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Hill and Knowlton and Bcci18

Hill and Knowlton and Bcci18

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Published by: arielky on Apr 25, 2009
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06/14/2009

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HILL AND KNOWLTON AND BCCI'S PR CAMPAIGNIntroduction
 Two days following its indictment in Tampa inOctober, 1988 as a result of the Operation C-Chasesting, BCCI did what many businesses in trouble dounder such circumstances -- it hired a public relationsfirm to help it reduce the bad publicity surroundingthe indictment. The firm selected by BCCI was,consistent with BCCI's usual strategy, unusually well-connected politically: Hill and Knowlton, home toRepublican Robert Gray and Democrat FrankMankiewicz, and generally considered the mostpolitically prominent public relations firm inWashington.
During the following two years, Hill andKnowlton provided various services to BCCI and to itssecretly-held affiliate, First American.
 On August 1, 1991, former Customs ServiceCommissioner William von Raab, in testimony beforethe Subcommittee, criticized the public relations firm,implicating its activities as a factor in BCCI's successin staying open following its indictment, andsuggesting that the January, 1990 plea agreementbetween BCCI and the U.S. Attorney in Tampa was "atribute to the influence team that was marching up
 
and down the Eastern seaboard helping BCCI keep itsneck off the block."
 In response to the Von Raab testimony, Hill andKnowlton's Vice Chairman, Frank Mankiewicz,immediately issued the following statement on thePR Newswire, which is set forth in full:Mr. Von Raab's testimony as to Hill and Knowlton isincredibly irresponsible and totally false. Neither I,nor Robert Gray, nor anyone else from Hill andKnowlton ever contacted, on behalf of BCCI, anyonein the Department of Justice or anywhere else in theExecutive Branch, or for that matter, on Capitol Hill.
 The import of Hill and Knowlton's release was thatwhatever it did for BCCI, its work had not involvedlobbying.But Mankiewicz's strong statements concerning whatHill and Knowlton did not do for BCCI failed to explainexactly what Hill and Knowlton did do.In fact, Hill and Knowlton had represented BCCI at acritical time in its history, following the Tampa drug-money laundering indictment.
Moreover, accordingto statements made by former Hill and Knowltonpartners to the press, Hill and Knowlton partners didknow BCCI was "sleazy," and at least one partner didleave the firm in part as a result of disagreementsover the BCCI account.
 Moreover, Hill and Knowlton did have contact withCapitol Hill on behalf of First American, Clark Clifford
 
and Robert Altman, on BCCI related matters, in theperiod when BCCI still secretly-held First American,and after BCCI's ownership of First American was amatter of public record and established fact.
 Finally, Hill and Knowlton did have contact with atleast one Congressional staffer, Michael Pillsbury, onbehalf of BCCI itself, in January, 1990. At that time,Senate staffer Pillsbury wrote Karna Small at Hill andKnowlton, soliciting information from Hill andKnowlton concerning what it was doing for BCCI, andoffering to be of assistance to BCCI in its publicrelations efforts.Small's involvement provides further evidence of thefact that Hill and Knowlton assigned politically-connected staff to the BCCI account. Small's previouswork had included being assistant press secretary to James Brady under President Reagan, pressspokesperson for National Security Advisor RobertMcFarlane, and an assistant to the National SecurityCounsel during the period in which McFarlane andAdmiral John Poindexter were in charge of the NSC.
  The record before the Subcommittee suggests thatthe contact between Small at Hill and Knowlton andCapitol Hill was initiated by Pillsbury, rather thanSmall or Hill and Knowlton. Hence, Mankiewicz'sstatement was technically correct, if incomplete, onthis point.
 Hill and Knowlton's activities on behalf of BCCI, FirstAmerican, Clifford and Altman resulted in Hill andKnowlton making statements that in the end provedto be materially misleading, and attacking individuals

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