Egypt's transitional government lobbies on seeking funds, debt reductionBy Lindsay Young Aug 18 2011 11:06 a.m.
While the Egyptian uprising earlier this year saw the ousting of long time leader Hosni Mubarak and ignited a mass movement across the Middle East, the regime change has not translated to a different approach to U.S. policy. Lobbying records filed by the hired guns of the Egyptian government show a seamless transition from promoting the Mubarak regime to the transitional military rule, seeking funds for Egypt and then asking for a reduction in Egypt’s debt burden.
Lobbying records filed by the Livingston Group show that they lobbied the U.S. federal government and military command on these various issues during a time of political upheaval. From January to June of 2011, the Livingston Group penned 80 emails, placed 30 phone calls, engaged in 27 meetings in the U.S. and a few in Cairo and sent a text message on behalf of the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The Egyptian embassy hires the PLM Group who then subcontract with the Livingston Group, Moffett Group and Podesta Group. PLM Group reported that Egypt paid them $555,000 so far this year while in 2010 Egyptian Embassy spent $1.3 million for PLM lobbying the U.S. government. While the Egypt Information Office terminated their lobbying contract in February 2011 there are six other Egyptian entities that did not report terminating their lobbying contracts, forms submitted with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act show.
In the beginning of January, the Livingston Group emailed the State Department, military officials, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Central Command regarding the political unrest that the Mubarak regime was facing.
Military officials were contacted frequently during the protests to discuss security issues and then, after Mubarak resigned to discuss the transition.
The Livingston Group lobbyist, David Dumke contacted Maj. Gen. F.C. Williams, the Director of the U.S. office of military cooperation, six times before arranging a meeting with Williams in Cairo on Jan. 17, 2011. Williams serves as the principle military official at the American Embassy in Cairo. After the transition, Williams was again contacted regarding the political transition.
Early in the lobbying campaign, the heavyweight-lobbying firm headed by former Louisiana representative, Bob Livingston, R-La., started supplementing their military and state department contacts with congressional contacts. Livingston called the staff of Speaker John Boehner R-Ohio, Rep. Eric Cantor R-Va., and Rep. Rodger Wicker R-Miss. about the political unrest in late January.
On Feb. 11, the day Mubarak resigned, Livingston Group contacted U.S. Africa Command. Three days later, Livingston Group reached out to three of Rep. Cantor’s staff regarding the status of political transition.
The Livingston Group refused to provide any comment for this story.
Lobbying records show a stark similarity in the people contacted during and after the political revolution where the Livingston group continued to fulfill its obligations to the State of Egypt, regardless of the internal turmoil.
The only thing that changed on the forms during the six month period was that the crisis situation was later described as a transitional one. For example, on Feb. 9 and Feb. 11, the day Mubarak decided to step down, the description of his contact with U.S. Africa Command stated it was about, “the current status of U.S./Egyptian relations and the political crisis in Egypt.” And on Feb. 10 and 12, the U.S. Office of Military Cooperation was contacted about, “the current status of U.S./Egyptian relations and the political transition in Egypt.”
A week later, the focus quickly shifted to appropriations and getting money for Egypt, only this time it was the transitional military regime taking over the reins. Lobbying focused on limits and conditions for military aid to Egypt On Feb. 16 Robert Livingston contacted senior advisors for six congressmen to strike funding for the U.S. Military Financing Program.
In April, Livingston lobbyists pushed for the defense appropriations bill, which had a line in it which called for securing “up to $250,000,000” for electoral, civil society and poverty assistance to Egypt.
Once that was accomplished, the lobbying group turned focus on debt relief for the country between March 29 through April 21. It kicked off its lobbying with the majority and minority directors of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs. Bob Livingston then called Rep Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y. and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif.
Billions of dollars in debt relief was not an easy sell, a staffer at the time described the endeavor as, “a tough row to hoe.” Livingston Group helped solidify support for Egyptian debt relief by repeatedly contacting congressional offices. Livingston Group even coordinated meetings with key congressional leaders and Abdol Naga, the Egyptian Minister of International Corporation. A month after a series of meetings about debt relief, President Obama announced the U.S. plan to forgive a billion dollars of Egyptian debt on May 19.
In June, Livingston Group continued congressional, business and military correspondence. A surprising military contact in Livingston’s log was Christian Westermann part of the Biological Chemical Weapons Section of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State. Livingston contacted Westermann on June 6. The only description of this email was that it was to “discuss the current status of U.S./Egyptian relations and the political transition in Egypt.”
Podesta Group, another lobbying firm hired by Egypt continued to lobby in a similar manner to Livingston Group. They met with the office of House Foreign Affairs Committee in January, to discuss “U.S.-Egypt relations.” In the two months before the fall of Mubarak, Podesta Group emailed or called the offices of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., Joe Lieberman, Ind-Conn., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
There is a brief break in lobbying by the Podesta group between the Feb. 11 resignation and the Feb. 16 contacts made by the Podesta Group to the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
The Moffett Group has not yet released their lobbying filings for the first half of this year. Chairman Toby Moffett formerly worked for the Livingston Group.
The other lobbyists for Egyptian entities include Hill & Knowlton, who represent the Information Technology Industry Development Agency, ITIDA and Miss. Afaf Ezz, The daughter of imprisoned billionaire Ahmed Ezz receives public relations Services from Qorvis Communications.
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