The Talent

December 22, 2010 2:30 PM

Lightning Rod Lanny: Davis Lands Another Controversial Client

Posted by D.M. Levine

When The American Lawyer last checked in with ubiquitous Beltway lawyer/lobbyist/spinmeister Lanny Davis, the former McDermott Will & Emery partner had recently signed a $1-million-a-year contract to act as “reform counsel” to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo--the Equatorial Guinea president whose 30-year rule has been marked by accusations of systematic human rights violations.

At the time, Davis said his decision to accept Obiang as a client was contingent on the African strongman fulfulling his promises to reform his government.

Now, as first reported Tuesday by, Davis is representing another controversial African political leader--Laurent Gbagbo, the embattled president of Ivory Coast. Gbagbo has refused to give up his grip on power despite coming out on the losing end last month to political opponent Alassane Ouattara in an election whose results have been endorsed by both the United States and United Nations.

In response to the election, security forces loyal to Gbagbo have reportedly unleashed a torrent of political violence across the country, allegedly beating, rounding up, and in some instances, killing protesters and the president's political foes.

Against this backdrop, Davis took Gbagbo and his government on as a lobbying client as of December 17, according to documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Davis's fee, according to the FARA filing: $100,000 per month for the first three months.

The lobbying pact calls for Davis to “present the fact and the law as to why there is substantial documentary evidence that President Laurent Gbagbo is the duly elected president as a result of the Novermber 28 elections” to various U.S. government agencies.

Regardless of what the FARA documents indicate, according to an interview published by Salon on Wednesday, Davis claims to be “agnostic” on the election results. He did tell Salon, however, that “if I found that he's been guilty of, or his government has been guilty of human rights abuses or killing innocent civilians, no, I would not continue [to represent Gbagbo].”

Davis did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 


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I am not normally a Lanny Davis fan but in this instance I think he is doing a good thing.

It was the U.N. who did not follow the rules, right off the bat by declaring a winner outside of the agreed upon legal process.

Transparency is needed as to why they did this. More to the point: They should be made to explain that if they think the process would not allow for a fair election, then why did they decide to destroy any fairness that may be remaining by working outside the rule of law? Why they decided that in this instance it was important to take on a sitting President thereby denying the people of the Ivory Coast the same respect of process they give to every other country.

Where was the U.N. when the Iranians were actually rioting and getting shot in the streets? They are nothing but a farce and it is time they got put back in their box.

The people of the Ivory Coast deserve the same respect that everyone else gets. That outsiders follow the rule of law just like they have to follow. They don't need a United Nations telling them that in this instance the results are more important than the legal process. That is utter nonsense.

We have family there. They don't agree with the U.N. doing what they are doing. And everyone else I have talked with doesn't agree either. They all say to a person that the U.N. has stepped into the middle of something in a very awful way. It is pretty obvious that while the people may have voted one way, they are seeing it play out in a completely different way. This is not what they are asking for. And, they don’t blame President Gbagbo for it.

They understand completely, that it is one thing to oversee an election. It is quite another to impose your own method of going about it from the outside. From an entity they didn’t vote for no less.

Once again, this is a farce and I applaud Lanny Davis for getting to the bottom of it.

Bravo Lanny!

Thank you for hearing me out.

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