The dramatic events in Egypt this past week have left a coterie of top Washington lobbyists quietly scurrying to respond to the unexpected developments in the nation they represent, caught off guard by the apparent end to President Hosni Mubarak’s long reign.
By some estimates, Egypt spends close to $2 million dollars a year on well-connected emissaries in Washington. The political insiders they hire are formally registered with the U.S. Justice Department as “foreign agents” and they represent a little-known but lucrative niche in the world of Washington lobbying.
Those who have held big-dollar contracts with the Egyptian government include Democratic power broker Tony Podesta and former House Majority Leader Bob Livingston, a Louisiana Republican.
Toby Moffett, a former Democratic congressman from Connecticut who was hired in 2007 by the Egyptian foreign and defense ministries, described to ABC News Tuesday how his firm’s routine work on behalf of Mubarak’s foreign and defense ministers took a sudden and unexpected turn.
“Tunisia got on the radar screen. There had been discussion about possible spill over. But no real sense of urgency,” Moffett said. “A week ago, he said, “we were still focusing on getting ready to approach the new Congress with the [Egyptian] ambassador.”
Over the course of the week, Moffett and the other Egyptian advisers have found themselves trying to insure some semblance of continuity as the longstanding Egyptian government faces an unrelenting challenge from protesters.
The busiest group on behalf of Egypt, has been PLM, a hybrid of the Livingston Group and the Democratic firms run by Podesta and Moffett. Livingston led an Egyptian military delegation to 147 meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress or their staff, according to data compiled by The SunLight Foundation. According to Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker, 1,783 contacts were made between various lobbying firms representing the Arab Republic of Egypt and U.S. government officials since 2007.