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… to target US Congress, private sector organisations
By Svetlana Marshall
The Irfaan Ali Administration has signed a multimillion dollar contract with The Cormac Group – a lobbyist firm in the US – which had represented the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C) interest during the highly controversial 2020 General and Regional Elections.
According to a document filed by The Cormac Group with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the six-month contract was signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Elisabeth Harper on December 28, 2020 for the provision of government relations and lobbying services. The Cormac Group Representative James Link signed on its behalf.
Based on the agreement, which spans for a period of six months at a cost of US$25,000 or more than GUY$5M a month, The Cormac Group, through its representatives James Link and Jose Cardenas and its joint venture partner Otto Reich, will provide government relations and lobbyist services on issues of importance to the PPP/C Administration, and will include outreach to US Congressional Members, staff, executive branch officials, and relevant private sector organizations.
“Registrant (The Cormac Group) will engage policy-makers in Washington to ensure a close working relationship with Principal (Government of Guyana), including reaching out to relevant US agencies and departments, international organisations and financial institutions, and the Washington-based public policy community,” the lobbyist firm stated.
It anticipates meetings with the White House, National Security Council, Department of State, Treasury, Commerce, Defence, and other relevant Executive Branch departments and agencies on the importance of US cooperation with the Ali Administration.
In addition to the payment of $25,000 per month, the agreement provides for reimbursement for any out of pocket expenses related to the engagement. This may include transportation, lodging, meals and communication charges.
Through its ally – the International Center for Democracy (ICD) – the PPP/C, in opposition, and with an election at stake, had hired The Cormac Group to lobby on its behalf.
The signing of this new contract took place approximately four months after the PPP/C took Office, and days ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States of America (USA). Under the Donald Trump Administration, the Republicans had thrown its support behind the PPP/C, but Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd, in confirming that the agreement was signed, told Village Voice News that the move has nothing to do with the impending change in the US Administration.
“This has nothing to do with the change in [US] Administration, this has to do with us and how we see ourselves in terms of our progression. Whether an administration comes or goes in the United States, it doesn’t affect how we would operate, because we are dealing with how we protect the interest of the Guyanese people,” Minister Todd told Village Voice during a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Minister Todd in defending the move, said this “is part of how nation states operate” in advancing their agendas on the international stage. “It is consistent with how nations maneuver within the international environment,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said while brushing aside a notion that the services for which the firm was hired to provide could have been provided by the Guyana Consulate General in New York.
“It is necessary sometimes to have outside contractors to facilitate; that’s just the way the world works. Nation states understand that behaviour, and we are not the only small state in CARICOM that does that,” Minister Todd said.
The Cormac Group, he posited, is a legally registered lobbyist firm that pays its taxes, and was hired based on regular procedures utilised by the Foreign Ministry.