Creativity is the mother of invention. I think this is a new beginning and it needs to be expanded to other advocacy efforts around the nation’s capital. Way to go DC Taxi Drivers! No more mini-bamper stickers.
Some of our DC-based readers may have spotted this anti-DLA Piper (a law firm) ad making its way around town via taxi. A reader sent us this photo, saying: I saw this cab on Connecticut Ave. in front of the Mayflower yesterday and it caught my attention. Strange.”
Our first response was, “Bad PR for DLA Piper, but doesn’t everybody already know that blood money is the currency of Biglaw?” Our second response was to find out about this legislation and reach out to the firm.
The American Lawyer wrote in 2008 about the Piper’s playing the flute for the Ethiopian government. Partners Dick Armey, a former House majority leader, and Gary Klein lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who angered human rights advocates in 2005 with violent crackdowns on protesters during the elections there. The American Lawyer reports that the Piper was playing to the tune of over $50,000 a month. That’s a whole lot of injera.
The taxi ad refers to a bill, S.3457, introduced by Senators Feingold and Leahy “to reaffirm United States objectives in Ethiopia and encourage critical democratic and humanitarian principles and practices.” Or, in other words, a bill to encourage Ethiopia not to inflict violent crackdowns on its citizens. DLA Piper’s lobbying efforts may have paid off. The bill has been languishing with the Committee on Foreign Relations since 2008.
DLA Piper’s spokesman told us that the firm’s representation of the Ethiopian government actually ended in November. A statement from the firm refers indirectly to the protesting taxi driver (and other DLA Piper opponents): “There are some very vocal elements of the Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly in the Washington area, who are opponents of the current administration in Ethiopia and go to great lengths to try to embarrass or demean those who are associated with it.”
See the full statement, after the jump. DLA Piper may no longer have Ethiopia as a client, but the firm is actively helping to churn out new lawyers over in Addis Ababa.
DLA Piper says its representation of the Ethiopians ceased in November, though it’s still involved in pro bono initiative sending its lawyers to Addis Ababa to teach law school to aspiring Ethiopian esquires.
STATEMENT FROM DLA PIPER
For several years, DLA Piper provided advice and counsel to the democratically elected government of Ethiopia on a wide range of public policy, regulatory, legislative and legal matters. Our work focused on strengthening bilateral relations with the US, including humanitarian, economic and development assistance, trade and investment opportunities, and enhancing relationships with Congress and the Administration. In the past, the firm also provided legal support to the Government of Ethiopia at the International Court of Justice at the Hague on the Ethiopia-Eritrean border dispute. Our government affairs teams have worked with them in London and Brussels as well as Washington, DC.
This representation has ended, but we are continuing to assist Ethiopia on pro bono initiatives. In conjunction with the Northwestern University Law School, DLA Piper lawyers are teaching classes for the next generation of aspiring legal professionals at the law school in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is in addition to a number of major pro bono projects we are working on across Africa, including a new project to document systematic sexual violence by the Mugabe government against politically active women in Zimbabwe.
Ethiopia is an emerging democracy and an important ally of the United States in a troubled region of the world. The country has made remarkable progress in the last two decades, moving from dictatorship to a system of free elections, and a commitment to prosperity and greater inclusiveness. There are some very vocal elements of the Ethiopian Diaspora, particularly in the Washington area, who are opponents of the current administration in Ethiopia and go to great lengths to try to embarrass or demean those who are associated with it. While we disagree with these individuals and do not believe their views reflect the majority of Ethiopian Americans, we fully support their right to voice their opinions on this matter.