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Thanks, Change.org

July 13, 2009

One of the bloggers over at Change.org’s Stop Genocide observantly flagged a fascinating article in a recent blog post.  Thanks, Michelle and Martha, for your continued hard work!

The blog post is about a former congressman, Al Wynn, who “immediately jumped into the world of lobbying” after resigning from public office.  His “clients include defense contractor Wartsila North America, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Finnish Wartsila OYJ.”  According to the Baltimore Sun blog post quoted at Stop Genocide, “business transactions by Wartsila OYG and other international companies have helped the Sudanese government.”

Being eager to learn more, I clicked on the link to read the quoted article and was surprised to find that the “big-time lobbying firm” Wynn joined is Dickstein Shaprio LLP, where he has a “new job as a ‘special adviser'” and where he “became a lobbyist for Wartsila on May 18.”  According to several Dickstein Shapiro web pages, including the profiles of two different attorneys and an overview of the firm’s work in employment law, they are the pro bono legal counsel of the Save Darfur Coalition.

In fact, according to page 33 of their 2008 Pro Bono Report, a document that highlights some of the very impressive work the firm does, Dickstein Shapiro has done pro bono work for SDC and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from at least 2006 to 2008.  To be clear though, note that when SDC is mentioned elsewhere on the Dickstein Shapiro site it’s implied that they’re currently represented by the firm, as one partnerprovides ongoing counsel to the Save Darfur coalition”  and SDC appears in a list of organizations that the firm “represents.” Furthermore, according to the Baltimore Sun post, it’s not only Wynn who will lobby for Wartsila at the firm: “Joining Wynn as a lobbyist for Wartsila is Curt S. Clifton, who was Wynn’s top aide in the House. Clifton became a lobbyist for Dickstein Shapiro in 2008.”

So, assuming the Dickstein Shapiro website is up to date, SDC is represented by a firm that employs two people who’ve made it clear that they intend to lobby for a company that “has been criticized for its business dealings in Sudan.”  Furthermore, Wartsila’s activities in Sudan have even been documented by the Genocide Intervention Network, an organization with an employee on SDC’s board of directors.  Indeed, according to another article in the Baltimore Sun, GI Net’s Sudan Divestment Task Force even “listed Wartsila among the worst offenders.”

So what is SDC, the organization that ran a divestment campaign telling people to remove their money from “companies that help fund genocide in Darfur,” gonna do now?  If SDC does, indeed, have a relationship with the firm (i.e. if the Dickstein Shapiro website is accurate in its implication that SDC is a current pro bono client), what would be an appropriate reaction for them to have to the revelation that two of the firm’s employees have a relationship with Wartsila?

Thanks again to Michelle for flagging this.  We wouldn’t have found it without you!

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