Wolf Blasts Lobbyists Representing Sudanese Government

Posted October 18, 2005 at 6:57pm

Members of Congress often attack “special interests” and lobbyists, particularly when they are looking to score points with outside-the-Beltway voters. It’s much less common for a lawmaker to blast an individual lobbyist or a specific firm.

But Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, has made a mission of assailing K Street firms and lobbyists by name — at least those who represent foreign government clients with shaky human rights records.

On Monday, Wolf entered comments into the House record that berated the firm C/R International and its founder Robert Cabelly, which recently filed a lobbying report to represent the government of Sudan. Because of U.S. sanctions against Sudan, C/R International had to receive a waiver from the State Department to take on the client’s cause.

“How can an American company use such bad judgment and represent a country whose leaders are suspected of organizing and arming militias to commit genocide?” Wolf said in his statement. “And why did the United States State Department sign-off on such a plan?”

“You’re not supposed to do business with countries where we have sanctions against them,” Wolf said later in a telephone interview. “The sleaze factor runs through this thing. There is genocide taking place there today.”

Wolf said that he and his staff plan to draft a letter to his colleagues urging them to cut off communication with Cabelly and his firm.

“I’m going to write every House Member,” he said, “and say, ‘This guy is representing people who did genocide. Don’t meet with him.’”

Cabelly, a former State Department official on Africa in the Reagan administration and one-time George H.W. Bush White House aide, declined to comment for this article. A State Department spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Wolf has visited Sudan on five occasions, the last time in June 2004.

Wolf said he first learned of C/R International’s work for Sudan by reading an item in CQ Weekly. According to a contract on file with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit, C/R and Cabelly will receive $530,000, plus expenses, for helping Sudan meet its objectives, which include “public relations, government relations and strategic counsel as they would relate to implementing the North-South peace agreement, cooperating in the war on terrorism.”

The contract also said that in addition to Cabelly, consultant Stephen Riley will work on the account for $2,500 a month.

In his comments blasting the Sudan lobbyists, Wolf referenced comments he made earlier attacking Patton Boggs, one of the city’s largest lobby firms, for its work on behalf of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, as well as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, for its recent representation of the China National Offshore Oil Corp., which is mostly owned by the Chinese government. CNOOC was attempting to buy U.S. company Unocal, but that deal has since fallen through.

“First it was Patton Boggs trying to polish the image of Saudi Arabia,” Wolf said in his statement. “Then we had Akin Gump trying to assist China in buying a U.S. oil company. Now comes the shocking news that a Washington lobby shop has landed the Government of the Republic of Sudan as a client. Where will the lobbying wheel of fortune stop next?”

Patton Boggs’ managing partner, Stuart Pape, declined to comment.

Patton Boggs has a contract to lobby on behalf of Saudi Arabia through the PR firm Qorvis Communications, which also sends some lobbying work for the kingdom to the Gallagher Group. The most recent Justice Department filings show that Qorvis received a total of $5.6 million from the kingdom for advertising, PR, lobbying and other services at the end of 2004. Patton Boggs picked up $120,000 of that money from October to November 2004.

The contract between CNOOC and Akin Gump did not specify the firm’s fees, but Akin Gump no longer represents the Chinese oil company, according to the firm’s spokesman.

Wolf said that Cabelly shouldn’t have taken on the country as a client — and the State Department shouldn’t have granted the waiver — because “rape continues, the killing continues. … How do you take $535,000 a year from a government that’s committing genocide?”

Wolf acknowledged that he doesn’t “have the power” to stop lobbying firms from taking on clients that he disagrees with. But he said he felt his effort was successful in the Akin Gump-CNOOC case. He cited the resignation of Akin Gump partner James Langdon from the Presidential Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a board that reviews security concerns around foreign investment.

Mark Palmer, an outside spokesman for Langdon and Akin Gump, said Langdon resigned in mid-August from the board after serving on it for four years. “Jim is an international oil and gas lawyer, and he felt the need to recuse himself from both the board and from his law firm’s potential work on projects like China.” Palmer said Langdon also stepped off the board to prevent any future conflicts of interest.

But, Palmer said, Langdon did not himself work on the CNOOC client. “Before there was any publicity between CNOOC and Unocal, and before Akin Gump was even hired to represent CNOOC, Mr. Langdon recused himself both at the board and at his firm,” Palmer said.