As rebels attempt to capture Tripoli from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Patton Boggs is taking on Washington for the Interim Transitional National Council of Libya.
The Council, based in the rebel capital of Benghazi, Libya, hired the firm this spring to provide it with legal advice and help it gain recognition as the country’s legitimate government and access Gadhafi’s funds frozen by the United States, according to paperwork filed with the U.S. Justice Department. About a dozen Patton Boggs lawyers assist the Council, firm partner David Tafuri said.
And the firm has worked hard for the transitional government this week following news of rebel victories in the battle for Tripoli.
Tafuri said his firm helped Ali Suleiman Aujali, the transitional government’s U.S. ambassador, deal with press inquiries and worked with the Council on transition plans during the last few days.
“It’s been a really busy week,” Tafuri said. But it has been “very satisfying and gratifying,” he added.
Tafuri said he and his colleagues enjoy the work they are doing for the Council and already have helped their client achieve major victories, including full diplomatic recognition of the transitional government by the United States.
But the transitional government’s need for funds to support itself and the Libyan people is still “incredibly urgent,” Tafuri said. In the United States alone, Gadhafi has $35 billion in frozen assets the Council is trying to access, he said.
“He put very little money into the country,” said Tafuri, who visited Benghazi this summer.
Patton Boggs initially focused on Congress in its lobbying for the funds, he said. But the firm now is targeting the executive branch for the assets, after Congress left town this month without passing legislation that would provide frozen funds to the Council.
Work on securing the frozen assets is “moving forward, but not as quickly as we would like it to,” Tafuri said.
“Getting them access to those funds is very critical at this point,” he said.
Patton Boggs is charging the Council a maximum of $50,000 per month, according to disclosure paperwork. But the firm will not request payment until the Council has enough money to pay, the paperwork says.