By Shaheen Sehbai
WASHINTGON: At least 11 big and small, known and unknown, lobbying companies have been hired by Pakistan and state-owned Pakistani organisations in the US, paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars every month, some of them having mysterious names and almost dubious credentials.
Although lobbying is a legal profession in Washington, the way it is conducted has earned it the nickname of “officially certified corruption” and what the Pakistan government, Pakistan Embassy and Pakistani organisations are doing may come close to this unofficial definition, analysts say.
The information about these lobbying firms is public record and is available on official websites of US government agencies and organisations. But somehow Pakistani clients of these lobbying firms have tried to camouflage their widely spread activities under different names and different categories so that at one time not more than two or three companies could be officially acknowledged as government lobbyists.
The lobbying debate was fired by Geo TV’s talk show “Meray Mutabiq” hosted by Dr Shahid Masood on Saturday night but details gathered by The News revealed much more than the programme could cover.
All lobbyists are registered in the US as “foreign agents” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and have to disclose their activities and operations under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. All this data is then made available to the public through information posted on their official websites.
Under FARA data seven Pakistani entities are listed as clients of at least 11 lobbying companies. One such firm was de-listed in March and its client was the PPP.
Likewise lobbyists’ info, an official organisation that keeps all the data on lobbyists for the last 40 years and is the best recognised source of latest information on lobbying and lobbyists, lists seven Pakistani entities, which have hired the 11 lobbying firms in the US. These in their order of listing include:
– Council on Pakistan Relations (CPR): This is said to be based in Michigan but no other information is available except an expensive Washington DC address, 1455 Pennsylvania Avenue, one block away from the White House and next to the famous Willard Hotel. There is a website for this organisation, www.pakistanrelations.org, but it does not name any one or any organisation, which can be identified. The details of the website are also hidden and when The News tried to find who owned the website and where it was located, Go-Daddy.com, the domain provider listed it as a secret/private website. Go-Daddy.com charges $10 extra to keep all the information about the website owner secret. CPR has hired one of the most expensive firms in Washington, Cassidy and Associates which has former Assistant Secretary Robin Raphel as one of the senior vice presidents. General Musharraf had also hired this company in October 2007 at $1.2 million per year to lobby for him just before the imposition of the emergency in Nov 07.
– Pakistan American Business Association: This is described as a non-profit organisation and has hired a big firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, ranked by The National Law Journal in 2006 as one of the 100 largest law firms in the country. Who are these Pak-American businessmen and where are they getting the huge dollars to pay this firm and for what results is not yet known.
– Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has hired Benazir Bhutto’s personal lobbyist, Mark Siegel’s firm Locke Lord Strategies on a one-time payment of $150,000 to lobby for PIA’s landing rights in the US.
– Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) until recently had three lobbyists, BKSH, a subsidiary of Burson Marsteller, Mark Siegel’s firm LLS and a firm owned by one T Dean Reed. Lakhs of dollars were paid by PPP before the elections 2008 when Benazir Bhutto was trying to win over the US leaders to replace General Musharraf. On March 9, 2009 PPP terminated the contract of BKSH.
– Embassy of Pakistan in Washington: The latest information on lobbyists.info shows that the Pakistan Embassy has currently retained three main lobbying firms: Moses Boyd, Mark Siegel’s LLS and Ogilvy Public Relations (one of the names in this firm’s list of associates is Irfan Kamal. Who is he and what role he plays, whether any, is not known).
– Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Government of Pakistan: Under this name, a mysterious firm named ‘Team Eagle’ has been hired as one of the two lobbying companies, the other bang White & Case LLP in which one Pakistani name, Imran R Mir, is mentioned as an associate.
– Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting: Under this name only one name of a Pakistan-based company Asiatic Advertising is registered. No details of transactions are available for this firm.
These seven Pakistani organisations have thus hired 11 firms, separately and mysteriously in some cases, but what output and results are these companies providing is unknown and not clear. It would be a suitable case for parliamentary oversight bodies like the Public Accounts Committee to look into the details of these firms and how much they were paid for what results.
