Turkey has parted ways with former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.), whose lobbying firm has represented the country for the past eight years.
Turkey has not renewed its longstanding contract with The Livingston Group, and is instead transferring its main lobbying business to DLA Piper, a multinational law firm that had split the government-relations workload with Livingston over the past year.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), a senior policy adviser with DLA Piper, will replace Livingston as Turkey’s top GOP lobbyist with Congress. Armey, who lobbied alongside Livingston last year, will partner with former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who lobbies Democrats for Turkey at DLA Piper.
It is unclear whether Turkey or Livingston initiated the split, which both sides insisted was amicable.
“We have enjoyed a wonderful relationship for eight years, we’ve had a lot of legislative victories together, and we wish the Turkish people lots of continued success and happiness in the future,” Livingston said in a statement to The Hill.
Livingston’s group did not respond to questions about whether the contract hampered business with other clients.
Turkey Ambassador Nabi Sensoy, who said Livingston helped transfer the lobbying business to DLA Piper, released a statement praising the lawmaker as “a gentleman of remarkable capabilities and stature.”
Sensoy also noted that Turkey had begun to restructure its lobbying team by hiring DLA Piper last year, and described that as part of a transition.
“Last year, we initiated a restructuring of our counsel and engaged DLA Piper. The Livingston Group stayed on as part of our counsel during a period of transition. As of now we continue to work with DLA Piper, Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Armey,” said Sensoy.
The parting of Turkey and The Livingston Group ends one of the more lucrative Washington lobbying contracts for foreign governmen’s. In April 2006, Turkey renewed its relationship with Livingston through a year-long contract worth $1.8 million.
In May 2007, Turkey hired DLA Piper on a $100,000-per-month contract while retaining Livingston.
The Livingston Group saw a substantial decline in paymen’s from Turkey after DLA Piper was added to the account. In 2006, when it was the top firm, Livingston took in a little more than $1.8 million. But in 2007, when it was sharing the workload with DLA Piper, Livingston earned just over $1 million, according to Justice Department records.
For its part, DLA Piper took in more than $1.3 million from Turkey in the first nine months of 2007. It has yet to report earnings from foreign clients for the remainder of the year.
Turkey’s hiring of DLA Piper fit into a trend in which foreign governmen’s are putting more of their resources into Democratic lobbyists. Armey indicated Turkey hired his firm because it had stronger ties to Democrats than did The Livingston Group.
“It was time to be with some representation that was more expansive to both sides of the aisle,” said Armey.
Turkey mounted a massive lobbying campaign last year to defeat a resolution describing as genocide the killings of Armenia’s by Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century.
Activists were optimistic a Democratic Congress would pass the measure, which had the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but Turkey was able to beat it back partly by threatening to cut supplies to U.S. military forces.
Though the resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee, many of its co-sponsors withdrew their support after meeting with Turkey’s lobbyists. That, along with pressure from Republicans and the Bush administration, forced Pelosi to postpone a floor vote on the resolution last year.
In 2000, the resolution was close to a House floor vote, but then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) withdrew the measure at the request of President Bill Clinton. Armey, who was majority leader at that time, opposed the resolution.
“As I worked on it then as majority leader, my position still is our current concern should be what current policy interests are best for this country,” Armey said. “It was easy to make those same argumen’s I made as majority leader with President Clinton.”
Activists who support passage of the resolution have criticized firms in the past for lobbying for Turkey.
Livingston’s group did not say whether such criticism hurt business with other clients.
In lobbying for Turkey, Armey plans to emphasize how vital the Muslim democracy is to the United States.
“On a broader-scale basis, folks in the United States and in Congress need to have a better understanding of the strategic importance that Turkey has,” said Armey. “Turkey has been a very good citizen of the world, far more than it has been recognized or appreciated.”