A former press aide to President Bill Clinton with deep connections in Jewish Democratic political circles is working with a Belgian-Israeli network to represent the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Steven Rabinowitz and his Washington-based Bluelight Strategies signed a six-month, $67,500 contract this week to help organize Washington meetings for Congolese officials including possibly President Felix Tshisekedi himself. The contract runs from March 1 through Sept. 6.
Bluelight “has been engaged to provide government affairs and consulting services for the benefit of the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Rabinowitz’s filing with the Department of Justice states. “These services are anticipated to include working to facilitate one or more visits by DRC government officials to Washington D.C. in furtherance of the bilateral relationship between the DRC and the United States, and related efforts.”
The contract is with a consulting firm in Kinshasa called the REM Corp. The contract was signed by Rabinowitz and REM partner Rafael Papismedov, an Israeli citizen who is also the co-founder of Belgian diamond manufacturer HB Antwerp.
According to the investigative news service Africa Intelligence, Papismedov is a special adviser to Tshisekedi. The outlet reports that his REM Corp. has taken over management of some of the DR Congo’s security and diplomatic contracts after Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler, who was close to former President Joseph Kabila and is under US sanctions, fell out of favor.
Rabinowitz told Foreign Lobby Report that he was representing the office of the presidency and President Tsishekedi himself.
He said he was hired thanks to his personal connections to REM and his long-time work in Democratic politics. Rabinowitz notably founded the Jews for Progress super PAC to boost Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 campaign and helped get out the Jewish vote for President Barack Obama‘s re-election in 2012.
“We have close mutual friends,” Rabinowitz said of his clients. “I know my way around Washington. I’ve been here for a very, very long time. I know my way around the Biden administration and foreign policy, including progressive foreign policy.”
He said he would be working with the Congolese embassy in the United States and the US embassy in Kinshasa, adding that he was friends with US Ambassador Michael Hammer.
“It’s not a freelance operation,” he said.
Rabinowitz declined to speculate on the Congolese government’s priorities for a US meeting, but pointed to the Feb. 26 phone call between Tshisekedi and Vice President Kamala Harris for clues. Tshisekedi took over the rotating chairmanship of the African Union last month and is called to play a key role on multiple issues facing the continent, including the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
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According to a White House read-out of the call, the pair discussed the COVID-19 epidemic and the recent Ebola outbreak in the country, as well as the lingering plague of corruption in the country and violence in eastern Congo, where Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio was killed last month.
“[Harris and Tshisekedi] committed to work together to strengthen health security, increase regional trade and investment, promote human rights and good governance, and to address the challenges of climate change,” the read-out states. “They agreed to collaborate to reduce conflict, support dialogue, and secure peace in eastern DRC and the region.”
This is only Rabinowitz’s second registration as a foreign agent. He registered earlier this year to promote the Israeli Diaspora Ministry’s controversial plan to vaccinate all remaining 320,000 Holocaust survivors around the world against COVID-19.