Livingston Group's Access Opens Doors for Turkey
Lobbying disclosure records paint detailed picture of the firm's work for its most lucrative client
year, Robert Livingston, the former chairman of the powerful House
Appropriations Committee, glided into a function at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, spotted Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense,
and chatted him up about the status of U.S. relations with Turkey.
For Livingston, this was more than polite social interaction with a fellow Republican. Wolfowitz is, of course, one of the Bush administration’s key foreign policy strategists. And though no one is talking about exactly what was said in the conversation, access to key Washington figures such as Wolfowitz is just what Turkey was looking for when it signed Livingston to do its U.S. lobbying work in 2000.
“I don’t need to tell you who Mr. Livingston is, and having someone of his stature is obviously very helpful,” says Timur Soylemez, congressional liaison and first secretary of the Turkish Embassy, who serves as his country’s point of contact with the Livingston Group. “His presence is a powerful one in Washington. With friends and allies like that, obviously your agenda becomes less difficult to pursue.”
The relationship has been good for Livingston, too. Turkey paid Livingston’s firm, the Livingston Group, $1.4 million between February, when the Wolfowitz encounter took place, and July, and the country is the centerpiece of a foreign policy operation that, according to Livingston, brings in a quarter of the firm’s $12.5 million in annual revenue.
financial data and meeting with Wolfowitz were revealed in the firm’s recent
lobbying disclosure filings required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The disclosure reports provide a detailed look at how the prominent former
Republican representative from Louisiana and his colleagues work the Hill and
executive branch on behalf of their most lucrative client. The Wolfowitz confab,
the records show, was one of dozens of meetings, phone calls, faxes, and e-mails
during the first half of 2004 with high-level government officials on behalf of
Livingston lobbyists contacted congressional leaders including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), as well as Bush administration heavy hitters like Karl Rove, who received an April 28 fax from Livingston relating to the Cayman Islands, another foreign client. In addition to Turkey and the Caymans, Livingston also handles lobbying work for the Kingdom of Morocco.
“We become the eyes and ears for the embassy or the government,” says Livingston, 61, speaking generally of all three foreign government clients. “There are a lot of ways to advance the cause of a particular country through contact with members of Congress and people in the administration, the Pentagon, various agencies of the government.”
Turkey’s desire for high-level access is perhaps an obvious one. The country is one of the closest U.S. allies in the Middle East, is a member of NATO, and shares a border with Iraq and Iran. It also faces questions over the fate of its occupied territory in neighboring Cyprus as well as official congressional recognition of the Ottoman Turks’ massacre of Armenians in the early 20th century, before modern Turkey was established in 1923.
Aside from Livingston, the lobbying firm has deployed other connected players on behalf of the Turkish government, such as former Reps. Andrew Ireland (R-Fla.) and Anthony Moffett Jr. (D-Conn.).
Dana Bauer, a one-time Defense Intelligence Agency analyst on Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus affairs, and Lydia Borland, the Washington representative of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council, have also conducted high-level meetings of their own. Bauer meets most frequently with State and Defense Department officials, as well as with people in diplomatic circles, while Borland operates primarily on the Hill.
The FARA reports reveal patterns in the way the firm lobbies. After meetings between Livingston and his peers still in government, a Livingston aide and a government staffer usually have one or more follow-up conversations. On May 5, for example, Livingston and Richard Rodgers, a former top Defense Department official, breezed through the Capitol and congressional office buildings with Turkish Ambassador O. Faruk Logoglu on appointments with a trio of congressmen.
The same day, Livingston escorted Logoglu and the prime minister of Turkey-controlled Cyprus to audiences with another three members of congress, including Reps. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who is the co-chair of the Congressional Turkish Caucus and a member of the House International Relations Committee, and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).
Livingston lobbyists Borland and Rodgers handled follow-up in the days after, checking in with Whitfield’s and Wexler’s aides. They fired off e-mails, in particular to Jeff Miles, Whitfield’s press secretary.
On May 12, Whitfield, Wexler, Livingston, Ireland, Rodgers, and members of the Turkish parliament were at a dinner together. Wexler attended with his legislative director, Jonathan Katz. In a recent interview, Katz says Wexler, an attorney who has a background in foreign policy, is “supportive of Turkish membership” in the European Union. Katz adds that Wexler’s attendance at such a dinner makes sense because the congressman takes a keen interest in U.S.-Turkish and Turkish-Israeli relations. “Turkey is a model for other nations to look at as a democracy,” Katz says.
In addition to revealing the meetings with members of Congress and the administration, the lobbying reports show the Livingston Group’s contacts with several key staffers: Mark Murray, minority staff assistant for the House Appropriations Committee; Vincent Morelli, majority staff director for the House International Relations Subcommittee on Europe; Lisa Heald, who is listed as the country director for Turkey in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; James Marrs, an aide in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office; and Brett Shogren, a senior national security policy adviser to Tom DeLay. None of these staffers or their press representatives returned calls seeking comment.
go into the details of what goes on in those meetings,” says Soylemez of the
Turkish Embassy. “Suffice it to say, there are thousands if not tens of
thousands of important people within the Beltway. When you come here as a
diplomat—you’re here for three or maybe five years—it’s almost impossible to get
to know everyone. So Mr. Livingston and his staff are insiders. They are, of
course, very helpful in amplifying Turkey’s voice inside the Beltway.”
