Lobbyists in Georgian politics
By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 14Since the Rose Revolution, the administration has actively used Western lobbying companies to gain both an advantage in the international community, and at home. The local opposition is unable to afford the fees these companies charge, and is therefore at a disadvantage in the public relations game.
Consultations with lobbyists have brought Mikheil Saakashvili and his team many benefits, yet they have remained silent about the amount of money – especially public money – spent on these contracts. It may come as a surprise to much of the Georgian public to learn that positive articles in leading world media outlets were pre-arranged (and sometimes paid for) by public relations firms. For Saakashvili's party, such press clippings are presented to Georgians as merely global acknowledgement of the current administration's merits. Slowly, it has become widely known that many of Saakashvili's foreign trips, speeches, and appearances have been facilitated and planned by his lobbyists.
However, the entry of billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili into politics has changed some things. Already several Western, primarily American, companies are involved in promoting Ivanishvili worldwide. The first company, BGR Group, was hired by Ivanishvili in November, and has been permanently working in Tbilisi since then. Foreign Policy magazine reports that Patton Bogg, and Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms have also been hired. Each of these companies has different specialties and so can promote different aspects of Ivanishvili's campaign. Rumors are also spreading that say Ivanishvili had carried out negotiations with another lobbying firm, Podesta Group, which has been working with the government – so the deal did not take place.
Republican Party representative Tina Khidasheli stated recently that the opposition will have as many lobbyists as are necessary for success. But everything happens within the framework of Georgia's legislation, and the hiring of public relations and lobbying firms are legitimate activities for most political movements worldwide. What this does mean is that there is one more field for battle before the autumn elections.