The Egyptian government and three lobbyists parted ways Friday (Jan. 27), a move that has brought the billions of dollars of U.S. aid to the country in peril.
Politico reported Jan. 27 that the Livingston Group, the Moffett group and the Podesto Group “terminated” their lobbying contract — worth $90,000 per month — with the Egyptian government. The move comes a week after Egyptian authorities banned pro-democracy groups from leaving the country, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s son, Sam LaHood, who is country director of the International Republic Institute.
Some Americans from the groups have taken shelter at the American Embassy in Cairo while waiting for permission to leave Egypt, a State Department official who was not identified told The Washington Post.
On Sunday (Jan. 29), however, the Egyptian embassy in Washington issued a different statement. It said the Egyptian government was the one that terminated the contract with the PLM Group.
“This decision was transmitted to the Group’s principals on January 27th 2012 through an official letter,” the statement said, as published on The Cable. “It is surprising that a distorted version of this fact is being circulated in some media outlets.”
Whichever the case may be, severed relations between Egypt and the lobbyists amid an already tense climate is putting U.S. aid to the country in serious jeopardy. The PLM group has not only been defending the $1.3 billion annual military aid to the country, but has also been lobbying for nonmilitary aid to go through government and not directly to nongovernmental organizations, which Egyptian officials have been calling for since last year.
The whole crisis is also putting Egypt’s aid advocates in Washington in a difficult spot. Two weeks from now, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have to justify why Congress needs to provide millions of dollars for democracy promotion in a country that does not seem to be on course in meeting certification requirements for U.S. aid. It remains to be seen how the arrival of a group of senior Egyptian officials in Washington on Sunday can deescalate the situation.
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