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Update: Independent Diplomat responds

Carne Ross, director of Independent Diplomat, has responded to my post yesterday about his organization’s work for places like Northern Cyprus and Southern Sudan. The response is printed here in full: This article is a discredit to FP.  The writer could at a minimum have checked with Independent Diplomat before writing the blog. We are ...

Carne Ross, director of Independent Diplomat, has responded to my post yesterday about his organization’s work for places like Northern Cyprus and Southern Sudan. The response is printed here in full:

This article is a discredit to FP.  The writer could at a minimum have checked with Independent Diplomat before writing the blog. We are available for inquiries, even from web bloggers.  Relaying false facts is in some countries illegal; it is in all countries irresponsible.
 
The facts are that Independent Diplomat does not lobby for its clients.  We advise our clients on how to represent themselves diplomatically. We are required by US law to submit certain of our contracts under FARA legislation.  But these do not give a complete picture of our finances or, in all cases, our contractual relationships with clients.  It is highly misleading to draw conclusions from such public filings.  Finally, we do not only advise “semi-autonomous regions” which is itself a misleading and ignorant way of describing some of our clients.  Many of Independent Diplomat’s clients, not listed in the AP article from which the author lifts his piece, are “normal” states.
 
This FP blog draws extensively from a recent AP article about Independent Diplomat.  The AP article itself is not a complete picture of Independent Diplomat’s work and contains some inaccuracies.  The writer of this piece has added his own misinterpretations to that article.  Independent Diplomat will raise these concerns directly with the editors of FP.

Ross is right about this: We should have called him before posting. That’s FP‘s policy and it makes good sense.

And I understand Ross’s concern that his firm be correctly represented, so let me address his points one at a time:

"The facts are that Independent Diplomat does not lobby for its clients.  We advise our clients on how to represent themselves diplomatically. 

Here is the definition used in the United States Lobbying Disclosure Act:

"The term ”lobbyist” means any individual who is employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation for services that include more than one lobbying contact."

The definition of a lobbying contact includes any communication with a government official regarding "the formulation, modification, or adoption of a Federal rule, regulation, Executive order, or any other program, policy,or position of the United States Government."

Here is what Independent Diplomat’s contract with Southern Sudan pledges:

"Staff members will solicit the views of the US Government by meeting with key officials and desk officers in the State Department and other US agencies to gather their views." 

ID is accepting money to arrange consultations with government officials its clients cannot arrange on their own and advising them on how to follow up themselves. Because it is representing foreign entitites in the United States, it is required to register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act [FARA]. The term "lobbying" does not seem wrong or unfair to describe ID’s activities.

Ross writes:  

We are required by US law to submit certain of our contracts under FARA legislation. It is highly misleading to draw conclusions from such public filings." 

The only "conclusions" drawn from public filings were the amounts and terms of some of ID’s contracts, reproduced word for word.

"Finally, we do not only advise “semi-autonomous regions” which is itself a misleading and ignorant way of describing some of our clients.  Many of Independent Diplomat’s clients, not listed in the AP article from which the author lifts his piece, are “normal” states." 

The post does not state that Independent Diplomat only advises "semi-autonomous regions." The list of clients was not taken simply from the AP story, but checked with (and linked to) ID’s own client list on its Web site. Southern Sudan is not on that list, despite the filing I found, but it, as well as Somaliland, Western Sahara, and Northern Cyprus (which are listed) are all commonly referred to as "semi-autonomous regions," though I do understand why the term is controversial.

Moreover, one of ID’s other clients, again featured on their own client list, is Kosovo, which recently gained statehood — after signing up for ID’s assistance. Aside from Kosovo, which ID represented before it was internationally recognized, the only "normal" states mentioned on ID’s client list are: "a group of North Pacific small island states." 

This FP blog draws extensively from a recent AP article about Independent Diplomat.  The AP article itself is not a complete picture of Independent Diplomat’s work and contains some inaccuracies.  The writer of this piece has added his own misinterpretations to that article."

The AP article was assumed to be credible not only because it was published and vetted by that organization, but because Independent Diplomat prominently displayed links to it on its own home page. In linking to the piece, ID does not in any way dispute its content.

Finally, the original post was not mean to be particularly critical of Independent Diplomat. In fact the AP story referenced and the Al Jazeera video attached to the post are both quite positive about the organization.

Tag: Africa

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