merge with Cingular Wireless, a company owned jointly by SBC Communications and BellSouth Corp.