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Govt Extends Contract with Podesta Lobbying Firm
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Mar.'12 / 00:06

The Georgian government has extended its contract with one of the leading lobbying firms in Washington, Podesta Group, which provides its services to the Georgian authorities since 2010.

The contract between the lobbying firm and the Georgian National Security Council, which covers a period from February to December 31, 2012, is worth USD 600,000, according to Podesta Group’s filing with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Podesta Group will continue providing “lobbying, government relations, public relations, and media management services to Georgia”, as well as “strategic counsel... on communicating priority issues in the United States” and “relationship to relevant U.S. audiences, including the U.S. Congress, administration, media, and policy community.”

This January the Georgian National Security Council has also extended a contract with its long-time contractor Orion Strategies, a lobbying and public relations firm owned by Randy Scheunemann, who was a foreign policy adviser to John McCain's 2008 Republican presidential campaign.

Under the new contract, ending on June 30 2012, Orion Strategies, which first was hired by Saakashvili’s administration back in 2004, will be paid USD 270,000 for its services involving “advice and consulting services concerning Georgia's full integration into Western institutions, including its candidacy for membership” in NATO, as well as providing strategic communications, government relations and public relations and related activities in the U.S. and in Europe.

Publicly available filings under the U.S. lobbying disclosure requirements show that President Saakashvili’s administration has spent at least USD 5.5 million for lobbying services in the United States from 2004 till mid-2011.

From Georgia there is also an extensive lobbying effort in Washington from a billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili. Late last year he hired BGR Government Affairs LLC – part of BGR Group, which also has operations in Europe.

This year Ivanishvili also contracted Patton Boggs, an influential lobbying and law firm, which, according to its filing with Congress, will provide lobbying “related to banking.” Ivanishvili owns Cartu Bank in Georgia. The bank has accused the Georgian authorities of exerting various types of pressure since its owner went into politics last October.

Also this year, Ivanishvili has hired consulting company National Strategies. According to the firm’s filing with Congress, National Strategies will provide “outreach for [Ivanishvili’s] Georgian Dream political movement and presenting its platform for prosperity, democracy, freedom and accountability in Georgia.”

National Strategies also contracted on behalf of Ivanishvili a lobbying firm Parry, Romani, Deconcini & Symms, which is providing lobbying on issues related to “pro democratic elections in Georgia,” according to registration report filed with Congress.

The Cable, a blog of The Foreign Policy magazine, reported in January that Ivanishvili’s representatives had offered Podesta Group to switch from lobbying in favor of the Georgian government for double fee, but Podesta declined. One of Ivanishvili’s associates has denied approaching Podesta Group.

Unlike previous agreements in 2010 and 2011, the most recent contract between Podesta Group and the Georgian National Security Council, includes a new provision according to which “during the life of this agreement and for six months after termination of this agreement, the Podesta Group agrees not to represent or work for any Georgian political party, movement, or association - or any entity seeking to influence Georgian politics - without the prior written consent of the National Security Council.”

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