Iraqi opposition leader Ayad Allawi's newly-hired Washington lobbying firm will likely be in violation of U.S. law unless it discloses the identity of the anonymous Iraqi supporter who is underwriting Allawi's $300,000 U.S. lobbying campaign, legal analysts say.
As IraqSlogger first reported, $300,000 is being paid to the powerful lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR) -- a firm with close ties to the Bush administration -- to help Allawi promote himself and his agenda, a centerpiece of which is the ouster Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.
But a key question is who is paying BGR for Allawi's lobbying efforts?
Analysts tell IraqSlogger that Allawi's financial backer must be identified by name to ensure BGR's compliance with U.S. law.
BGR on August 20 filed 29 pages of required documents with the Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration unit -- legal documents meant to disclose the full extent of BGR's relationship with Allawi.
Within those documents, and in the wake of public statements made by Allawi Sunday, contradictions and inaccuracies have come to light.
Though the Allawi-BGR contract indicates Allawi himself will wire payment directly to BGR, Allawi disclosed Sunday that another Iraqi -- someone Allawi refused to identify -- will pay BGR invoices.
When CNN's Wolf Blitzer raised the issue in an interview Sunday, Allawi used the discussion, as he is prone to do, to underscore the devotion of his supporters.
“Because of the crucial role of the United States, we are asking this firm to help us to advocate our views, the views of the nationalistic Iraqis, the non-sectarian Iraqis. And I assure you, Wolf, that this payment is made by an Iraqi person who was a supporter of us, of the INA, of myself, of our program, and he has supported this wholeheartedly, without any strings attached.”
Allawi may have believed he was putting a positive spin on the news by reporting that his moderate agenda had earned $300,000 worth of support from an Iraqi backer, but his admission actually revealed that BGR had incorrectly filed key documents with the Department of Justice in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
FARA requires persons representing foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to publicly disclose their relationship, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of activities on behalf of that principal.
In filing papers with the Department of Justice, required for compliance with FARA, BGR's Dan Murphy registered Allawi as the sole foreign principal the firm would be representing, checking of the appropriate box to confirm that he was not being “financed by a foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal.” If an Iraqi is indeed paying for Allawi’s US activities, BGR is required by law to disclose the identity of the financier.
Years ago in a similar situation, for example, Allawi revealed the person who would be paying his Washington lobbyist bills. IraqSlogger has acquired a copy of the FARA registration documents concerning Allawi’s 2003-2004 relationship with another DC firm, Theros & Theros.
T & T's FARA filing marks the box indicating that Allawi was being financed by a foreign entity, and later explains that all fees and expenses associated with the contract would be paid by Dr. Mashal Nawab, “a close friend and admirer” of Allawi. Nawab’s total expenditure reached an estimated $340,000.
Nawab is an Iraqi-British physician based in the UK, whose family reportedly acquired wealth through oil investments. IraqSlogger was unable to locate Nawab to inquire about Allawi’s latest financier, but his previous financial contributions make him a plausible candidate.
In another possible violation of FARA requirements, BGR's contract with Allawi states that the firm will not only represent Allawi, but also "his moderate Iraqi colleagues." Allawi, however, is the only foreign principal BGR specifically registered to represent. If BGR intends to line up interviews or meetings with any individual other than Allawi, they are required to file additional forms identifying those individuals. While Allawi is identified as the head of a political party--the Iraqi National Accord--BGR is not legally cleared to represent INA interests unless the party is registered as the primary foreign principal.
In most cases, U.S. law forbid lobbyists from working on behalf of unnamed foreign clients. In this case, the "moderate Iraqi colleagues" are anonymous, as is the person paying for the lobbying campaign.
The US Department of Justice declined to comment on the BGR documents on Allawi because the filing is still under review. BGR representatives were contacted, but also declined to comment.
BGR's FARA filings on Allawi, current as of Tuesday, August 28. AllawiFARA070827.pdf