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Partners jump ship in Sri Lanka’s US lobby firm

[TamilNet, Monday, 28 March 2011 08:03 No Comment]

More than 30% of the partners at Qorvis, one of Washington’s best-known lobby firm, have left the firm in the last two months because of the firm’s representation of "despotic dictators" and clients that are listed as human rights violators in US State Department’s list, Huffington Post said in an article Friday. Qorvis receives a significant amount business from Bell Potinger, UK, the public relations firm that represents Sri Lanka, and Patton Boggs, LLP, Sri Lanka’s PR firm in the US, is an investor in Qorvis, according to Qorvis’s website.

Several former Qorvis staffers blamed the firm’s current management for cultivating such "black hat" clients, noting that much of that business came about through the firm’s partnership with Bell Pottinger, the United Kingdom’s largest public relations firm, which took heat for representing Sri Lanka during that South Asian country’s brutal crackdown on rebel groups during the last two years. "They have zero conscience in what they do," says the first former insider, referring to Bell Pottinger, according to the Huffington Post story.

"I just have trouble working with despotic dictators killing their own people," a former Qorvis insider tells The Huffington Post. "People don’t want to be seen representing all these countries — you take a look at the State Department’s list of human rights violators and some of our clients were on there," the Qorvis insider further said.

The firm’s founder and CEO, Michael Petruzzello, says that such complaints are "ridiculous" and disingenuous, asserting that the firm’s work with international clients preceded the tenure of departing partners and that no one complained about it, the Huffington story added.

It’s not the first time that Qorvis has witnessed a mass exodus due in some part to its unsavory clients, according to the report.

After Qorvis was retained by Saudi Arabia several months after 9/11, the contract attracted controversy and a Justice Department probe of the firm for its involvement in a radio ad campaign that burnished the image of the country, leading three top principals to leave the firm, Huffington Post said.

In one of the methods used by Qorvis and other firms is online reputation management, the firm uses "black arts" by creating fake blogs and websites that link back to positive content, "to make sure that no one online comes across the bad stuff," says the former insider.

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