Two of the biggest lobbying firms representing the Egyptian government made more than $400,000 during the last six months of 2010 lobbying lawmakers, military officials and their staffs on behalf of the embattled government, according to newly filed disclosure reports. In the period ending just weeks before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s dramatic announcement Tuesday, Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta’s firm, the Podesta Group, brought in $279,000 and made about 30 contacts, largely with Senate staffers, according to the report.
Former House Republican Majority Leader Robert Livingston, who partners with Podesta on the account, made $132,000 and his firm, the Livingston Group, logged almost 100 visits or conversations with lawmakers, military officials and staffers. Livingston himself lobbied staffers and Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and Johnny Isakson, according to disclosures required by law to be filed with the Justice Department because the firms represent a foreign government.
Livingston’s firm lobbied on a Senate resolution, sponsored by then-Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, that called on Egypt to support, “free, fair, transparent, and credible” elections and for Mubarak to honor his 2005 pledge to end a 29-year state of emergency that allowed authorities to “harass, intimidate, arbitrarily detain, and engage in violence against peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights activists and bloggers.”
Podesta’s firm contacted Feingold’s office four times and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office three times between June and December, according to the disclosures. Unlike Livingston, Podesta’s disclosures offer no real details about what was discussed, opting instead to generically describe the conversations as discussions about the “the current status of U.S.-Egypt relations.”
In addition to Egypt, Podesta represents the National Security Council of Georgia, Thailand, India, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Japanese Embassy. The work paid the firm a total of almost $1 million over the last six months of 2010, according to the disclosure filed Friday.
Livingston also represents the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten, which, in addition to Egypt, paid him a total of almost $400,000 between June and December 2010, according to the disclosures filed Monday.
Livingston and Podesta did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.
Disclosures also show that the Egyptian lobbying is intended to increase United States military aid, facilitate arms sales and improve the country’s relations with top lawmakers with sway over Egypt’s Washington fortunes.
On Monday, former Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.), who works with Livingston and Podesta to represent Egypt, told POLITICO that they were not lobbying the issue of whether Mubarak should step down, as he announced Tuesday that he would, but rather were educating lawmakers about Egypt’s importance as an ally.
“This is a very important strategic ally of the United States and it’s about the country not flipping over into the hands of somebody who wants to make it anything other than a secular state,” he said. “We feel very good about it. We feel good about what we’re doing.”
The firm will also help the Egyptians protect the $2 billion aid package that helps fund its military, he said.
“There’s a very strong bipartisan understanding of how important this aid package is to American security as well as the security of the region,” Moffett said.
The trio does business as the PLM Group, which began as a joint venture between the lobbying shops of Podesta and Livingston and is headed by Moffett, and is paid $1.1 million yearly to represent Egypt’s interests, according to public records.
“The theory was that there may be some big projects around like Egypt … where we could add some value beyond what either of us could do alone,” Podesta said of the partnership last year in an interview with POLITICO.
Generally, the lobbyists are “promoting and safeguarding Egypt’s interests in the United States; maintaining or increasing the amount of U.S. military and economic aid to Egypt; enhancing the quality of that aid over time (and) promoting Egypt’s economic, political and military interests in the United States,” according to a 2007 draft of the contract the firm was required to file with the Department of Justice.
(By Chris Frates; Capitol News Company, LLC)