Meet the Egypt Lobby

Attacks on Pro-Democracy NGOs 'Legal,' Lobbyists Insist

by Jason Ditz, January 24, 2012

Foreign lobbying is big business these days. With billions of dollars in US aid potentially at stake, a number of nations throw large sums of money at buying lobbyists. The enormous Israel Lobby is of course well-known, and every time an Armenian genocide bill crops up, the Turkey Lobby brings its own power to bear. As one of the world’s largest recipients of US foreign aid it is common sense that Egypt would have a lobby of its own, but it is not well known.

That is until now. When the US State Department expressed public “concerns” about the military junta’s crackdown on “pro-democracy” NGOs that receive US funding, the Livingston Group — a recipient of some of the $90,000+ monthly Egyptian lobbying funds — went into action.

The lobbyists have defended the raids against the NGOs, arguing that some of them were never licensed by the former Mubarak regime and that they were technically “operating outside Egyptian law.” They have also forwarded a set of “talking points,” including that the NGOs should not be allowed to “operate outside the law.”

The move has spawned a retaliatory round of condemnations from some politicians, notably Sen. John McCain (R – AZ), who is chairman of the board of directors of one of the NGOs. McCain demanded that the lobbyists stop, saying they “conflict with US national interests” and “undermine American values.” The Livingston Group is run by former House Appropriations Committee head Bob Livingston (R – LA).

The raids and the Livingston lobbying clearly reflect the interest of the current military junta, while McCain’s condemnations are a function of his own NGO’s ambitions in the country. Ironically both the junta and the NGO are heavily on the take from the US government, and more than a serious ideological split, their respective positions represent efforts to keep their respective gravy trains running.

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