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Birnbaum: Past Columns  |   RSS Feeds RSS Feed   |   Politics  |   In The Loop

Musharraf Makeover Proves Too Much for One Lobby Firm

Tuesday, November 13, 2007; Page A17

Lobbying can be an unsavory business. Just ask former senator John Edwards of North Carolina. He hopes to ride that fact to the Democratic nomination for president.

Then again, lobbyists love it when companies and countries get into trouble. The bigger the problem, the larger their fees.

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So it was noteworthy last week that Cassidy & Associates, one of D.C.'s biggest lobbying firms, resigned from its just-signed $1.2 million-a-year lobbying contract with the government of Pakistan.

Cassidy dropped the engagement, it said, because the military crackdown by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had rendered its efforts to generate good will useless. "We thought it best to withdraw from the account as the dramatic changes in Pakistan impeded our effectiveness on their behalf," said Tom Alexander, Cassidy's spokesman.

A statement by the Pakistani Embassy, however, raises the prospect that the decision was more mutual. "The contract for one year was still at the trial phase when, during the course of the first month of association, both the Embassy of Pakistan and Cassidy & Associates came to the conclusion that the latter could not effectively implement the contract as lobbyist," an embassy spokesman said in a statement. "As a result, Cassidy & Associates asked for withdrawal from the contract that the Embassy has accepted."

Cassidy says it was not pushed out by Pakistan. "There was never any concern about our work expressed by the embassy," Alexander said.

Whatever the story is, there's no need to worry about Pakistan (not that you would). It still has a lobbyist, the same one it has had for 2 1/2 years. Van Scoyoc Associates continues to represent the government at half the price Cassidy was charging -- $660,000 a year. "We work with the embassy to address legitimate concerns that have been raised in Congress and recent actions by the government of Pakistan," said Mark Tavlarides, a vice president of the lobbying firm.

And clearly, with no regrets.

Romney's D.C. Connections

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was never a Washington denizen, but several of his top advisers are.

Former congressman Vin Weber (R-Minn.), who is chief executive of the lobbying shop Clark & Weinstock, is Romney's policy chairman.

Former senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who chairs Romney's domestic policy task force, is co-chairman of Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations, a lobbying firm.

A frequent shadow of Romney's at debates and elsewhere is Ron Kaufman, chairman of the executive committee of Dutko Worldwide, also a lobbying firm.

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