Confirming that the PPP has hired a US-based public relations firm to advance its political position in Washington DC, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that the $34M price tag and the legal costs associated with the no-confidence case, were paid via donations from supporters locally and abroad.
“We are happy with the firm that we have recruited, we’re happy that they are a bi-partisan firm, we are happy that this firm is effective and we believe that they will get the message out to Washington, which is one for free and fair elections. It is a universal value and we believe with their help we can counter the lies…We are doing this for Guyana. We are paying money from the PPP fund for Guyana,” he said during his press conference yesterday.
Jagdeo faced numerous questions on the party’s decision to hire Mercury Public Affairs. The company is one of the lobbying groups named in the indictment against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longtime deputy, Richard Gates, news media outlets in the US have reported.
Asked about the party’s affiliation to the firm, Jagdeo said that it is true that it has hired the firm.
“We’re very happy with the firm. We’re happy with its credentials. We’re happy that the firm is a bi-partisan firm— both Democrats and Republicans— and we badly needed a presence in Washington because a lot of the options formed in Washington from many organisations, including the multilateral financial institutions, the OAS and of course the US government, could be tainted by the lies that APNU has been telling in these areas …so we have to have a presence there so that we can have access to those bodies so that we can bring a balance to what is being peddled in those circles,” Jagdeo said. He recently returned from a US trip, which included visits to New York and Washington.
He told reporters that given the need for the party to be represented in Washington, it hired the firm to assist in that regard, particularly as it relates to reaching US policymakers.
Jagdeo, in responding to questions, would later say that the $34M was transferred from Guyana to the company through the banking system. “Not that we fetched it up…to Washington,” he said.
He said that the party has been collecting funds to help with elections campaigning, to pay the firm and to deal with legal expenses. “The party has to pay for the legal fees for lawyers on the no confidence motion. The party has to pay for the public affairs firm, etc. That is the party’s responsibility,” he stressed while adding that, “Everything comes from donations.” He indicated that the party has set up a GoFundMe page as well. “It a good cause. It’s a fight for democracy, please made a donation,” he added.
He stressed that all the information about its association with Mercury is a matter of public record and can be easily accessed. “It’s not secret. Everything you do you have to file and so any Guyanese can go and access this information,” he said.
Jagdeo clarified that the firm is not dealing with campaign related issues but rather advising on the party’s presence in Washington and ensuring that its views are heard by the US policymakers at every level. For him, this is critical.
He informed too, that the hiring of the firm got the full approval of the PPP executive.
Asked if he thinks the party is getting their money’s worth, he responded “We’re getting every cent worth. Every cent is worth it.”
Jagdeo declined to say whether the firm has written the OAS or any grouping on the party’s behalf. “I will brief you further when the elections come on these matters,” he said, adding that he is not inclined to share all the details of work done thus far by the company.
“They’re working on our behalf, we’ve seen evidence of this. I believe we are getting our views in to all the circles that matter so that when the lies come from Guyana through the various sources and from the government, that people can ask the right questions of them. And so one thing I have gotten out of Washington from the
executive branch, the senior functionaries I met there as well as the congress, that they will pay careful attention to Guyana and support free and fair elections whatever the outcome of the CCJ case…” he said.
The opposition leader stressed that the PPP’s primary interest is ensuring free and fair elections.
“It’s a shame that we have to, in the 21st century, go to Washington to lobby for free and fair elections because of this government’s transgressions; refusing to accept a no confidence vote, install [ing] one of their persons in the GECOM, violating the constitution,” he said, noting that government should pay back the $34M the opposition is spending.
Jagdeo informed that he has looked at the issues that have surfaced about the company and said that he is comfortable that they can deliver. He said that the bipartisan nature of the company was a critical element in its selection, as well as the fact that it’s an effective firm. “That is all I am concerned with at this page,” he said, before noting that there are no pristine firms in the US.
“The mere fact that this firm is still operating in Washington and is very effective means it’s in good standing for me,” he said.
On its website, Mercury describes itself as “a high-stakes public strategy firm.” It points out that the firm has provided results for the world’s most successful companies, leading advocacy groups, governments, political parties, NGOs, and prominent public and political figures.