Monday, December 29, 2014

Al Jazeera lands heavyweight Republican lobbyist

Al Jazeera, which is preparing to launch a full-fledged U.S. network, has drawn plenty of suspicion from conservative Republicans, most recently when former Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore sold Current TV to the Qatar-based news company.

The Middle East's leading broadcast TV network is taking some big steps to smooth over those differences. A new filing received Tuesday by the Senate office that handles lobbying disclosures shows heavyweight Republican lobbyist Tom Korologos will represent Al Jazeera. The news follows lobbying disclosures last week showing that Al Jazeera hired DLA Piper to lobby on its behalf.

Korologos, whose Capitol Hill ties are so legendary he has been dubbed the 101st senator, was lauded by both parties at his confirmation to be ambassador to Belgium in 2004. During four decades of lobbying, Korologos represented many controversial nominees for Republican presidents and "literally wrote the commandments of how to win Senate confirmation," the Deseret News reported at the time of Korologos' confirmation to be ambassador to Belgium.

His State department bio provides more career highlights: Korologos (seen at right)  "has served as a senior staff member in the U.S. Congress, as an assistant to two Presidents in the White House, was a prominent businessman, and most recently was a senior counselor with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad."

His experience in Baghdad may come in handy as Al Jazeera English seeks its niche in the American media landscape. "During his tour in Iraq from May to December 2003, Ambassador Korologos was responsible for all Coalition Congressional affairs including escorting members of Congress during their visits to Iraq. He also played a key role in passage of the President’s Iraq reconstruction budget request," his official bio reads.

Besides Korologos, last week's lobbying filings show four other lobbyists working on the account, a seasoned, bipartisan group with with plenty of experience sending money to lawmakers' campaigns, according to Sunlight's Political Party Time and Influence Explorer. They are Republicans Ignacio "Iggy" Sanchez and Mark Paoletta and Democrats John Merrigan and Matthew "Mac" Bernstein.

Their firm, DLA Piper, has hosted at least 20 fundraisers for members of Congress at its Washington, D.C. offices over the past few years. some of which were hosted by Bernstein, Sanchez and Merrigan

Sanchez, a former Treasury official on the Bush-Cheney transition team who advises companies on how to comply with international sanctions, gave at least $45,000 to candidates and committees the last cycle. About a third of that sum went to joint fund benefiting the leadership PACs of Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Paoletta has worked for a number of Republicans; according to his DLA Piper bio, he "served for 10 years as Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations for the US House Committee on Energy & Commerce" and  "worked in the White House as Assistant Counsel to the President during the George H.W. Bush Administration, where he played a significant role in the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas." He continues to help them get elected, sending over $17,000 to GOP campaigns in the last election, including $2,500 to Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. 

Merrigan, a co-chair of DLA Piper's Federal Law and Policy Group, gave at least $22,000 to Democratic candidates and committees in the last election.

Bernstein, who was an aide to former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio and touts his working relationship with members of the House and Senate foreign relations committees, gave at least $17,000 to Democrats in the 2012 cycle, including $3,500 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Mendendez, D-N.J., who is now embroiled in a scandal over allegations of favortism on behalf of his campaign contributor Salomon Melgen.

Keenan Steiner contributed reporting.

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