Egypt Hired Top Washington Lobbyists to Gain Access in US

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 07:12 AM

Three of Washington’s top lobbyists have helped Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government get access to lawmakers to protect his nation’s status as a U.S. ally and major recipient of foreign aid, federal records show.

Government-relations firms led by two former congressmen, Republican Bob Livingston and Democrat Toby Moffett, formed a joint venture in 2007 with lobbyist Tony Podesta to represent Egypt in Washington, according to records filed with the U.S. Justice Department’s foreign- agent registration office.

The venture, known as PLM Group LLC, was created to win the Egyptian account, which was to pay $1.1 million a year, according to a person familiar with the company who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The contract was for “promoting and safeguarding” the Egyptian government’s interests in the U.S., including “maintaining the amount of United States military and economic aid to Egypt,” according to a draft retainer agreement filed with the foreign-agent registration unit. Records show PLM staff made 1,873 “contacts” with members of Congress, their staffs or administration officials between 2007 and 2010.

All three lobbyists have strong ties to Washington and past administrations. Podesta, who runs his own firm, the Podesta Group, is the brother of John Podesta, who was a White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton.

‘Most Important Partner’

Livingston, who represented Louisiana and now runs the Livingston Group, chaired the House Appropriations Committee from 1995 to 1999. He had been in line to succeed Newt Gingrich as speaker when he stepped aside amid revelations of infidelity.

Livingston and Podesta declined to comment. Moffett, who represented Connecticut and now heads the Moffett Group, told The Hill newspaper they will continue to represent Egypt.

“They are perhaps America’s most important partner in terms of maintaining any semblance of peace and stability not only in the Middle East but in Africa,” Moffett told The Hill, via an e-mail, according to a Jan. 28 story.

In 2010, Egyptian military officials attended more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill with lawmakers or their aides, according to federal lobbying records compiled by the Washington-based Sunlight Foundation.

Livingston accompanied members of the Egyptian military delegation for meetings with more than four dozen members of Congress last year, the records show. They included Republican Kay Granger of Texas, a member of the Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee, which oversees arms sales to foreign governments.

‘A Moderate Influence’

Granger and an aide, Rachel Carter, also attended a June 29 dinner hosted by Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. where Livingston was present, according to the records.

“Egypt has been a moderate influence on the Middle East,” said Matt Leffingwell, a spokesman for Granger. “She is urging caution, certainly, in terms of economic and military aid as we craft a response” to the situation in Egypt, he said.

Last April, Livingston accompanied the Egyptian military delegation to meetings on Capitol Hill with such lawmakers as Democrats Adam Smith of Washington, Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Larry Kissell of North Carolina, and Republican Mike Coffman of Colorado. All four were members of the Armed Services Committee.

Meetings also were held with House Foreign Affairs Committee members such as John Tanner, a former Tennessee Democrat, and Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina Republican, as well as Texas Republican John Carter, an Appropriations Committee member.

Pentagon Meetings

The records show that Egyptian officials were brought in to see former Missouri Senator Christopher Bond, then the Republican vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who heads the Appropriations Committee, and Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The records also show multiple meetings by PLM representatives and Egyptian military officers with staff at the Pentagon and State Department. Visits included meetings with the Egypt desk officer in the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Egypt desk officer at the U.S. military’s Central Command and the director of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Egypt’s contract is far short of what other governments spend. The United Arab Emirates spent $10,914,002 in 2008 lobbying government officials and agencies in Washington, according to the Sunlight Foundation. It was followed by the U.K., which spent $6,105,200, and Japan, which spent $4,231,656.

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Three of Washington s top lobbyists have helped Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak s government get access to lawmakers to protect his nation s status as a U.S. ally and major recipient of foreign aid, federal records show.Government-relations firms led by two former...
Tuesday, 01 February 2011 07:12 AM
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