K Street offers valuable help to Libya

Libya’s fledgling government is getting an assist from K Street as it deals with the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to the country dead.

Firms in Washington have helped Libya get its message of apology and regret out after the killings of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

Patton Boggs and the Harbour Group, which have represented the new Libyan government before it came to power by overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi, helped arrange press interviews for Libya Ambassador to the U.S. Ali Aujali in the hours after it was learned that Stevens had died.

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“He just wanted to make sure he was covering all the bases he had to cover,” Richard Mintz, Harbour Group's managing director, told The Hill. “We just helped the ambassador with what needed to be done on a difficult day.”

The firms circulated Aujali’s statements to the media and translated from Arabic to English a statement from Libya's parliament, the General National Congress, expressing condolences over the attack. 

Aujali would also call the State Department, according to Mintz, and later meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday.

The firms are now taking steps to ensure the violence in Libya does not disrupt relations between the two countries.

There have been calls from some Republicans in the House and Senate to cut U.S. foreign aid to Middle Eastern countries, including Libya.

David Tafuri, a partner at Patton Boggs, said what happened at the consulate “was not the voice of the Libyan people.” 

“It is a radical Islamist element. It is a very small minority,” Tafuri said. “There needs to be a thorough investigation on what happened, how the security was breached at the consulate. … The Libyan government will work closely with the U.S. on that investigation.”

Patton Boggs first signed a $50,000 monthly contract with the then-Libyan rebels in May 2011, just months after the first protests took place against Gadhafi, and have continued to represent the new government.

The Harbour Group did pro-bono work for the rebels but earlier this year agreed to a $15,000 monthly contract with the country’s new government.

Next steps for Libya here in Washington will likely include a visit from a senior Libyan delegation. Tafuri said "there will be a high-level visit soon" by the Libyans to the United States. 

Security in the country was already a topic of discussion between U.S. and Libyan officials, but will become even more paramount now.

“We will have discussions with the U.S. government and NATO how to improve the Libyan security forces, provide them with better training and equipment. … I think that now becomes a very high priority,” Tafuri said. “It's going to be a conversation that the U.S. government wants to have at the beginning of every meeting with Libyan officials, and that makes sense.”