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Company of Obama ally given Bermuda contract

Political lobbyist: Art Collins, in baseball cap, with four Uighur men at LF Wade International Airport in 2009

A Washington lobbying firm run by president Barack Obama’s former senior political strategist has landed a $20,000-a-month consulting contract with the Government of Bermuda.

TheGroup, which describes itself as an independent strategy, policy and communications firm based in Washington, was hired on November 1 for three months.

The company’s managing partner is Art Collins, who served as a senior political strategist for the Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign before becoming a public liaison for the Obama-Biden Transition Project to the White House after Obama’s inauguration.

Another company led by Mr Collins, Public Private Partnership Inc, was previously linked to Bermuda after The Times of London reported that it came up with the idea to resettle four Guantánamo Bay detainees on the island.

Mr Collins was photographed with the Uighurs when they landed on the tarmac at LF Wade International Airport on June 11, 2009. He was described at the time by US political website The Hill as a lobbyist for Bermuda’s government.

The Hill quoted Glenn Jones, press secretary to Ewart Brown, then premier, as saying: “Art Collins does indeed do work for the Government of Bermuda but he did not propose the transfer of innocent detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Bermuda. He did, however, assist in facilitating this humanitarian gesture.”

The previous year, Dr Brown had attended a sporting event in New Orleans as a dignitary; Mr Collins was listed as a dignitary at the same event.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman, in response to questions from The Royal Gazette, said yesterday theGroup’s services had been secured for three months, after which there would be a competitive tendering process for a company to provide the Government with “ongoing lobbying, communications and public relations services in Washington DC”.

The spokeswoman said: “The cost for services is $20,000 a month. TheGroup DC represents the Government of Bermuda in Washington DC, and advocates Bermuda’s interests and lobbies the US Congress, US Federal Government and the US financial services industry.

“TheGroup DC works with the Government of Bermuda and members of Abir [Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers] to develop and implement communications strategies to present Bermuda’s key messages of tax transparency, co-operation and compliance to senior US government officials, the general public and other stakeholders.”

She added: “In the coming weeks, the Government will issue an RFP [request for proposals] for a company to provide ongoing lobbying, communications and public relations services in Washington DC.”

Mr Collins is described on theGroup’s website as a “powerhouse Democratic strategist” with more than 25 years of experience as a “trusted and valued adviser on corporate and political strategy and public policy”.

Both chambers of the United States Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, are controlled by the Republican party.