WASHINGTON -- African governments are paying millions of dollars to lobbyists in hopes of influencing Washington's policy, according to an examination of US government files.
Oil-producing nations -- especially, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial
Guinea -- are paying the biggest fees by far, but others, especially those
with which Washington has difficult relations, are not holding back the cash.
Most prominent among the latter are the governments of Zimbabwe, Burkina
Faso, and Cote d'Ivoire.
Still others may be acting through private individuals or companies who
contract with US lobbyists, according to disclosure statements which
lobbyists are required to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
Favoured lobbyists include former high-ranking State Department and other
government officials, such as Herman Cohen, who served as Assistant
Secretary of State for Africa under former President George Bush and whose
partner, James Woods, held the equivalent position at the Pentagon.
Lobbyists also include former high-ranking members of the intelligence
community. Milton Bearden, a senior Central Intelligence Agency officer who
specialised in Muslim countries and served as station chief in Pakistan
when Washington was backing the mujahideen in Afghanistan, has just been
hired by a wealthy Sudanese businessman reported to be close to the
For a 150,000 dollar ''mobilisation fee'' and 50,000 dollars a month,
Bearden is supposed to work over two years to, among other things, help
mediate negotiations to end the 18-year-old civil war in Sudan, lift US
economic sanctions against Khartoum, and restore good relations between the
Lobbying became a fixture of Washington by the late 19th century as private
companies and commercial associations felt it increasingly necessary to
influence the federal government. Foreign governments, despite having fully
staffed embassies here, have used lobbyists to press their points of view
for several decades now.
African governments - aside from apartheid South Africa, whose lobbying
activities began very early and were mainly covert - have been latecomers
to the game. They began calling on hired guns in the 1980s, after the
Angolan government and rebels spent millions of dollars on Washington firms
considered influential with Republicans in the White House and Congress.
Under FARA, individuals who engage in lobbying on behalf of foreign
entities are required to register with the US government and file
semi-annual reports on their activities. All of these filings are public
information and are kept in a small office at the Justice Department.
According to the records, oil-producers are the current big spenders.
The government of Nigeria, which was known for spreading a lot of cash
around numerous high-priced lobbyists here during military rule, apparently
has since decided on one major representative, GoodWorks International. The
firm's chairman, Andrew Young, served as president Jimmy Carter's UN
ambassador and later as mayor of Atlanta. Besides his position at
GoodWorks, Young acts as president of the National Council of Churches.
''GoodWorks can work to reverse Nigeria's negative image through effective
representation of Nigeria's interests in the US,'' reads the firm's
contract, which was filed last August. It states that GoodWorks, which is
based in Atlanta and has no Washington office, is to receive 500,000
dollars as an initial retainer and 60,000 as ''monthly retainers''
thereafter, ''not to exceed a total of 1,500,000 (dollars) for the first
year of service only.''
Gabon, another oil producer, has gone through more than a half a dozen
lobbying firms in recent years. Most of them, like Verner, Liipfert,
Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, and Powell Tate, have been politically very
well connected to both major parties. Costs have been well over a million
dollars a year, or an average of about 250,000 dollars per agency.
Most recently, however, Gabon appears to have cut off some of its agents,
settling instead for relationships with UK-based Shandwick Public Affairs,
which last year bought out Powell Tate and Cassidy & Associates.
Gabon has also maintained a three-year-old relationship with Jacqueline
Wilson, the ex-spouse of a senior US diplomat. According to her filings,
Wilson receives tens of thousands of dollars for special projects and
reports to President Omar Bongo's daughter, Pascaline Mferri Bongo.
In her latest filing, Wilson reported that she was paid 60,000 dollars
between August and November 2000 to ''support action of president of Gabon
to fight AIDS pandemic (and) develop a strategy.'' As to work performed,
she reported sending ''letters to the office of National AIDS policy at the
Among the major African oil giants, Angola ranks right at the top and
currently has seven firms working for it in Washington, several of which
have been taken on within the last two months.
Angola already was spending some 930,000 dollars a year on C/R
International, a firm headed by Robert Cabelly, a former diplomat who
worked on Angola when he was at the State Department; and 400,000 dollars a
year to Samuels International Associates, led by Michael Samuels, a former
senior trade official under President Ronald Reagan.
In April, American Worldwide Inc., a new firm headed by John Moore, filed
notice of an oral contract between him and the Angolan government for
955,000 dollars a year. The filings show that Angola/American Worldwide
then has a three-year contract with Patton Boggs, one of the Washington
heavyweight firms, for 250,000 dollars a year, and a second three-year
contract with Daniel Edelman, a major public relations firm, for 400,000
dollars a year.
A few days later, Angola signed a new, one-year contract with C/R
International for 620,000 dollars. Another firm, Cohen & Woods, filed a
500,000 dollar-per-year contract with Angola dated 26 March and covering an
array of representational services in the United States and at the World
Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations.
The new contract with Angola, which came on top of a contract for 600,000
dollars a year with Zimbabwe, represents something of a comeback for Cohen
& Woods. The firm lost potentially lucrative contracts with Liberia in late
1999 and with Cote d'Ivoire after the December 1999 coup d'etat and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) two months ago.
In addition to providing President Robert Mugabe's government with the sort
of strategic and other advice it normally offers clients, the contract says
Cohen & Woods will ''counter anti-Zimbabwe content in the international
media'' and assist the government with its own channel ''in disseminating
appropriate news and information about political and economic developments
Cohen & Woods has one other African client, Burkina Faso, which pays the
firm some 200,000 dollars a year plus expenses.
In March, Cote d'Ivoire replaced Cohen & Woods with a new player in the
lobbying industry, Valis Associates. This firm is headed by Wayne Valis,
who is being paid a 35,000 dollar retainer to set up shop and 16,700
dollars a month to "restore good relations" between the US and Ivorian
Ethiopia has also paid a great deal to lobbyists, particularly after the
outbreak of war in May 1998. It hired Verner Liipfert for some 225,000
dollars a year and C/R International at 300,000 dollars a year.
Uganda, which is thought to have one of the most effective embassies in
Washington, also hired a lobbyist, Foley, Hoag and Eliot, two months ago at
10,000 dollars a month retainer plus expenses to represent its interests
with Congress and the executive branch.
Other players include AfricaGlobal Partners, a firm formed in 1999 by the
former head of the Corporate Council on Africa, David Miller. Its clients
include the oil-producing country of Equatorial Guinea (284,000 dollars per
year), Swaziland (84,000 dollars per year), and Mozambique (150,000 dollars
Another firm, Jefferson Waterman International, last year contracted with a
private company, AmLib United Minerals, for 25,000 dollars a month to
''strengthen relations between Liberia and the US.''
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