Weber Shandwick ends controversial contract with Egypt's government

The Interpublic Group firm said this week that it is withdrawing from a public affairs contract with the country after just six months; former subsidiary Cassidy & Associates will continue to work with Egypt.

The Giza Necropolis in Egypt. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, by Yasser Nazmi, own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35075700)
The Giza Necropolis in Egypt. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, by Yasser Nazmi, own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35075700)

NEW YORK: Weber Shandwick is withdrawing from a public affairs contract with Egypt six months after starting work.

The move followed a decision by former Weber subsidiary Cassidy & Associates last month to begin a management buyout from Interpublic Group. Since then, Weber has reviewed its accounts on behalf of foreign governments trying to influence U.S. policy and decided to discontinue work with the government of Egypt and all such accounts going forward, said Michele Guida, SVP of global corporate communications at the agency. The firm is withdrawing from the contract, she said.

The Egyptian government hired Weber for public affairs work in late January, and then-subsidiary Cassidy & Associates for government relations. Weber’s account was worth $300,000 per quarter, while Cassidy’s had a budget of $150,000, according to documents filed with the Department of Justice. Egypt’s General Intelligence Service was identified as the branch or agency represented by the registrant in the documents.

The scope of work included media relations, stakeholder engagement, social media, and other communications tools to promote Egypt’s strategic partnership with the United States. The resulting work was an online and social media campaign called Egypt Forward, which shared positive news about the country, along with work on Capitol Hill.

The contract was a focus of a critical feature in The Atlantic that posted on Saturday, analyzing how Egypt and the GIS, which has been accused of stifling dissent and manipulating elections, could gain from the public affairs and government relations work. The article concluded that the decision to hire the firms shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s desire for closer ties to the White House and to preserve an aid package the U.S. federal government provides to Egypt.

Cassidy said it will continue lobbying on behalf of the Egyptian government.

"Egypt is a long-standing ally of the United States and plays a key role in the fight against terrorism," the firm said in a statement. "Cassidy & Associates looks forward to continuing to represent the government of Egypt and highlight this important relationship with policy makers on Capitol Hill and in the administration."

The firm’s government relations work highlights Egypt’s strategic partnership with the United States, its economic development, attributes of Egypt’s civil society, and its leading role in managing regional risks, according to its contract filed with the Justice Department.

This story was updated on July 12 to add information about the types of accounts Weber reviewed.

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