Elected Out of Office? No Problem, Call a DC Lobbyist

President of Côte d'Ivoire Addresses General AssemblyUpdate December 29, dermatologist 2010: Last week it was revealed that Laurent Gbagbo, the illegitimate president of the Ivory Coast who has refused to step down after losing presidential elections, had hired high profile DC lobbyist Lanny Davis to punt for him. Davis was indignant against extensive media criticism over his choice of clients, but after Change.org members stepped in, Davis had a change of heart and dropped President Gbagbo as a client. We are now calling on Davis to drop President Obiang, an even more egregious client.

You’ve been the president of a West African nation for over a decade. The constitution says your term is up, your legitimacy as president is highly questionable and international observers and your own election commission are saying you’ve just lost a highly contested election. Everyone and their mother is calling for you to step down.

What do you do?

Answer: call a famous Washington lobbyist and see if leveraging exorbitant sums of money from one of the world’s poorest nations can pull a few strings.

Such is the case for the Ivory Coast’s President Laurent Gbagbo, who by most counts lost last month’s presidential elections, but is now paying $100,000 a month to high profile DC lobbyist Lanny Davis for “crises management”, mumbo-jumbo-speak for ‘use my country’s money to get me out of this situation.’

The Ivory Coast Election Commission declared Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister and western-trained economist who has extensive support in the country’s north, winner of the November 28 elections with over 54 percent of the vote.

But the Gbagbo government cried foul, claiming extensive voter fraud in the north and that the election commission was full of Ouattara supporters. The Constitutional Council, the Ivory Coast’s equivalent of a supreme court, ruled in favor of President Gbagbo, excluding votes from northern districts with concerns over voter fraud and declaring Gbagbo the winner. The Constitutional Council, stacked with Gbagbo appointees, didn’t address the tricky little question of the constitutionally-imposed ten year term limit on presidents.

There has been a national crises ever since, with President Gbagbo’s camp claiming voter fraud and a biased electoral commission, and his challenger Ouattara’s camp claiming the Gbagbo-filled Constitutional Council is trying to steal an election they legitimately won.

International observers have sided squarely with the electoral commission, as have the United Nations, United States, African Union and European Union. President Gbagbo’s attempts to violently block opposition rallies, to detain opposition activists and to kick out UN peacekeepers, have all failed to suppress a chorus of local and international calls for him to step down. Even the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), not a body known for criticizing its own, has said its time for Gbagbo to go.

In desperation, President Gbagbo turned to Davis, a lobbyist and former White House Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton who represents many ‘unsavory’ foreign leaders and corporate clients. Davis recently lobbied in favor of for-profit schools and against the rights of unions to organize, attacked progressive critics of Whole Foods on behalf of the company, defended the Honduran military coup against the democratically elected president and even signed a $1 million a year contract with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the corrupt dictator of Equatorial Guinea for over three decades.

Columnist Glenn Greenwald once characterized Lanny Davis’ moral code as “I agree with whoever pays me.”

“It’s genuinely difficult to recall any instance where he publicly defended someone who hadn’t, at some point, hired and shuffled money to him,” Greenwald wrote, referring to the “limitless whoring behavior which shapes Washington generally and specifically drives virtually every word out of Lanny Davis’ mouth.”

President Gbagbo is reportedly paying Davis some $100,000 a month in public funds, 706 times the per capita gross domestic product of the average Ivorian citizen. Read again: the ousted leader of one of the world’s poorest nations, whose public debt is some 66 percent of GDP, is using public funds from a country he no longer has the legitimacy to lead to pay a DC lobbyist more than 700 times what the average citizen produces to undemocratically hold onto power.

But rather than admit that he is being paid to represent the interests of a president who international observers say has lost an election and who’s term has anyway reached its constitutional limit, Lanny Davis has depicted himself as a peacemaker, hired by President Gbagbo for ‘crises management’ and to promote transparency.

There’s a word that starts with bull to describe that claim… Lanny Davis is not, in fact, a United Nations-appointed mediator. He is a high-profile lawyer taking exorbitant amounts of money from the ousted leader of one of the poorest countries on earth to help him suppress the democratic decision of his people.

It’s time to end this charade. If Lanny Davis wants to promote Mr Gbagbo, he should do so without taking the Ivorian people’s money. If he prefers to play peacemaker, he should contact the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union or the United Nations to see if there are any openings.

Lanny Davis told Salon.com that he is “not going to defend a government” found to be guilty of human rights abuses: “If I found that [Gbagbo]’s been guilty of, or his government has been guilty of, human rights abuses or killing innocent civilians, no, I would not continue.”

Mr Gbagbo’s human rights record is not exactly shiny, and numerous media outlets, international rights groups and the UN have reported unarmed protesters being shot in the streets of the Ivory Coast’s capital Abidjan.

Call on Lanny Davis to return all the money he has been paid from the Ivory Coast’s public purse and to immediately drop President Gbagbo as his client.

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