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$450M in the Balance and Egypt Without a Lobbyist $450M in the Balance and Egypt Without a Lobbyist

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$450M in the Balance and Egypt Without a Lobbyist


Mohammed Morsi and his supporters celebrate his apparent victory in the Egyptian presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, June 18, 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood declared early Monday that its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won Egypt's presidential election, which would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the stunning wave of protests demanding democracy that swept the Middle East the past year.(AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa)

morsi.jpgWith the White House's plans to send Egypt $450 million in aid being met with resistance from a powerful House Republican, it'd be a good time for the Egyptian government to have Washington lobbyists working the Hill.

But the country's officials have been virtually unrepresented in the corridors of power since January after Egyptian raids on American and European-backed NGOs led their Washington lobbyists to drop them as clients.

Up until this year, the Egyptians were well represented in town. Three major lobbying firms -- run by former Reps. Bob Livingston and Toby Moffett and lobbyist Tony Podesta -- worked Cairo's interests in Washington through a firm they set up solely to represent Egypt, the PLM Group.

And Egypt paid well for that representation, sending PLM $277,500 every quarter for years.

But the fall-out from the December raids, including the revelation that lobbyists had been circulating Egyptian government talking points to lawmakers, led to the firms terminating their contracts with the Egyptians on Jan. 27. (The Egyptian embassy claimed they, not the lobbyists, ended the contracts).

The government, with former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi as its president, is now without high-powered representation in Washington at the same time the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) notified Congress it had plans to give $450 million in emergency aid to Egypt.

The money, part of $1 billion President Obama has already pledged to help Egypt, has technically already been appropriated by Congress, but the administration still has to notify Congress when it wants to spend it.

And that led Republican Rep. Kay Granger, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, to announce she will move to block the funding. She could also propose legislation to essentially cancel the appropriation.

"This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the U.S.- Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny, and rightly so," she said in a statement. "I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time."

While the new Egyptian government hasn't hired new lobbyists since January, reports filed over the summer with the Department of Justice detail just how busy Podesta, Livingston and Moffett were in the months before they dropped Egypt as a client.

Much of the activity, predictably, was focused on the NGO workers who were barred from leaving the country, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

On Jan. 24, Livingston talked to LaHood over the phone about his son, Sam, who had been barred from leaving the country. Sam LaHood had been in Egypt serving as the director of the Egyptian program for the International Republican Institute.

Livingston and his lobbyists also emailed military officials and a number of congressional staffers, including those in Granger's office, and met with Republican Rep. Peter Roskam about the NGO workers, according to the disclosures.

In December, Podesta's firm was busy spinning for the Egyptians, emailing numerous reporters such as Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg. In January, Podesta lobbyists were emailing and meeting with staffers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and staffers for Sens. Chris Coons, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey about U.S.-Egypt Relations.

Toby Moffett also spoke with LaHood about "Egyptians' position toward U.S. NGOs" on Jan. 24, according to the DOJ filings, and was busy meeting with congressional staffers in January. Reports show that he was still having Egyptian-related conversations well into February, meeting with Reps. Steve Cohen, Joseph Courtney and John Yarmuth regarding Egyptian military issues.

Asked why he had been working on Egypt's behalf after filing termination papers, Moffett emailed the Alley, "I can assure you we halted all work on Jan. 27. The only 'activity' I can imagine in [February] would've been telling people we were no longer engaged."

Amanda Thayer of Moffett Group further clarified in an email that the firm was wrapping up conversations that had already begun, and that they included that information on disclosure forms as part of the firm's policy of "over-reporting rather than under-reporting."

Only Hill + Knowlton Strategies continues to work for Egypt. The firm promotes the government's airline, tourism and tech industries and the country as an outsourcing location.

Photo: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi speaks to reporters at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 13, 2012 (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

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