The data provided by US government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) until June 2008 is as follows. This lists some of the firms hired and paid by the Musharraf regime and some by the PPP government. It is amusing to note that the purpose of payment in some cases is just ridiculous like training Pakistani officials in the Embassy on how to deal with US media. The following is the data as listed on FARA web site:
– BKSH & Associates #5402, 1110 Vermont Avenue, NW Suite 1000 Washington, DC 20005
Pakistan People’s Party (t) Nature of Services: Public Relations.
The registrant contacted congressional staffers, members of the Congress, and the US government officials to check on status of Resolution 445 and to assist the foreign principal in its effort to promote democracy in Pakistan and in providing its views on the current political, economic and humanitarian situation on the ground in Pakistan. The registrant also contacted congressional staffers to discuss upcoming visit of representatives of the foreign principal to the United States. $31,299.65 for the six-month period ending June 30, 2008.
– Burson-Marsteller #2469 1110 Vermont Avenue, NW, 12th Floor Washington, DC 20005-3544
Pakistan People’s Party (t) 60 Nature of Services: Media Relations.
The registrant developed media monitoring reports, spoke with media representatives, secured and attended meetings for party representatives, and secured and staffed interviews for party representatives on behalf of the foreign principal. $49,837.13 for the six-month period ending April 30, 2008.
– Cassidy & Associates, Inc #5643 700 13th Street, N.W. Suite 400 Washington, DC 20005
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (t) 60 Nature of Services: Lobbying.
The registrant contacted congressional staffers and the US government officials to promote a better understanding of the foreign principal’s political, social and economic developments. $100,000.00 for the six-month period ending March 31, 2008. Printed as of: February 11, 2009 Page 160 of 229 Pakistan.
– Dewey & LeBoeuf, LLP #5835 1101 New York Avenue, NW Suite 1100 Washington, DC 20005-4213
Ministry of Commerce, Government of Pakistan, Embassy 60 Nature of Services: Legal and Other Services/Lobbying.
The registrant provided services to the foreign principal including developing action plans that advance Pakistan’s commercial and trade objectives vis-‡-vis the US government and the private sector. $294,042.83 for the six-month period ending April 30, 2008.
– JWT Asiatic, a division of WPP Marketing Communications (Pvt.) Ltd #5722 ABN Amro Bank Building 16 Abdullah Haroon Road Karachi, Pakistan.
Government of Pakistan 60 Nature of Services: Advertising. Activities: None Reported Finances: None Reported.
– Locke Lord Strategies, LP #5856 401 9th Street, NW Suite 400 South Washington, DC 20004
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP); Asif Ali Zardari, Co-Chairperson of the PPP 60.
Nature of Services: Lobbying.
The registrant agreed to promote the democratic transition of Pakistan and to encourage the international investigation of the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Finances: None Reported
– Locke Lord Strategies, LP #5856 401 9th Street, NW Suite 400 South Washington, DC 20004
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 60. Nature of Services: Lobbying.
The registrant will conduct strategic and governmental affairs communications on behalf of the foreign principal. Finances: None Reported
Printed as of: February 11, 2009 Page 161 of 229 Pakistan.
– Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide #5807 1111 19th Street, NW 10th Floor Washington, DC 20036
Embassy of Pakistan (t) 60 Nature of Services: Media Relations.
On behalf of the foreign principal, the registrant provided media training to embassy staff, drafted informational materials for distribution to journalists and other media outlets, facilitated the embassy’s interactions with journalists and other media outlets, and provided strategic guidance with respect to the United States media. $256,809.00 for the six-month period ending May 31, 2008.
– Reed, T Dean #5044 37277 Branchriver Road Purcellville, VA 20132-1922
Pakistan Peoples Party (t) 60 Nature of Services: Public Relations.
The registrant provided public relations advice and consultation to the foreign principal and the editing of a newsletter. $10,500.00 for the six-month period ending March 31, 2008.
– Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc. #5401 101 Constitution Avenue, NW Suite 600 West Washington, DC 20001
Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Embassy (t) 60
Nature of Services: Legal and Other Services/Lobbying.
The registrant monitored, advised and evaluated legislative issues, as well as arranged meetings and accompanied Pakistani government officials to meetings with members of the Congress, and congressional staffers to discuss general US-Pakistan issues. Representatives of the registrant also traveled to Pakistan to meet with Pakistani government officials. $330,000.00 for the six-month period ending June 30, 2008.
Courtesy: The News International, 28-06-09