Tell BainiVore Only What He Wants To Hear

This scathing article in the Sydney Morning Herald shows what a stupid lot Qorvis’s latest client is. But of course Qorvis already knew that. They probably value their clients for their stupidity, megalomania and need to hear only what they want to hear.

Come in spinner: Fiji pays Washington lobbyists for image makeover

Dylan Welch in Suva, Fiji

January 14, 2012

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THE Fijian regime of Voreqe ”Frank” Bainimarama has recruited one of Washington’s most notorious lobbyist firms – which has been raided by the FBI and represents repressive regimes in the Middle East and Africa – to help manage its reputation and lobby foreign journalists.

And diplomatic sources believe the firm, Qorvis Communications, may be behind the decision by Commodore Bainimarama to lift the widely condemned public emergency regulations, only to enshrine them in a permanent law.

The company is represented in Suva by a fresh-faced former business journalist, Seth Thomas Pietras, who has been in the country on and off since October. A contract published by the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act reveals that in October the Fijian Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, signed a deed with Qorvis worth $US40,000 a month for a year. In return, Qorvis has agreed to provide ”public relations services relating to business and investment to the government of Fiji”.

But it appears to the Herald, which spent the week in Suva being lobbied by Mr Pietras, that his ambit is far greater than spin.

It is likely Mr Pietras, described as Qorvis’s chief speechwriter, helped draft Commodore Bainimarama’s recent speeches, including his New Year’s Day address announcing the lifting of emergency regulations.

Several countries with an interest in Fiji expressed a belief to the Herald that, given the timing, Qorvis might have played a role in Commodore Bainimarama’s decision to lift the emergency regulations.

A diplomatic source also expressed concern that the kind of role played by such lobbyists in the Middle East and Africa was being imported to the Pacific.

Mr Pietras, an executive vice-president of Qorvis’s geopolitical solutions section, is at least the second Qorvis employee to travel to Fiji, after Tina Jeon, an Olympic archer and Qorvis spinner.

In early November Ms Jeon posted on Twitter a photo of herself and Commodore Bainimarama aboard a boat in Fiji with the caption: ”No better place to write a press release”.

Last year, during the Arab Spring, Mr Pietras was Qorvis’s spokesman when its role in defending Middle East regimes was the subject of debate.

”Our clients are facing some challenges now,” Mr Pietras told The New York Times. ”But our long-term goals to bridge the differences between our clients and the United States haven’t changed. We stand by them.”

In 2004 Qorvis was raided by the FBI as part of an investigation into whether an advertising campaign it helped run broke federal law by not disclosing Saudi funding.

At the time, Qorvis was the beneficiary of a six-month contract with the Saudis worth almost $US15 million to help improve its reputation after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Last year an Egyptian steel tycoon with ties to the Mubarak regime retained Qorvis to manage his public relations during a trial regarding claims of widespread corruption. He was eventually sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The company has also represented the man widely known as ”Africa’s worst dictator”, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

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