Victory! DC Lobbyist Drops African Despot as Client

GbagbociLast week it was revealed that a high profile DC lobbyist named Lanny Davis had decided to punt for Laurent Gbagbo, store the illegitimate president of the Ivory Coast who has caused a national crises by refusing to step down after losing presidential elections last month.

Mr Davis was loud and obdurate in his defense of the West African despot, despite the country’s electoral commission, international observers, the United Nations, United States, African Union and European Union all declaring that President Gbagbo had lost the November 28 elections to his opponent Alassane Ouattara. Mr Davis depicted himself as a peacemaker, with no interest other than transparency and ‘crises management,’ mumbo-jumbo-speak for ‘being paid exorbitant sums of a poor country’s money to get a despot out of a challenging situation.’

As Change.org pointed out, there’s a word that starts with bull to describe that claim, and Mr Davis had a few more interests beyond peacemaking, including some $100,000 a month being paid by the ousted leader of one of the poorest countries on earth to help him suppress the democratic decision of his people.

A number of high profile columnists and dozens of news reports challenged the morality of Davis’ contract with President Gbagbo, but the lobbyist was indignant in his own defense, arguing his case on CNN and even claiming to a Salon.com reporter that he is “not going to defend a government” found to be guilty of human rights abuses.

Without getting into it, 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.

Change.org members were having none of it, and became the only group that mobilized to take action, with dozens of people petitioning Mr Davis to immediately drop President Gbagbo as his client. If Mr Davis wants to play peacemaker, we said, he should contact the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union or the United Nations to see if there are any openings.

Either that worked or Mr Davis had a radical overnight transformation of his political views after opening a newspaper, because less than 24 hours after the launch of the Change.org petition he announced he was dropping President Gbagbo as a client.

It’s thanks to Change.org members taking the time to read about and act on issues like this that allows us all to celebrate a symbolic victory today.

The battle against Mr Davis, however, is hardly over. 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.”

This case revolved around Davis agreeing to be paid 706 times the per capita gross domestic product of the average Ivorian citizen by the ousted leader of a country he no longer has the legitimacy to lead and whose public debt is some 66 percent of GDP. But it’s not the first time. 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 and defended the Honduran military coup against the democratically elected president.

Most egregious of all, this summer Davis signed a $1 million a year contract with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the corrupt dictator of Equatorial Guinea for over three decades.

Call on Lanny Davis to immediately drop President Obiang as a client.

GOT A TIP FOR US? Is there a story or campaign in your area that we’d want to know about? E-mail us at humanrightstips@change.org. Please also follow Change.org’s Human Rights page on Facebook and Twitter. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons and Matt Stoler