WASHINGTON - In the spring, when Sen. Hillary Rodham
Clinton was denouncing the Dubai Ports World deal, a consulting firm run by her
top advisers was quietly lobbying for a Dubai takeover of two U.S. defense
plants, Newsday has learned.
The Glover Park Group, whose principals include Clinton insiders Howard
Wolfson, Joe Lockhart and Gigi Georges, was paid about $100,000 to help the
government-owned Dubai International Capital Corp. in its acquisition of the
British engineering firm Doncasters Group Ltd.
The four-month lobbying effort apparently didn't include any contact with
Clinton's office. "They [Glover Park] didn't have contact with us on either" of
the Dubai deals, said Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines.
But it underscores the awkwardness of Clinton's political kitchen cabinet
being housed inside a firm that features one of Washington's most aggressive
and fast-growing lobbying operations.
Clinton and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped to sink the takeover
of port operations by a Dubai company, supported the Doncasters acquisition,
saying it didn't pose nearly as significant a security threat.
Glover Park's contract with Dubai was channeled through the Los Angeles law
office of Raj Tanden, the brother of longtime Hillary Clinton policy adviser
Neera Tanden, according to people familiar with the situation.
Raj Tanden, who represented the emirate's royal family in its 2005
acquisition of $1 billion in U.S. real estate holdings, declined to comment.
His sister didn't return a message left at her office yesterday.
Neera Tanden served as a congressional liaison for Bill Clinton before
moving on to become a key Hillary Clinton campaign aide and the senator's
The Doncasters takeover was much less controversial than the ports deal,
mainly because Dubai officials submitted to a full review by the Committee on
Foreign Investment in the United States. The Bush administration infuriated
Congress by forgoing a review for the ports takeover, provoking a powerful
bipartisan backlash that doomed the deal.
Doncasters, which makes tank and aircraft turbines in its Connecticut and
Georgia plants, was approved by the government foreign investment committee in
May. Some critics, including Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), argued that Mideast
officials shouldn't be allowed to control factories used by defense
Considering the firestorm that surrounded the Dubai Ports World proposal,
it's surprising that the controversy-allergic Clinton team agreed to lobby for
Dubai at all.
The contract was signed April 13, only a month after the ports deal went
down in flames over concerns the emirate was a breeding ground for some of the
Sept. 11 hijackers.
It also came on the heels of columnist Robert Novak's report that Bill
Clinton unsuccessfully urged Dubai officials to hire Glover partner Lockhart as
their spokesman. A Clinton spokesman didn't deny the account.
Glover Park's lobbying team, led by former Clinton White House staffer Joel
Johnson, met with Schumer's staff, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King
(R-Seaford) and Senate Democrats, including Carl Levin of Michigan.
Johnson said his goal was to assure skeptical legislators that Doncasters
was no reprise of the ports debacle.
"We wanted to ... respond to any concern in order to assure members that
this was consistent with our national security interests," he said.
Who was involved
The Glover Park Group - known as the "White House in Exile" - was founded
five years ago by a group of top advisers to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton,
including former White House communications director Joe Lockhart and key
Hillary Clinton advisers Gigi Georges and Howard Wolfson, who don't engage in
lobbying but are apprised of the firm's lobbying efforts.
Staff who lobbied on behalf of Dubai:
Joel Johnson: former senior adviser for policy and communications, Clinton
Susan Brophy: former deputy director of legislative affairs, Clinton White
House. Married to Gerald McGowan, Clinton's ambassador to Portugal.
Brett O'Brien: foreign policy adviser to former Senate Democratic Majority
Leader George Mitchell.
- U.S. Senate lobbying reports/Glover Park Group Web site