Liberian Govt. Paying Hefty Lobby Fees to Gain Pres. Weah Congressional Recognition
Monrovia – President George Weah is now stepping in the shoes of his predecessor – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into lobbying as a means of gaining a favorable international image as a politician.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
A document obtained by FrontPageAfrica reveals that the Weah-led administration is seriously working underground and investing resources to gain recognition from the US government.
In March this year, the Liberian government through its Embassy in Washington signed a lobbying contract with Ezra Friedlander, CEO of Friedlander Group to negotiate the establishment of a bi-partisan caucus in the US Congress.
Friedlander Group is a boutique political firm, based in New York City, specializing in government advocacy, public & media relations, and political event management.
The bi-partisan caucus would lead the advocacy in Congress for Weah’s recognition and the eventual presentation of a Congressional Award.
FrontPageAfrica has been reliably informed that the Liberian government has already made payments of over US$500,000 in this regard.
Paying for lobbying services in the US is a normal practice, but while in opposition Weah’s CDC is on record for heavily criticizing former President Sirleaf for paying huge sums to international firms as lobbying fees.
Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Representative Acarous Gray in 2014 called for an inquiry of fees paid by the government to foreign firms for lobbying purposes. Citing a U.S. State Department report, Chambers said that from 2006 to 2009, 102 lobby payments were traced by foreign lobby trackers, amounting to an alleged $263 million
But Madam Sirleaf denied paying the said amount as alleged by Chambers who referenced U.S. State Department report.
Chambers listed a host of other companies, which he said were paid huge sums for lobbying for Liberia and condemned Madam Sirleaf, noting that the legislature was concerned about the alleged large sums of money being spent on lobbying abroad, while the country had nothing to show for the money spent.
“We have gross deficits in Liberia in terms of infrastructure at home, in terms of employment, in terms of welfare. There are so many gaps and our people cannot afford,” Chambers said.
Chambers at the time lamented that while Sirleaf appeared to be the most popular leader in the world, the country had nothing to show for it.
“Internationally, we hear so many good things about our president, and this president of ours has got more accolades than the Pope, has got more accolades than the President of United States, than Russia’s leader, and the great leader of Germany, Angela Merkel. And yet, there is nothing that we can show for.”
It is not clear what benefits the contract with the Friedlander Group would bring Liberia as the government continues to decry financial incapability to carry out projects and achieve its Pro-poor agenda.
However, some foreign relations experts have earlier admonished the Weah-led administration to play its international relations properly if it should gain a stronghold on the global stage.
And observers say with President Weah yet to pay a visit to Washington since his ascendency, paying hefty lobby fees seems to be a means of paving his way for an invite at the White House.