As the cash-strapped Libyan rebels press the U.S. to send some of Muammar Qaddafi's frozen assets their way, they'll have an ally championing their cause in Washington: a small but influential public relations firm called the Harbour Group.
According Reuters, the Harbour Group registered with the Justice Department last week to represent the rebel transitional council's Washington office, which is led by Libya's former ambassador to the U.S., Ali Aujali (pictured above, on left). The firm, which is helping the rebels for free, organized a talk by Aujali in early April at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and Aujali has also penned a Washington Post op-ed and delivered a speech at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. The Harbour Group is also screening media calls for the opposition, touching up the rebels' website, and assisting the rebels in persuading the U.S. to recognize them diplomatically and unfreeze Libyan assets, Reuters explains.
What do we know about the opposition's new lobbyist? The firm's leadership includes a former Clinton administration official and staff director for Hillary Clinton, a media strategist for the last three Democratic presidential conventions, and a former spokesman for the presidential campaigns of Republicans Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and Bob Dole.
The Harbour Group also knows a thing or two about crisis management. A few years ago, in the wake of the controversy surrounding a Dubai company's attempted purchase of several U.S. ports, the United Arab Emirates, which is currently participating in the military intervention in Libya, poured $15 million into a three-year "public diplomacy" campaign in Washington managed by Harbour Group managing director Richard Mintz. In 2008, the United Jewish Endowment Fund hired the Harbour Group to help the organization respond to critics angry about UJEF's investments with Bernie Madoff.
The Harbour Group's Richard Mintz tells us that his firm took on the Libyan opposition as a client to help the rebel leaders "communicate clearly in the U.S. and to the international community about what is at stake in Libya and the importance for sustained U.S. and international support." He adds that Harbour Group employees don't consider themselves lobbyists because they focus on media, the web, and think tanks rather than engaging with Congress or the Administration directly. But the Harbour Group did register its work with the transitional council in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), in a filing we located at the Department of Justice's website.
For those curious about what the transitional council stands for, the filing provides a couple definitions:
The filing also includes a list of the services Harbour Group will perform as part of its "communications and public outreach program" for the rebel council: