Category: Spin Doctors

Dana Perino Out as Mina Lobbyist

Dana Perino

On July 26th, I broke the news on this blog that former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino had joined the team of lobbyists working for a secretive defense contractor that is at the center of a congressional investigation of a $1.4 billion contract to supply aviation fuel at the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan.

My scoop was very short-lived. Two days later — and one day after The Washington Post’s SpyTalk picked up the item — Perino’s employer, Hamilton Place Strategies LLC filed notice that it was no longer taking up the cause of the mysterious Mina Corp./Red Star.

Congress wants to know whether the sole-source, classified contracts awarded to Mina Corp., Ltd., and Red Star Enterprises Ltd., were a vehicle for the U.S. government to deliver payoffs to the family of Kyrgyzstan leaders who were ousted amid charges of corruption linked to the Manas air base.

Senate lobbying disclosure forms show that on July 12 Mina Corp. hired public affairs firm Hamilton Place Strategies to lobby Congress and the Defense Department. Hamilton Place filed its notice of termination on July 28. The firm’s income from Mina was less than $5,000.

Mina also lost the services of Tony Fratto, another former Bush White House spokesman, and W. Taylor Griffin, a McCain/Palin adviser.

Seriously, WTF?

Carly Fiorina and the HP Pretexting Scandal

What's the pretext?

Did former chairman and chief executive Carly Fiorina play a role in the spying scandal that tarnished the once sterling reputation of Hewlett-Packard Corporation?

Revelations in 2006 that company investigators, using private and confidential information provided by HP, had posed as board members and journalists to obtain private phone records and e-mails created a public uproar. HP officials were hauled before Congress and California filed criminal charges against several company officials, including former Chairman Patricia Dunn.

There’s no evidence to suggest that Fiorina knew or condoned this practice, known as “pretexting” (aka lying). The HP board fired Fiorina more than a year before the scandal broke. Fiorina’s own phone records were obtained by HP investigators after she had left the company.

But that’s not the complete story. A look at the record shows that HP’s leak investigations began under Fiorina, who is now running as a Republican to unseat U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, and employed the same security firm who worked for HP during Fiorina’s entire tenure as chairman. Furthermore, the board member Fiorina suspected as the source of the leak became the focus of the investigation.

In January 2005, Fiorina approached attorney Larry Sonsini, the board’s outside lawyer, for advice. Fiorina was extremely upset by a Wall Street Journal story that detailed sensitive internal board discussions about Fiorina’s performance.

Patricia Dunn, who succeeded Fiorina as chairman, testified under oath to Congress:

MS. DUNN: The first inquiry into leaks actually began under the administration of Carly Fiorina, who was Chairman and CEO until February of 2005. She asked Mr. Sonsini to talk with every director one-on-one about the functioning of the Board, and to seek the confession of whoever the person or persons were that were leaking this confidential information, as well as to reassert their commitment to confidentiality going forward. The reason why the Board, by the time I got involved, was so deeply concerned was because they knew that no one had come forward to admit their culpability.

After Fiorina’s ouster, seven of nine HP board members saw the case of the boardroom leak as “unfinished business” by a majority of board members, Patricia Dunn, who succeeded Fiorina as chairman testified to Congress.

Dunn enlisted the services of Security Outsourcing Solutions, a little-known private detective firm in Needham, Mass. SOS had done work for HP during Fiorina’s entire tenure as chairman. About half the company’s work came from HP.

The initial work done by SOS in the pretexting scandal, Dunn testified, “was authorized — by whom I do not know specifically — as an extension to a pre-existing work order under which he was performing various investigative assignments for Hewlett-Packard.” (emphasis added)

Did any of these assignments involved pretexting?

Fred Adler, head of IT security investigations at HP, testified that one of the company’s investigators involved in the pretexting scandal had complained to his manager on previous occasions about the practice.

In her 2006 book, Tough Choices, Fiorina doesn’t mention pretexting or whether she ordered spying on journalists and board members. She did write in Tough Choices that she remained deeply suspicious of another board member, George Keyworth, who was not the source for the Journal article.

A 20-year HP board veteran, Keyworth was a driving force behind the board’s divisive efforts to remove Fiorina, who had aggressively championed a bitterly contested $19 billion merger with Compaq in 2002 that led to a proxy fight, court battle, wrenching layoffs, some cost savings but little in the way of profits.

Keyworth subsequently became a target of the pretexting investigation in a move that likely reflected the lingering bitterness over Fiorina’s ouster.

Investoradio Interview

I’ll be on Investoradio this Saturday, Aug. 21, talking about Ray Lucia and high fees. You can listen online through this link. Just like Lucia, Investoradio hosts Tom Cock and Don McDonald run their own investment advisory, but their fees are less than 1 percent, compared to as much as 2.9 percent for RJL Wealth Management.

Here’s a link to the show.

Palin spokesman also part of the Mina/Red Star team

McCain/Palin campaign spokesman W. Taylor Griffin is coordinating the public relations response to Mina Corp., the secretive defense contractor that is the subject of a congressional investigation into its fuel contracts for a U.S. airbase in Kyrgzystan.

Griffin is a partner in Hamilton Place Strategies LLC, the PR firm that, as I reported yesterday, employs former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and her former colleague, Tony Fratto.

As part of the Palin team, Griffin led a crisis communications team that dealt with the “Troopergate” affair.

Griffin was part of the communications team for the 2000 and 2004 Bush presidential campaigns, and did a stint in the Treasury Department’s Office of Public Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

EXCLUSIVE: Secretive defense contractor hires Dana Perino in DC lobbying push

A secretive defense contractor that is at the center of a congressional investigation of a $1.4 billion contract to supply aviation fuel at the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan has hired a powerhouse D.C. lobbying team that includes Dana Perino and others from the Bush White House.

Congress wants to know whether the sole-source, classified contracts awarded to Mina Corp., Ltd., and Red Star Enterprises Ltd., were a vehicle for the U.S. government to deliver payoffs to the family of Kyrgyzstan leaders who were ousted amid charges of corruption linked to the Manas air base.

Mina Corp.’s fuel contract, awarded last year, is worth up to $730.9 million over three years for services at the Manas, the only U.S. airbase in Central Asia outside of Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan has also opened its own investigation, prompting the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek to say that the contract was issued in accordance with U.S. and local laws. Mina Corp has told both governments that it has never directed U.S. government funds to Kyrgyz officials.

As Congress turned up the heat on Mina and Red Star in July, the companies sent Washington lobbyists to the Hill to plead their case.

Senate lobbying disclosure forms show that on July 12 Mina Corp. hired public affairs firm Hamilton Place Strategies LLC to lobby Congress and the Defense Department.

Senate filings show the Hamilton Place team includes Perino, now a Fox News political commentator, W. Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain/Palin campaign who handled the “Troopergate” affair, and Tony Fratto, who spoke for the president on issues including intelligence matters, terrorist financing and financial crimes.

Also joining the Mina Corp. team this month were McLean, Virginia-based Dudinsky, Lisker & Associates, which says it is “monitoring and reporting Congressional activity” on behalf of Mina.” Principal Joel Lisker is a former FBI agent who headed the Justice Department’s foreign agent registration unit in the Carter years. His investigation led the president’s brother, Billy, to register as a foreign agent for Libya.

Barbour, Griffith & Rogers’ Ed Rogers, a Reagan and Bush I White House veteran, and Morris Reid, registered July 20 as lobbyists for Mina to handle a House investigation regarding Department of Defense contracts to provide jet fuel to U.S. military base in Bagham, Afghanistan.

Jeff Stein at The Washington Post’s SpyTalk blog reported last wek that after weeks of tense negotiations, a House oversight subcommittee has gotten promises of cooperation from Mina and Red Star.

“The heart of the investigation,” a source told Stein, “is why Red Star and Mina Corp. were not investigated under” the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids U.S. companies from paying bribes or kickbacks to foreign officials.”

Mina Corp. has also hired the D.C. law firm, Weil, Gotschal and Manges LLP. The Weil team includes partner William Burck, who served in the Bush White House Counsel’s office. Burck specializes in FCPA investigations among other things, according to his law firm biography.

In a press release announcing last week’s agreement between Mina, Red Star and the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Burck said maintaining his client’s secrecy was a key to the deal.

“We’ve worked closely with staff to make sure the Subcommittee obtains the information it seeks while preserving the confidentiality of the companies’ operations and the privacy of its personnel.  Confidentiality is essential to permit the companies to meet the U.S. military’s needs in volatile areas of the world and supply vital fuel to our troops in the field.”

Burck and Perino have a close working relationship. They have penned regular columns critical of the Obama administration for National Review Online.

The Senate lobbying forms also raise fresh questions about who or what is behind Mina and Red Star.

The Defense Department has identified to Mina and Red Star Enterprises as companies based in Gibraltar. Mina Corp. was registered in London in 2003, records show.

The Senate lobbying disclosures identify Mina as a Dubai firm affiliated with “Mina Petroleum FZE” with an office in the Dubai Airport Free Zone. Companies operating within the free zone are treated as offshore, outside the United Arab Emirates.

Adding to the confusion, Mina’s webserver, minacorp.com, is registered in Vernier, Switzerland.