Haley Barbour has a long history of claiming he wasn’t lobbying when it looked a whole lot like he was.
The Washington, DC lobbying firm founded by Haley Barbour, BGR, announced earlier in the week it had ended its contract with the government of Saudi Arabia as pressure mounted following the alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
BGR had an $80,000-a-month contract with the Saudi government.
“BGR is no longer working for Saudi Arabia,” said Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, president of BGR’s public-relations division.
The Washington Post, a publication Khashoggi frequently wrote for, warned BGR partner and chairman Ed Rogers he would no longer be welcomed as a contributor to the newspaper’s ‘PostPartisan’ blog unless the relationship with the Saudi government was ended.
The Hill reported that Rogers refused to comment earlier this week when asked about the ultimatum.
BGR was founded by Barbour and Rogers in 1991. The principal partnership was completed the following year when Lanny Griffith joined in 1992.
The firm was purchased by the Interpublic Group of Companies in New York in 1999, but the three principal partners kept their positions as part of the sale.
A Blind Pig Finds 50,000 Acorns
Barbour successfully ran for Governor of Mississippi and served in that position from 2004-2012. Two weeks after his election as governor in November of 2003, he claimed to no longer maintain a financial interest in the lobbying firm he founded, and that all his assets had been set aside in a “blind trust,” naming Griffin Norquist, a Yazoo City banker and friend, as trustee.
Barbour sought to dismiss any questions of ethics as governor telling reporters he no longer participated in BGR’s business decisions. The week he was sworn in, he told the Associated Press that he had “no ownership or stock in the company he helped found in 1991.”
However, these claims came under increased scrutiny in late 2007, when two national political reporters received a copy of Barbour’s blind trust agreement. The agreement, according to an investigative report, was dated February 27, 2004–six weeks after Barbour became governor.
But it was the detailed information in the document relating to BGR that raised even more red flags as to Barbour’s claim of “no ownership or stock in the company.” Among the blind trust agreements documented listing of assets was “nearly 50,000 shares of (BGR corporate parent) Interpublic Group”.
Governor Barbour Gains Lobbyist Barbour A New Client
There are numerous other suspicions raised about Barbour’s ties to the lobbying profession while serving as governor, including the use of federal money intended to help victims of Hurricane Katrina that instead went to award a state contract to Motorola. Details of this reallocation of federal dollars was published in Mississippi PEP in 2014.
The awarding of the contract to Motorola not only left Mississippi with an inoperable statewide radio system, it gained BGR a new client. Following the contract award, Motorola signed on with BGR to represent their lobbying interests.
Foreign Agents Registration Act
Currently, there has been no conclusion reported about a request by Senator Chuck Grassley of the Judiciary Committee in 2017 asking for information from Attorney General Jeff Sessions about BGR’s failure to file as a lobbyist for a Russian oil company, as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Has there ever been a time when Haley Barbour wasn’t lobbying for a client?
Some may wonder how often tax dollars have been used to reward a BGR client. In light of the statement from BGR’s PR department about their contracted work for the Saudi’s ceasing, Mississippians might suggest a slight variation on the question: How many times has Barbour been provided a hefty reward for lobbying after he had claimed he wasn’t?
To use a phrase: “Trust but verify.”