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The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

GW hires lobbying firm to assist with unspecified ‘higher education issues’

The+Kogan+Plaza+Tempietto%2C+pictured+in+April+2023.
Karsyn Meyerson | Photographer
The Kogan Plaza Tempietto, pictured in April 2023.

Officials hired a lobbying firm to assist with “higher education issues” on May 6, according to the lobbying registration form.

The University registered as a client of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and hired five lobbyists to petition Congress on their behalf, marking the first time GW has hired federal lobbyists since 2009. University spokesperson Julia Metjian said GW seeks input from outside counsels when necessary, but declined to comment on what specific higher education issues the five lobbyists on the account are lobbying for, how long the University’s contract is with the firm and how much the University is paying the firm.

“The University retains outside counsel on various issues as needed, in order to maintain compliance and support our academic community,” Metjian said in an email.

One of the lobbyists on the account is former Rep. Greg Laughlin (TX-R), who specializes in advising and preparing clients for testimonies before congressional committees, according to the Pillsbury Law website.

District Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Pamela Smith were slated to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability after the committee expressed concern over reports that MPD rejected a request from the University to remove protesters from the pro-Palestinian encampment in University Yard. The hearing was canceled after MPD cleared the encampment less than 12 hours before it was scheduled to be held.

Yvette Cravins, another lobbyist on the account, served for five years as Counsel on the Committee on Oversight, according to the Pillsbury Law website.

University administrators across the country have faced pressure from Congress following the onset of Israel’s War in Gaza as protests have consumed college campuses, with lawmakers calling on university presidents to testify regarding their handling of on-campus antisemitism.

Officials hired the firm on the 12th day of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in U-Yard, and two days before MPD cleared the encampment. Former Rep. Clay Lacy (MO-D), Craig Saperstein  and Brian Finch are the other lobbyists listed on the account.

Universities including the University of Pennsylvania as well as peer schools Northeastern University and Wake Forest University hired lobbyists in April.

The May hiring is the first time GW has hired federal lobbyists in 15 years, since 2009 per GW’s federal lobbying history. The University participates in non-federal lobbying, per its form 990 filing.

Metjian declined to comment on why the University hired a federal lobbying firm for the first time in 15 years.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman did not return a request for comment on why GW hired the firm.

Laughlin, Saperstein, Finch and Cravins represented Israeli cyber-intelligence firm NSO Group in June 2021, providing advice on business development opportunities and strategies to educate potential business partners about NSO’s technologies, according to a foreign agent registration form. NSO Group was blacklisted five months later in the U.S. by President Joe Biden after the administration determined the spyware maker acted against the country’s foreign policy and national security interests.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Marr, News Editor
Hannah Marr, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communication and history from New York, New York, leads the Administration and Finance beat as one of The Hatchet's 2024-25 news editors. She was previously the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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