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Lobio won’t buy lobby2010-03-10 17:17
Georgia has hired new lobbying firms in the USA. Without them Mikheil Saakashvili's meetings with influential politicians like Barack Obama are no more possible. It seems the Georgian leader has communication problems not only with Russian leaders to whom he either sends relatives or his Armenian counterpart.
A month ago Nino Burdzhanadze, an opposition leader remarked that the Georgian president is no more invited to top-level meetings in Western countries. He wasn't invited to Munich Security Conference and Davos Forum, he hasn't seen Western leaders except for Eastern European presidents for ages.
If Mikheil Saakashvili is disappointed over it - he keeps it a secret. In an interview with a Russian newspaper he highlighted he was a frequent guest in Arab countries visiting Qatar, Kuwait, the Emirates and boasting of an invitation to Washington from Barack Obama.
Saakashvili has not seen US President after the election. Last year he tried to do it in New York at the UN General Assembly. Now it turns out that the invitation to April's meeting with Obama was obtained due to the efforts of Podesta Group, a US lobbying firm, as Kommersant writes with reference to an anonymous source in Georgian leadership.
According to Business Georgia, the 6 months' contract with the firm cost USD 300 thousand to organize contacts between Georgian officials and US political elite. Georgia's Security Council undertook to cover extra expenses including foreign trips of the lobbyists.
In addition to that Tbilisi signed a contract with Glover Park Group - another lobbying firm controlled by Richard Gephardt, an ex member of Congress, a Democrat. This is a new USD 436,800annual contract. The company has been working for Georgia since August 2008. Over the first half-year the company set up over 50 contacts with offices of US Congress men and senators providing Mikheil Saakashvili with efficient media support.
Both contracts were signed by Eka Tkeshelashvili, secretary of the National Security Council on behalf of the authorities.
By the way, Podesta Group is a company pushing interests of US Democrats. A founder of the company - John Podesta - was in charge of Bill Clinton's administration and Obama's team before inauguration.
With George Bush, a Republican, in office Georgia preferred hiring pro-Republican lobbyists. Before the war in August 2008 it was Randy Scheunemann promoting "Caucasian democracy". He was also trying to accelerate election victory of John McCain, another Republican. But the Georgian scheme as well as McCain's project failed and Orion Strategies, his company, lost the Georgian contract.
It was really tough without support of the lobbyists. That is why Orion's place was occupied by several PR pros specializing in promotion of "a democratic image". The contract with Public Strategies that is on good terms with the US Democratic Party cost Tbilisi USD 300 thousand.
Two more PR specialists from Washington - Gregory Maniatis and Daniel Kunin - were advising the Georgian government on "the republic's interaction with other states" for USD 470 thousand last year.
Generally speaking the amount is not that big but without this money Georgia fails to solve vital issues like treasury refill. Too many facts have emerged to unmask Scheunemann -created image of "the beacon of Caucasian democracy". These are circumstances of the war in South Ossetia, ill-treatment of opposition by Saakashvili as well as false freedom of media.