Friday, May 6, 2011

The Hardest Working Man On "K" Street

How would you like to be Pakistan's lobbyist in Washington? That's got to be the hardest job on K Street right now.

He is Mark Siegel, and I see from his professional bio that he has been Pakistan's lobbyist in Washington since 2008, and that he held the same job twice before, from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 to 1996. Those dates correspond exactly to the terms in office of the current President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, and the two terms that his late wife Benizir Bhutto served as Prime Minister. So, Siegel is basically a crony of the Zardari/Bhutto political dynasty.

Ever since we clipped Osama Bin Laden, Siegel has been spinning for all he's worth (or up to $75,000 a month) to fend off new Congressional interest in cutting the $3 billion in annual aid we give to Pakistan. You may decide for yourself whether Pakistan is getting its money's worth:

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's Washington lobbyists have launched an intense campaign on Capitol Hill to counter accusations that Islamabad was complicit in giving refuge to Osama bin Laden.

Alarmed by lawmakers' demands to cut off billions of dollars of US aid after bin Laden was found living in a Pakistani safe house for six years, President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered a full-court press to quell mounting accusations that it helped the al Qaeda leader avoid capture.

Mark Siegel, a partner in the Washington lobbying firm of Locke Lord Strategies -- which is paid $75,000 a month by the Pakistani government -- said on Thursday he had spoken twice to Zardari since US special forces killed bin Laden on Sunday, and "countless" times to the Pakistani ambassador in Washington.

"They are certainly concerned," Siegel said, adding that suggestions the Pakistani government knew about bin Laden's whereabouts was nothing more than speculation.

Referring to a statement by President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, that there must have been a support system for bin Laden inside Pakistan, Siegel said: "There is no proof that a support system was government-based."

There is much at stake for Pakistan as many lawmakers question how bin Laden could have lived in a large fortified compound close to a Pakistani military base for so long.

Some members of Congress are now demanding that nearly $3 billion in annual aid for Pakistan, included in Obama's 2012 budget, be blocked until the Zardari administration explains how bin Laden lived untouched just 30 miles outside Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Pakistan has received over $20 billion in US aid since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate subcommittee that allocates foreign aid, said on Thursday he wants a complete review of US aid to Pakistan.

Leahy said he was certain that some Pakistani military and intelligence officials knew that bin Laden was hiding so close to Islamabad.

"It's impossible for them not to have some idea he was there," Leahy told Vermont Public Radio.

But Siegel, referring to claims by the Afghan government that Pakistan must have known bin Laden's whereabouts, said: "Must have known doesn't mean knew."

Siegel's firm was retained by the Zardari government in 2008 and has earned nearly $2 million in fees since then, according to Justice Department records. Siegel said his firm is paid $900,000 a year by Pakistan.

Since bin Laden's death, Siegel says he has been on Capitol Hill every day to promote Pakistan's position on the bin Laden killing, talking to congressmen, senators and their aides. (Reuters)

"Must have known doesn't mean knew." That's all he's got? Quibbling over words? If I were Zadari, I'd be looking for some new talent.


Anonymous said...

Great Post TSB: I heard Haley Barbour's firm also worked for Pakistan's Army. So it's not because he's a racist or a lobbyist that makes him a bad choice to run... It's the Navy Seals that sunk his massive boat! gwb

TSB said...

I don't know about Pakistan, but he worked for the Mexican government. That would lose him my vote.