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Transmission

Azerbaijan Hires Veteran U.S. Political Consultant

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at his 2013 swearing-in in Baku
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at his 2013 swearing-in in Baku

Amid its muscular lobbying push in Washington, Azerbaijan has hired a veteran Republican Party adviser and political strategist to boost its public image in the United States.

Baku’s embassy in Washington has signed a contract with Liz Mair, whose public-relations firm will aim to generate news coverage to “impact various U.S. government officials, as well as the U.S. general public,” according to a U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) disclosure statement signed on October 9.

Under the terms of the six-month contract, Azerbaijan will pay Mair’s firm, Mair Strategies, $15,000 a month for public-relations services, according FARA documents.

Mair has served as an online communications strategist to senior Republican officials, including Texas Governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. She is also a former online communications director for the Republican National Committee.

The hiring was first reported by Politico Influence, a newsletter on Washington’s lobbying community, which cited a source familiar with the contract.

The move comes as Azerbaijan faces mounting criticism over its human rights record from Western officials, analysts, and rights groups.

Since Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s committee of ministers in May, it has undertaken “the most serious and brutal crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan ever,” according to the Berlin-based European Stability Initiative.

At the same time, Azerbaijani officials have sought to portray the country as a valuable U.S. and European ally, and as a crucial player in energy security amid an increasingly aggressive Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Critics have accused Baku of using the Ukraine crisis and its lobbying push to deflect attention from its human rights record, including a sweeping crackdown in recent months against journalists, lawyers, and other government critics in Azerbaijan.

In 2013, Azerbaijan was the 10th-largest spender on lobbying efforts in the United States among foreign governments, shelling out almost $2.3 million, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation. 

Azerbaijan has also signed a $50,000-per-month contract with The Podesta Group, a top Washington lobbying firm.

Baku’s contract with Mair states that her firm will “assist in communicating priority issues relevant to the Republic of Azerbaijan to relevant audiences in the United States, including through media outlets.”

Mair, who is the 100-percent owner of Mair Strategies, declined to comment when contacted by RFE/RL.

Mair Strategies describes itself as a “a boutique online communications firm focusing on state-level, national and international issues for an array of Fortune 500 clients and major trade associations.”

-- Luke Johnson

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: RD
October 23, 2014 21:05
All the money in the world will not cover Azerbaijan's dirt.
In Response

by: Tey
October 24, 2014 19:11
It's Aliev's dirt, not Azerbajan's - choose your words carefully.

by: Mamuka
October 25, 2014 00:24
I find it curious that RFE/RL correctly identifies Ms Mair as a consultant to Republicans but fails to point out that John Podesta, principal of The Podesta Group, whose monthly contract with Baku is more than three times as big, is not only a lifelong Democratic Party operative but actually a current member of the Obama administration.

Baku spreads their money around wisely... and proportionately.
In Response

by: TheSaucyMugwump from: saucymugwump.blogspot.com
November 02, 2014 02:03
Not just Podesta Group, but also Tool Shed Group and Potomac Square Group.
http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/robert-gibbs-jim-messina-david-plouffe-azerbaijan-trip-92054.html

by: NigarAH from: Baku, Azerbaijan
October 25, 2014 01:44
And how much money has spent the USA per month for spying on its allies?))

by: Ninika from: Baku, Azerbaijan
October 27, 2014 12:56
15 thousand dollars per month??? The US State Department assigns millions per year for the activities against the Azerbaijani authorities. So, don`t make a mountain out of a molehill... 15 thousand dollars per month - the topic is not worth a separate article ...

by: Bakuer
October 27, 2014 13:33
And? What does this article mean?
Azerbaijan is organizing PR actions in the US, the most powerful state in the world? What is wrong with this? Thousands companies and tens of states are engaged in the same activity, and why RFERL decided to write about Azerbaijan? ))
Why there is no single article about similar activity of Armenian lobby in the US? Political prisoners? Just last week Armenian authorities sentenced 11 young opposition activists for taking part in a protest rally. Sentenced to up to 7 years in prison. And no serious reaction in the West. In Georgia, almost the whole former government are in prison, the previous president wanted as well. But they are not political prisoners, I suspect because they are not Azerbaijanis ))
RFERL, it's ridiculous already, be a bit wise and consistent.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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