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K Street Files: Weldon Gets to Libya but Fails to Meet Gadhafi

It was odd enough when  former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) turned up in Tripoli last week, where he datelined an opinion piece for the New York Times saying he was there to persuade Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step aside. Perhaps stranger still is who paid the former Congressman’s way.

Houston attorney Brian Ettinger and Steve Payne, who is described in a press statement as a human rights advocate, “paid their own expenses as well as Mr. Weldon’s travel expenses to Libya,” according to the statement sent by an associate of Payne’s.

The statement added that Payne and Ettinger “are currently in Tripoli” accompanying Weldon.

Payne, when contacted early last week before Weldon’s opinion piece was published, denied any plans to travel to Libya with Weldon. Instead, he said he was in Paris on “other business.”

“We don’t have any specific plans,” Payne said at the time, adding that Weldon was not “with me right now” and that he didn’t know where the former lawmaker was.

No matter their plans earlier that week, Payne apparently ended up in Libya with Weldon and Ettinger.

A more detailed press statement, also sent by Payne’s associate, Benjamin R. Johns, said Weldon’s private trip to Libya concluded Friday and was something of a disappointment because it did not include a face-to-face meeting with Gadhafi “as promised.” The statement noted that Weldon “reiterated his support for the requirements outlined by President [Barack] Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary [Rodham] Clinton.”

Weldon and his delegation were also “involved in a quiet humanitarian mission to escort rape victim Eman [al-Obeidy] out of Tripoli returning her to her family in [Benghazi],” the statement said. 

Weldon, who could not be reached for comment, said in the statement that he went to Libya “because of [Gadhafi’s] personal admonition to me in my 2004 face-to-face meeting as the first U.S. official to meet him in 25 years.”

One of the press releases from Payne’s associate added that “Payne and Ettinger have no current business in Libya or with the [Gadhafi] family nor does Congressman Weldon who is not being paid for this private trip.”

Neither currently represents any federal lobbying clients, but Lobbying Disclosure Act records show Brian Ettinger of Houston was registered to lobby on behalf of the Caspian Alliance from 2006 to 2007. The registration says the alliance does “energy consulting services for commercial energy projects in the Caspian Region for U.S. and foreign companies.” Ettinger was also registered for the Pakistan Human Development Fund in 2003.

Stephen Payne of Houston registered the International Business & Energy Development Corp. as a lobbying client, as well as SAP America and the United Space Alliance, all in 2002.

They plan to continue their “humanitarian” efforts back in the U.S., the statement said.

New Employee Cuff Links

Think you’ve had a hectic first day on a new job? Try getting arrested.

That’s what happened to Michael Brown, the newest partner at the Madison Group.

Brown, who serves as D.C.’s at-large councilmember, arrived in the office early Monday for day one. “I had a partner meeting and then went and got arrested,” Brown said.

He was in elite company: D.C.’s mayor and most of the other councilmembers were taken into custody for blocking traffic outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building to protest the pending budget deal that defunds some D.C. services.

“We celebrate civil disobedience,” said Madison Group Managing Partner Robb Watters, who noted that the firm shares a name with one of the country’s Founding Fathers. “This is what our country is based upon.”

Brown said his new colleagues, after they got all the necessary jokes out of the way, were supportive of his late night in the slammer. It helps that he already knew Watters and firm partner Marcus Mason — those relationships were part of what lured the councilmember to the shop.

“The reputation of the partners and the firm are something that you always look at,” Brown said. “The comfort level I had made it an easy decision.”

His practice will focus on telecommunications, tax, foreign affairs and municipal issues.

Before he joined the Madison Group, Brown was managing director of the government affairs practice at Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge. He was previously the managing partner of Alcalde & Fay and a member of Patton Boggs. 

The Madison Group’s clients include CTIA, BNSF Railway Co. and T-Mobile.

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