Part of that process involves getting members of Congress and the administration more familiar with Turkey itself. Livingston lobbyists this summer helped a policy aide to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ali Amirhooshmand, on “possible congressional staff travel to Turkey,” according to the FARA disclosure.
Livingston says, “One of the best ways to advance our cause is to encourage members of Congress to visit the country in question. While we don’t set up the trips, we’ll identify people who are interested in traveling and then encourage them to do so. Then, it’s taken over by a nonprofit group.”
Livingston, who served in Congress from 1977 to 2000, says the international lobbying activities he does now are a natural offshoot of his work on Capitol Hill. “I did mostly defense and foreign policy, so this dovetails nicely with that,” says Livingston, whose domestic clients include Kentucky’s Homeland Security Office, defense company Sippican Inc., and Verizon Communications.
To be sure, Livingston and his firm are not the only shop in town to earn money by representing foreign governments. Qorvis Communications has a multimillion-dollar contract with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Libya recently signed lobbyist Randa Fahmy Hudome, a former Bush administration Energy Department official, for more than $1 million a year. (See “A Few Dominate Foreign Lobby Spending.”)
And the unoccupied portion of Cyprus employs a team headed by Stuart Eizenstat of Covington & Burling and Wayne Berman of the all-GOP Federalist Group.
Cyprus has been divided into two parts: the northern part, which has been controlled by the Turks since a 1974 invasion, and the Greek-Cypriot Republic of Cypress in the south, which is a member of the European Union. A reunification plan set out by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was voted down in an April referendum in Cyprus.
Several of the Livingston Group’s Turkey lobbying visits, particularly in late February and March, dealt with Cyprus, according to the public documents. On Feb. 25, lobbyist Bauer spoke on the phone with State Department official Douglas Hengel of the Office of Southeastern European Affairs to discuss, among other matters, recent developments in Cyprus. Borland chatted with the House Europe subcommittee’s Morelli on March 2 about the same issue.
Foreign Aid Fight
On March 8, a few days after Borland’s talk with Morelli, Livingston logged an e-mail with his former colleague, Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.). The subject was one of the thorniest for Turkey’s government: Turkish-Armenian issues. Ten days later, Livingston exchanged e-mails on Turkish-Armenian issues with James Marrs of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.
During the FARA reporting period, issues
involving Armenia were prominent. An amendment sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
to the foreign operations appropriations bill seeks to prohibit the country from
using U.S. foreign aid money to lobby against a House resolution that would
officially recognize Armenian genocide that occurred between 1915 and 1923.
“Turkey spends millions of dollars each year fighting the recognition of the
genocide,” says a Schiff press release.
According to the lobbying disclosures, the Livingston Group sprung into action on July 14 to respond to Schiff’s amendment. Livingston himself spoke with at least six congressional staffers that day, including Johnnie Kaberle, a policy adviser to Blunt, and Christopher Walker, an aide to Hastert.
Livingston also sent a fax on the Schiff amendment to Hastert. Meanwhile, Rodgers talked with five governmental staffers, including Jeff Miles of Whitfield’s office and Matt Bryza, the National Security Council’s director of European and Eurasian affairs. Livingston Group lobbyist J. Allen Martin, who served as Livingston’s chief of staff in Congress, e-mailed Brett Shogren, DeLay’s senior adviser for national security policy.
Another former Livingston congressional aide, Paul Cambon—also on July 14—spoke with two congressional staffers including one on the House Appropriations foreign operations Subcommittee. Livingston lobbyist David Lonie, a one-time foreign policy adviser on the House Rules Committee, called Daniel Keniry, a member of President George W. Bush’s legislative affairs team, and Rachael Leman, deputy policy director on the Rules Committee. Borland reached out to Murray, the minority staff assistant on House Appropriations. And Bauer was in contact with people from the Defense and State departments between July 14 and 16. The foreign ops bill passed the House on July 15 with the Schiff amendment included.
On Sept. 23, however, the Senate passed its version of the foreign operations bill. The Schiff amendment was not included. The Bush administration strongly opposes the amendment and has called for it to be stripped out in conference committee, where lawmakers will smooth out any differences between the Senate and House measures.
The Livingston Group’s client has powerful allies including Hastert, DeLay, and Blunt, who are also opposed. Rep. Schiff acknowledges “it’s uphill for us” to pass the amendment. “The Turkish lobby does have enormous power and influence,” says Schiff. “Unfortunately, the House leadership has buckled under the pressure of Turkish lobbying.”
Kate Ackley is the news editor for Influence. Her e-mail address is