MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Someone else who wants to get rid of the government of Prime Minister Maliki, Ayad Allawi. You may remember his name. Ayad Allawi was interim prime minister before Maliki was elected. Well, now Allawi wants to be a big player again and he's hired the Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith and Rogers to represent him, and also undermine Maliki before Congress, the media, and others. Barbour - as in the former governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour - Griffith and Rogers has close ties to the White House. The lobbying on behalf of Allawi will be led by a man named Robert Blackwell. He was President Bush's one-time point man on Iraq.
Christina Davidson of Iraqslogger.com broke this story and she joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
Ms. CHRISTINA DAVIDSON (Iraqslogger.com): Thank you.
BRAND: Now, you actually have the contract between this lobbying company and Ayad Allawi up on your Web site. What does it say?
Ms. DAVIDSON: It says that Barbour, Griffith and Rogers will be paid $50,000 a month through January '08 for serving as a representative for Dr. Allawi before the U.S. government, Congress, media, and whomever else Allawi wishes to communicate with.
BRAND: Fifty thousand dollars a month; that's a lot of money.
Ms. DAVIDSON: With an option to extend that even further.
BRAND: And what kinds of things will the company do for him? I noticed he already had an op-ed in Saturday's Washington Post. Was that the work of this company?
Ms. DAVIDSON: Oh, the op-ed wasn't the work of the company, but the company did in fact used that op-ed as the basis for e-mailing to its extensive mailing list on Capitol Hill and other corners. Their first action representing Allawi was to register a Web site, which you can go see, which is allawiforiraq.com. And they registered that just this past weekend. And as soon as that was registered, they started sending out mailings, not just the Allawi op-ed but they also forwarded Carl Levin's recent comments about how Maliki needs to go. That was the basis of another mailing, and there have been more. They're really just, you know, using the e-mail server list as a way to communicate Allawi as the potential leader, future leader of Iraq.
BRAND: Is that what he wants? He wants to be back in power?
Ms. DAVIDSON: Oh, I think absolutely. If you've read his op-ed, he very much, very much was portraying himself as the more appropriate choice and trying to portray Maliki as, and rightfully so, I think, as ineffective and failing in his attempts to bring national reconciliation to the country.
BRAND: Well, when Allawi was interim prime minister, he wasn't inordinately popular then...
Ms. DAVIDSON: He didn't really do - but he had his chance.
BRAND: He had his chance and he lost resoundingly during the elections.
Ms. DAVIDSON: Absolutely.
BRAND: What will we see in the next few months from this firm, this invisible hand? Where will we see their actions?
Ms. DAVIDSON: Well, now that their hand is not so invisible anymore, it will be interesting to see if that impacts their effectiveness. Now that it's clear who's behind this PR offensive, it's going to be a lot more difficult for those individuals who might have otherwise been in a position to entertain the idea of another Allawi, it might be more difficult for them to push their support because of the implication that they could just be, you know, a result of lobbying.
But the question is why does Allawi need to lobby in this country when the support he needs is in Iraq? And I don't know exactly what he expects to achieve, but it's obviously something if he's going to invest $300,000 over the next six months.
BRAND: Christina, thank you.
Ms. DAVIDSON: Thank you.
BRAND: That's Christina Davidson of Iraqslogger.com. Her article on the lobbying efforts of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is up on that Web site.