Pakistan’s D.C. lobbyists working overtime

David Gura May 6, 2011

Pakistan’s D.C. lobbyists working overtime

David Gura May 6, 2011

Tess Vigeland: The U.S. has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid since 2002. After the death of Osama bin Laden just a stone’s throw away from Pakistan’s military academy, some lawmakers are saying it’s time to reevaluate that aid.

We wondered what that means for Pakistan’s lobbyist on retainer. From Washington, Marketplace’s David Gura has that story.

David Gura: Pakistan pays Mark Siegel, of Locke Lord Strategies, nearly $1 million a year. Now that’s a lot of money, but veteran lobbyist Toby Moffett isn’t jealous.

Toby Moffett: I wouldn’t want to have to go up to Capitol Hill, if in fact bin Laden really was in that neighborhood for five or six years. I wouldn’t want to the job for any amount of money, to have to go up there and explain why the Pakistanis didn’t know it.

I asked Mark Siegel to give me his elevator pitch, but Pakistan’s chief U.S. lobbyist took a pass. In a statement, the firm said it’s continuing to assist President Zardari in working with the U.S. to combat global terrorism.

Mark Tavlarides was Pakistan’s lobbyist from 2005 to 2008. Here’s his elevator pitch:

Mark Tavlarides: Al-Qaida is still alive and well and if it was up to them they would execute terrorist operations against American interests. We need Pakistan to confront these threats. We cannot do it without ’em.

First, though, he says you have to get the story straight with the Pakistanis. Then:

Tavlarides: Give the embassy an unvarnished, honest read-out.

Based on what the Pakistani military, administration officials and lawmakers are saying. But Toby Moffett thinks it’s going to be tough to convince Congress that the Pakistani government didn’t know that bin Laden was hiding in plain sight.

Moffett: I wouldn’t even want to try to defend that one.

Bill Allison, with the Sunlight Foundation, a lobbying watchdog, says Siegel could enlist more lobbyists and consultants, hoping more Pakistani money will keep the aid flowing.

In Washington, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

Vigeland: Locke Lord, Pakistan’s lobbyist, turned down David’s request for an interview with lobbyist Mark Siegel. Here is a statement from Locke Lord’s spokesperson Julie Gilbert:

Locke Lord represented then former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, prior to her assassination at the hands of whom many believe was al Qaeda, and thereafter, the country of Pakistan and Mrs. Bhutto’s husband, President Zardari, in many matters, including their efforts to establish strong ties with the United States.

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, former Secretary of State Rice, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, current Secretary of Defense Gates, Director of the CIA Designate Petraeus and the Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, among others, have all stated that Pakistan is an important counterterrorism ally of the United States. Locke Lord is continuing to assist President Zardari in his efforts to work with the United States to combat global terrorism and to establish a more stable and prosperous Pakistan.

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