Promoting Serbia, for a Price

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, October 19, 2006

Republican lobbying shop Barbour Griffith & Rogers has picked up a client that won't be an easy sell to the U.S. government, but at least it pays well.

The contract is with the government of Serbia for $60,000 a month, from July 28, 2006, through Jan. 31, 2009. If all goes as planned, that would amount to a total of $1.8 million.

Barbour Griffith's work for Serbia, which wants to join the European Union, comes at a time of tense negotiations over the independence of Kosovo and its ethnic Albanians as well as the Serbian government's apparent lack of interest in finding war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic. Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when a U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign drove Serbian forces out.

For $60,000 a month, Barbour Griffith will "provide strategic counsel and tactical planning on foreign policy matters regarding Serbia before the U.S. government," according to the contract the firm included in its foreign-agent filing with the Justice Department. The contract was signed by Milan Parivodic, the minister for international economic relations, as O'Dwyer's PR Daily first reported.

The firm's lobby registration with Congress answered the question on specific lobbying issues this way: "Provide guidance and counsel with regard to issues impacting the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Serbia."

The Barbour Griffith team working for Serbia includes Robert A. Blackwill , former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration, and Andrew Parasiliti , former foreign policy adviser to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). Blackwill is president of Barbour Griffith & Rogers International , the lobby shop's foreign policy arm, and Parasiliti is vice president.

Blackwill was in Serbia in May 2005 and spoke at the University of Belgrade. According to a copy of his speech, he expressed optimism about Serbia's future, and urged the Bush administration recognize "the need to collaborate with Serbia to achieve lasting progress in this region." But, noting his "own private views," he also said: "If the final status of Kosovo is not reached soon, the region risks a new eruption of violence. That would also push back for many years Serbia's full reentry into Europe and into the international community."

Barbour Griffith doesn't usually say much about its work for clients. Parasiliti went so far as to say: "We are pleased to be able to work for the government of Serbia."

New on the Avenue

Two Democratic lobbyists are rebranding their work and forming a new lobby shop, Avenue Solutions . Laurie Sullivan was previously co-founder of Sullivan & Baldick and Tracy Spicer worked there.

The level of interest in Democratic lobbyists will depend partly "on the results on Nov. 7. I think business is going to pick up," Sullivan said, though she added that Avenue Solutions has a pretty good book of business now. The firm represents such clients as Aetna, Northwest Airlines and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Sullivan, a Democratic activist, ran government relations for Aetna in Connecticut. Spicer earlier was a longtime aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), including a stint as political director.

Nick Baldick , who specializes in grass-roots and political work, formed a new company, too, Hilltop Public Solutions . Sullivan said they will still collaborate on projects.

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