New State hire may exploit a loophole in lobbyist ban

A former lobbyist for Pakistan has been hired by the State Department to coordinate aid to that country, which may highlight loopholes in the administration’s tough new lobbying rules, designed to slow Washington’s revolving door.

 Robin Raphel, who held top foreign posts during the Clinton administration, has been a senior vice president for Cassidy and Associates, one of K Street’s largest firms, since 2007.

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 Raphel would coordinate non-military aid to Pakistan in her new role at the State Department, most likely working with Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy appointed by President Barack Obama to handle the region. Previously, Raphel served as an ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of State for South Asia during the Clinton administration.

 Shortly after taking office, Obama issued an executive order designed to prevent federal agencies from hiring individuals who had lobbied the agencies within the past two years.

 The records indicate that Raphel’s appointment could conflict with the order since she lobbied State and also was a foreign agent for Pakistan, albeit briefly, during the two years prior to her apartment.

 At Cassidy, Raphel represented several clients and lobbied the State Department until the end of 2008, according to lobbying disclosure records. Raphel was also a registered foreign agent for Pakistan’s embassy here in the United States for about a month in the fall of 2007 before Cassidy canceled the contract in the wake of protests against the country’s then-president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

 Raphel, however, might be exempted from the ban already. The order specifically exempts “any person appointed as a member of the Senior Foreign Service or solely as a uniformed service commissioned officer,” according to the order.

 Raphel’s appointment as coordinator of U.S. non-military assistance to Pakistan may rank high enough to be part of the Senior Foreign Service, a class of foreign-service officer comparable to high-ranking military generals.

Raphel’s position could also not be a political appointment, which likewise would exempt her from the ban.

 If Raphel is not exempted already from the ban, she could earn a waiver from the president. Obama has already issued waivers from the lobbyist hiring ban for several appointees, such as Bill Lynn, the deputy secretary for the Defense Department. The exemptions have been criticized, however, by lawmakers and watchdog groups.

 A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment for this piece.

 
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Raphel’s return to State comes shortly after Cassidy renewed its relationship with the Pakistani Embassy. On July 14, the firm finalized a one-year, $696,000 contract with the embassy to “engage in efforts to improve Pakistan-U.S. relations and promote the development of U.S. policy beneficial to Pakistan and its interests,” according to records from the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit.

 Working on the Pakistan contract is longtime Cassidy executive Gregg Hartley, a former aide to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.); and Roy Temple, a Democratic pollster who worked closely with the late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D), according to registration forms on file with the Justice Department.

 Raphel was hired by the firm to head up its new global consultancy group in 2007. It is unclear who at the firm will take over that practice. While at Cassidy, Raphel also lobbied for Anwar Hossain Manju, a Bangladeshi political leader, and the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, a humanitarian aid organization, among other clients, according to lobbying records.

 “While we hate to lose Robin as part of our team, we wish her all the best in her new position and we’re confident of her success as she works to strengthen and improve America’s reputation around the world,” said Gerry Cassidy, executive chairman and founder of the firm, in a statement.

 Cassidy also represents other foreign clients, such as the Kurdistan Regional Government and Equatorial Guinea. Pakistan, meanwhile, has also retained Locke Lord Strategies in a one-year, $900,000 contract.