It is not every day that one finds Israelis in Washington lobbying on behalf of an African state, but Moshe Theumim, the co-founder of Israel’s Gitam BBDO advertising agency, is currently directing a lobbying effort in Washington on behalf of Congo. He is working on behalf of C. Mer Industries, which trades on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
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According to filings with the U.S. Justice Department, a subsidiary of C. Mer Industries called Mer Systems has hired a number of Republican figures, including a Congressional liaison for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the wife of the former director of central intelligence James Woolsey, in the lobbying effort on behalf of Congo.
Theumin’s fee for the lobbying project, which is continuing throughout 2017, is $500,000. For its part, C. Mer will be getting $5.6 million from the Congolese government for the effort. Another $100,000 is due to be going to Amit Livni, a former Gitam CEO who resigned in January.
The major business of C. Mer Industries, a company controlled by Chaim Mer, is telecommunications, particularly the installation of communications systems around the world, although the firm is also involved in security systems, intelligence and cybersecurity. Its Congo connection is a project being carried out by a subsidiary, Mer Systems, a company headed by Omer Laviv.
Neither C. Mer nor Mer Systems had any prior experience with lobbying or political consulting. Mer Systems’ primary business is public security, Laviv said, adding that the company began working with the Congolese government in 2012 on various security projects in the country. The company developed a relationship of trust with the government there.
That led to the government having the company lobby on its behalf in the United States and “to see how to establish quiet in the country and to help with efforts to carry out fair and peaceful elections and the orderly transfer of power,” Laviv explained,
The President of Congo is Joseph Kabila, who took power in 2001 following the murder of his father. Elections had been due to be held last year, but they did not take place, leading to international condemnation as well as violence inside the country.
An agreement was reached with the opposition in the country to hold elections this year, but this year’s plans were also deferred. In a recent visit to the country by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, she insisted that elections be held next year.
A filing with the U.S. Justice Department reflects the fact that Mer Systems has hired lobbyists and consultants identified with the American Republican party to work on behalf of the Congolese government.
The most prominent among them was former Senator Bob Dole, who received $500,000 for services rendered to Mer Systems. Also hired to work on behalf of the Congolese government were Adnan Jalil, who served as a Congressional liaison to the Trump campaign, and another Trump supporter, former U.S. Representative Bob Livingston of Louisiana.
Also reportedly involved in the lobbying effort has been Nancye Miller, whose husband, former CIA director James Woolsey, was a national security adviser to Trump during the presidential campaign.
Attributing its information to Miller, Buzzfeed News reported that Woolsey “attended lunch and dinner events involving U.S. policy toward the Democratic Republic of Congo, but he did not lobby on behalf of the embattled regime.”
Asked why individuals who were identified with the Republican Party or Trump were chosen for the lobbying effort, Laviv said Theumim is the chief consultant to the project. Theumim responded: “I don’t make it a practice to provide details relating to my clients.”