WASHINGTON The legal team defending former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn against sexual assault charges has informally sought public relations advice from a Washington consulting firm run by former CIA officers and U.S. diplomats, Reuters has learned.
TD International is the same company Strauss-Kahn, then a private citizen, hired in 2007 to advise him on how to navigate international and Washington politics in his bid to become managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Documents filed in 2008 with the Foreign Agents Registration section of the U.S. Justice Department show that Strauss-Kahn, who is French, retained TD International as his "U.S.-based communications resource."
Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was seen as a front-runner for the French presidency until his arrest, has been charged with trying to rape a hotel housekeeper in New York. He has denied the charges and his lawyer has said he will plead not guilty.
A person familiar with the work TD International did for Strauss-Kahn in 2007 said his representatives consulted the firm informally after his arrest last Saturday and asked for advice related to his predicament.
If the firm at some point becomes formally involved in his defense, the source said, its role will be in helping other Strauss-Kahn advisors, including Paris-based public relations experts, engage in "crisis management."
But the source, who asked for anonymity, said the firm had not been formally engaged. A lawyer for Strauss-Kahn did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for TD International told Reuters on Friday: "We don't comment on client relationships and activities. However, our past work with Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accurately reflected in (Justice Department) filings."
WORKING THE MEDIA
A contract between TD International and Strauss-Kahn, dated July 18, 2007, shows he hired the firm to "conduct a specific public relations campaign" and "work is to begin immediately and continue until ascendancy of client to head of IMF."
The contract says Strauss-Kahn was to pay the firm 20,000 euros, then equivalent to about $27,600.
According to the source, TD International helped advise Strauss-Kahn on U.S. and international political maneuvering related to the choice of a new IMF chief.
The global lender has always been headed by a western European but the former French finance minister's bid for the post was being challenged by Russia and a group of developing nations, who were strongly pushing their own candidates.
In addition to advising Strauss-Kahn on political matters, TD International introduced him to journalists from media such as the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.
The 2007 contract was signed on TD International's behalf by Ronald Slimp, who the firm's website says was a former U.S. diplomat and trade negotiator.
The website describes the firm's founder, William Green, as a former diplomat who is fluent in French and "participated in the management of the Anglo-American and U.S.-Canadian intelligence relationships when posted to Washington."
The website identifies two other partners in the firm as former CIA officers.
Justice Department filings show TD International was also registered as the U.S. representative of Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine and a one-time prime minister.
A 2007 press release posted on the firm's website says it was the "registered representative of Ms. Tymoshenko's political party."
(Additional reporting by Basil Katz, Brian Grow and Glenn Somerville; Editing by David Storey)