Well-connected Washington firm aids Libyan rebels

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Harbour Group, a small but well-connected Washington public relations firm, is helping Libya’s most prominent rebel organization to raise its profile among journalists and politicians in the U.S. capital.

Richard Mintz, a Harbour Group principal, said his company was not getting paid for its work for the Washington office of Libya’s transitional national council that is headed by Ali Aujali, who resigned in February as Tripoli’s ambassador to United States.

“We are volunteering our time,” Mintz told Reuters.

The Harbour Group, whose three principals are veterans of Democratic and Republican politics, arranged a well-attended talk by Aujali on Monday at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank close to President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, The Harbour Group was preparing to submit a letter to the Justice Department to formally report its representation of the council’s Washington office.

Work for the rebel group will include screening media calls and helping to improve the council’s website. The Harbour Group’s association with the council began about a week ago.

The council, the most publicized organization claiming to represent rebels fighting the North African country’s long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, has published a manifesto entitled “A Vision of a Democratic Libya.”

The council’s website says France formally recognized it as Libya’s legitimate government on March 10.

The Harbour Group says on its website it is a “boutique public relations firm” that specializes in “smart strategic thinking and flawless execution.”

Reports filed by The Harbour Group with the Justice Department show it has represented entities connected with the United Arab Emirates, for which it billed the government of Abu Dhabi more than $500,000 between April and September 2009.

A biography of Mintz on the firm’s website says he served as staff director for Hillary Clinton during her husband Bill’s 1992 presidential campaign and then as chief of public affairs for the Transportation Department during the Clinton administration.

Another principal, Richard Marcus, helped “devise media relations strategies” for the last three Democratic presidential conventions, it says.

The third principal, John Buckley, is a member of a famous clan of conservative Republicans and worked as a spokesman for the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Bob Dole.

(Editing by John O’Callaghan and Paul Simao)

Well-connected Washington firm aids Libyan rebels