The $100,000 that Plouffe received for his speeches in Nigeria was the highest payment he reported on his financial disclosure forms, which he filed when he joined the administration in 2011.
In December 2010, Plouffe headlined an MTN-sponsored event in Lagos called the Life Enrichment Seminar, according to Nigerian news accounts. A video posted on YouTube shows that Plouffe delivered a generic talk about the role of the Internet in Obama’s 2008 victory.
Though his financial disclosure statement listed only the Lagos speech, a White House official said Plouffe gave a second talk in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on behalf of the MTN affiliate on the same trip.
A relationship in the news
MTN Group’s operations in Iran had been documented in the U.S. and foreign news media. For instance, in November 2005, Reuters reported that MTN and Irancell had won a license from the Iranian government to run the cellular service there. A May 2008 New York Times article quoted financial analysts suggesting that a proposed merger between MTN Group and another company could face obstacles from U.S. regulators because of MTN’s business in Iran. An August 2009 article in the Los Angeles Times said Irancell had warned customers about “technical” problems during days of expected unrest; the article identified MTN as a co-owner of the cellular operator.
The White House on Sunday hinged its response in part on the activities of a prominent watchdog group, United Against Nuclear Iran. White House officials noted that the group did not start a public campaign against MTN Group until this year. “Seems like if MTN was a notable public problem in 2010, they might have started their campaign then,” the White House said in an e-mail to The Post.
Mark Wallace, the chief executive of United Against Nuclear Iran, said Sunday: “MTN was a charter member of UANI’s target list — the Iran Business Registry — launched in 2009. We hope Mr. Plouffe will use his considerable influence to urge President Obama to enact a full economic blockade of Iran so that companies like MTN will no longer be able to operate there.”
Wallace is a former official in the Bush administration, but the group has a bipartisan board of directors.
The registry, which UANI says has been online since 2009, lists many other companies active in Iran, including Marriott, where Romney served on the board until early 2011.