Justice Department questions top lobbying firm with Republican connections
The Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, which was hired by former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, is being questioned by the Department of Justice about improperly disclosing how Allawi is paying his lobbying bill, Newsweek reports in a story by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball.
When Barbour Griffith made its legally required filing of their Allawi account with the Justice Department, the firm listed only Allawi in their records--a fact that drew instant attention from the department's Foreign Agents Registration Unit when Allawi told CNN that his BG&G bill was actually being taken care of by an unnamed Iraqi.
Allawi previously told Newsweek that two Iraqi supporters were paying his $300,000 lobbying contract with Barbour Griffith, a firm closely aligned with Republicans and the Bush administration. However, Allawi refused to identify those backers, saying there were "security reasons" and that "[t]hey may be killed by Iranians, they may be killed by the sectarian people...These are details I am not interested in answering."
"While acknowledging the need to amend their filing with Justice, however, Barbour Griffith officials may not shed much additional light on a lobbying blitz that has injected new elements of controversy into the Washington debate over Iraq policy," Newsweek reports.
Barbour Griffith is considering listing the Iraqi National Accord--Allawi's political party--as its client, which firm lawyers believe could potentially bring the firm into compliance with the Foreign Agents and Registration Act as required by the Justice Department.
"We are working with the Department of Justice to ensure we are meeting the requirements of the statute," said Barbour Griffith spokesman Walker Roberts.
“When you think about the purpose of the law, who’s paying the tab is what it’s all about,” Mark MacDougall, a Washington lawyer specializing in foreign-agents registration law, told Newsweek.
Allawi's hiring of the top lobbying group, which was first reported last week by Christina Davidson on her blog, Iraqslogger, was regarded as many on Capitol Hill as an attempt to undermine the government of current Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
It was also disclosed that Barbour Griffith's Allawi account is being overseen by Robert Blackwill, a former Bush national-security adviser heading Iraq policy.
"In light of Blackwill’s close ties to Bush White House policymakers," writes Newsweek, "his role has lead to speculation that the retention of Barbour Griffith was a move at least implicitly endorsed, if not encouraged, by some elements of the administration that are fed up with Maliki."On Wednesday, Allawi told Newsweek by phone that Blackwill was a "dear friend," and the one who suggested the idea that the firm be retained.
Allawi's campaign to reclaim Iraq's highest office received a surprising boost on Thursday in the way of an endorsement from Iraq's Baath Party, which, as Time magazine pointed out, may make the American politicians Allawi is wooing "uncomfortable to be on the same side as Saddam's old party."