Tripoli: April 9
A Public Relations agency closely linked to US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, which worked for free for the . . .[restrict]NTC during the revolution, has been awarded a $15,000 a month contract by the Libyan embassy in Washington.
In a March 29 filing with the US Justice Department, the Harbour Group includes a letter to the Libyan Ambassador in Washington, Ali Aujali which makes clear that the PR company was responding to an offer from Libya.
“The Harbour Group is pleased to have been able to volunteer its services to the Libyan National Transitional Council and the Embassy of Libya for the last year, in its historic efforts to establish democracy in Libya and to build new and important bridges to the United States.”
The letter went on to say that Harbour welcomed the opportunity to support the embassy’s public diplomacy in the US in 2012 for $15,000 a month plus expenses. Its work will include producing speeches, press releases and presentations, “outreach” to media, experts and think tanks, developing web site content and social media platforms and organising briefings, delegation visits and ambassadorial trips and conferences.
Harbour first started working with the NTC in April 2011 doing much of the work for free which it is now contracted to undertake. Following Aujali’s resignation as the old regime’s US ambassador, in protest at the Benghazi assault, Harbour stepped in to help him and his staff organise presentations on behalf of the NTC. This included a talk to Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank close to the Obama White House.
Last May the firm also eased the tour made by Mahmoud Jibril around Washington, meeting congressmen and giving a speech to the Brookings Institute. At the time, one of Harbour’s principals, Richard Mintz said it was an easy decision for the firm to help the rebels: “It’s the right thing to do.”
Harbour, claiming “”smart strategic thinking and flawless execution” was set up as a PR boutique in 2001. Two of the firm’s principals have close links to the Clinton family. Richard Mintz was Hillary Clinton’s staff director during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Richard Marcus, says Harbour’s web site, helped “ devise media relations strategies for the last three Democratic presidential conventions.”
Harbour has had a range of interesting clients. It has worked regularly for the UAE, including in 2006 when US legislators sought to block Dubai Ports World’s acquisition of 22 US ports, as part of its $6.8 billion takeover of P&O. In the end the Dubai company allowed US interests to buy the American ports. Between April and September 2009, Harbour went on to represent the Abu Dhabi government for which it was paid in excess of $500,000.
It has also represented the government of Georgia over the Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway from Turkey through Georgia to Azerbaijan, bypassing the rail link through Armenia, closed by Turkey after Armenia occupied the Nagorno-Karabak enclave claimed by the Azeris. In this 2002 engagement, Harbour had to contend with Washington’s powerful Armenian lobby which argued the existing rail link should be re-opened. The railway is due to be completed next year. In 2007, the firm charged Turkey’s Washington embassy fees of $60,000 for four months worth of other public relations services.
According to The Hill, a newspaper for US legislators, published when Congress is in session. Harbour is not the only US professional firm to have been helping the NTC for free and now been awarded formal contracts.
In June 2011 the law firm Patton Boggs, which beside seven US offices, is also established in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, took on pro bono work, lobbying for and giving legal advice to the NTC. However only a month later, the law firm started getting paid and has so far received at least $240,000 from the Libyan government. David Tafuri, the Patton Boggs partner most closely associated with the engagement, has visited the country at least four times. The firm is reportedly closely associated with the drive to identify and reclaim Libyan assets stolen by the Qaddafis and other members of the former regime.