The outing of neoconservative “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle as a key figure in a lobbying group’s 2006 plan to burnish the image of Muammar Gaddafi in Washington has shone further light on the lucrative industry of lobbying various arms of the US government for dictatorships.
Dictators are good business for K Street and especially in the Middle East, where oil, Israel and counter-terrorism can all provide a convenient cover for even the most vicious of authoritarian regimes. Fortunately, there’s a legal obligation to report what foreign interests are being represented, providing a detailed database of which firms represent which dictators.
- Libya is also represented by the Livingston Group, a major Washington lobbying firm with a number of former Congressmen on its books.
- Global PR agency Fleishman-Hillard represented Egypt’s Mubarak regime for several years and even boasts about its efforts to raise the profile of Egypt as a business destination through media coverage and stakeholder engagement. BusinessWeek profiled Egypt’s heavy-hitter lobbyists just before Mubarak’s fall.
- The brutal regime of Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian Government was represented until 2009 by the Los Angeles and Washington-based Mary Saylor company, headed by former Los Angeles Times editor Mark Saylor. Saylor also represents the United Arab Emirates, and the company even boasts on its website of how to turn human rights abuses into a positive:
When a lawsuit alleged human rights violations by a foreign government’s leaders, Saylor Company turned a potential catastrophe into a public relations benefit. Working closely with the government’s lawyers and lobbyists, we proposed new programs that won praise from human rights advocates and were held up as model programs for the region. Our work resulted in international media coverage of the country that focused on its positive achievements and highlighted the government’s leadership in tackling a difficult human rights issue.
- Global PR company Hill and Knowlton is among several agencies that until 2009 represented the interests of the vicious, misogynist Saudi dictatorship.
- The Yemeni Air Force was represented until March last year by Airpower Consulting Executive Services’s Daniel L Swayne, a combat veteran and “Middle East security consultant”.
- Until Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled, he was represented in Washington by the “boutique” Washington Media Group.
- Another major PR company, CRGMP Inc, represents the Bahraini Government to “advise on marketing g and communication activities in the US to promote Bahrain as a strategic business, trade and investment partner, through events, embassy support, media relations, materials distribution and third-party outreach.”
These are of course just the Middle East branch of Dictators ‘R’ Us. There’s plenty of work in Washington for representatives of despots across the world.