Washington lobbyists terminate contract with Egypt government

Three lobbyists representing the Egyptian government in the US have terminated their US$90,000 per month contract in light of tension between Cairo and Washington over a crackdown on foreign funding for NGOs in Egypt, US media reported over the weekend.  

Bob Livingston, a former Republican representative, confirmed to the US newspaper Politico on Friday that he and the other two lobbyists, Democrats Tony Podesta and Toby Moffett, ended their contract, which was signed in 2007.

Unidentified sources at the Egyptian embassy in Washington, however, told Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt Independent’s Arabic-language sister paper, that the Egyptian government ended its contract with PLM Group — made up of Podesta Group, the Livingston Group and the Moffett Group — in order to ration government spending.

The embassy source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Egyptian embassy sent an official letter to PLM on 27 January, informing them that the contract would be terminated. He said the Egyptian government followed the contract’s terms which stipulate that a party eager to cancel the contract should inform the other party 60 days before terminating it.

Egypt-US relations were rattled after Egyptian security raided 17 NGOs in late December, as part of Egyptian authorities' investigations in alleged illegal funding from abroad to local and foreign organizations. The offices of US-based NGOs close to two major US political parties were raided.

The raids prompted US Congress calls to cut aids to Egypt, which totals over $2 billion per year, mainly military assistance.

In a story last week, Politico reported that lobbyists working with PLM had distributed talking points in Washington defending the raids.

“If Egypt has a position, we have the obligation to relay their position. And we do that,” Livingston told Politico. “But we do not counsel them on how to defend against [the raids]. And I don’t defend it.”

Last Thursday Egyptian authorities prevented Sam LaHood, the head of the International Republican Institute, a “pro-democracy” NGO with close ties to the US Republican Party, from leaving Cairo because he is under criminal investigation. Five other American NGO workers are also barred from travel. LaHood is the son of a US cabinet member.

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