Mega-lobbyist, former Mississippi governor, and Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour has come under fire for his role in stealing the results of the Republican Senate primary but it is not the first time he’s been involved with shady characters. Indeed the longtime lobbyist has lobbied for dictatorships and corrupt governments which have stolen elections and enslaved their people, including Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, Bahrain, Gambia, and Thailand. Qatar, where five jihadi terrorists were recently released and where two American citizens remain unjustly jailed, is also a client of Barbour’s lobbying firm.
“Haley Barbour owns that state,” consultant Ed Rollins told Charlie Rose this week in a discussion of the controversial senate race. Perhaps Barbour feels a kinship with other dictators who own their countries? Let’s take a look.
The worst of the dictatorships Barbour supports is the Gambia where dictator for life Yahya Jammeh maintains an iron grip on political life. Jammeh continues to be one of Africa’s worst dictators and he has been roundly criticized throughout Africa and Europe. He recently called homosexuals “ungodly vermin” and threatened to behead them in 2008. He claimed he had invented an herbal remedy cure for AIDS in 2007.
The international media group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned Jammeh for its “absolute intolerance of any form of criticism” in the Gambia, with death threats, surveillance and arbitrary night-time detentions a routine condition for journalists “who do not sing the government’s praises.” Jammeh even stole an election in 2011 but Barbour’s firm continued to work with him. Barbour’s firm was paid a $45,000 monthly retainer from the Gambian dictatorship to lobby the U.S. government for U.S. taxpayer money in 2013, according to government documents.
African anti-corruption activist George Ayittey calls Equatorial Guinea a “disgraceful kleptocracy” but Haley Barbour calls the oil rich but citizen poor dictatorship a client. Barbour’s firm has received hundreds of thousands of dollars–“some retainers were for $37,500 a month”–from Equatorial Guinea, according to government documents. The Guardian wrote recently that “Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights records on the continent, overseen by Africa’s longest serving dictator,” but Barbour’s firm happily cashed the dictator’s checks.
Thaksin Shinawatra was recently deposed as dictator of Thailand but not before shelling out $60,000.00 for the six month period ending November 30, 2012 to Barbour’s firm.
According to other records filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, Barbour and his firm, BGR, have has also represented Mexico and are supporters of amnesty. For their work on behalf of Mexico’s push for amnesty Barbour’s firm charged Mexico $35,000 a month, plus expenses, almost the median household income in Mississippi for an entire year.
Russia and Ukraine
Barbour’s firm represented a Moscow cell phone company in a case that was investigated by Congress. Barbour’s firm also received over $2 million from a Ukrainian businessman accused of money laundering, according to press reports.
One client is the nation of Eritrea, which has been threatened to be listed as a terrorist nation by the State Department for their support of the Somali Islamists, according to the New York Times. Barbour’s firm had also registered with the State Department “to ‘provide guidance and counsel’ on foreign policy to the embassy of Eritrea. That contract, which paid $65,000 a month for six months, or a total of $390,000,” according to the Washington Post reported in August 2006.
The left-wing website, Source Watch, also has its own list of Barbour clientele, quoted from below:
In June 2002, O’Dwyers PR Daily reported that BG&R had gained a $30,000-a-month contract with the Embassy of Bolivia “to deal with tactical planning, trade and appropriations matters.” The BG&R team was headed by Barbour and also included Keith Schuette, a former president of the International Republican Institute, and Scott Barnhart. “Bolivia scored a coup on the trade front as Congress agreed to reduce tariffs on canned tuna, textiles and cut flowers to encourage it, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to fight the drug trade,” reported O’Dwyer’s.
In July 2004, the Kurdish Democratic Party retained BG&R, “to ensure that Iraqi Kurdistan maintains its autonomy from Baghdad in the new Iraq Government” and for the “return of oil-rich Kirkuk, which Saddam Hussein had ‘Arabized’ as the capital of the region, to Kurdistan.”
In February 2005, O’Dwyers PR Daily reported that the government of Qatar had “hired Barbour Griffith & Rogers to a $300,000 pact to smooth relations with the Bush Administration.”
In August 2006, the Washington Post reported that BG&R was working for the “National Dialogue Party of Lebanon and its chairman, Fouad Makhzoumi. The Republican shop registered to lobby for the Lebanese party in mid-June, with an effective start date of April 15.” After armed hostilities between the Israeli government and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia began in July 2006, BG&R started promoting “Makhzoumi’s message of support for a cease-fire and a diplomatic solution to policymakers in Washington,” rather than an Israeli victory. The contract totaled $300,000 over six months.
BG&R’s involvement and efforts in 2007 in ousting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to replace him with former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, were documented in hundreds of emails sent in Allawi’s name, Think Progress reported in 2007. Allawi was called “Saddam lite” by Slate in 2004 for his “mostly rhetorical” toughness and alleged courting of insurgents. Robert Blackwill, the lead BGR lobbyist on the account, oversaw the creation of the new Iraqi government, National Public Radio reported in 2007.
BG&R landed a $60,000 a month contract to represent Serbia. The contract, which was signed by Serbia’s Minister for International Economic Relations, Milan Parivodic, runs until January 2009. Serbia has been criticized lately for being half-hearted in its cooperation with investigations into war crimes committed during the 1990’s.
Paul Schmehl contributed to this report.
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